What are the best strategies for assessing if a journal is a "vanity" or "predatory" journal that should be avoided (both for publishing in and reviewing for)? For example, how would one go about determining if a journal/publisher belongs on Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers?
First, you should probably publish in the same venues that you read and cite. Presumably those are reputable.
Now to describe low-quality vanity publishers. Two essential characteristics are:
The publication of very low quality material. This is usually immediately recognizable to any expert. Sometimes it's obvious to anyone; for example, read this abstract.
A business model in which the author (rather than the reader) pays the publisher. Of course, this by itself isn't necessarily indicative of a low-quality publisher (think PLoS). But low-quality publishers can't make money off of subscriptions, since they provide no content of value.
Additional common characteristics of such publishers are:
- Mass e-mails (spam) to academics, especially when the recipients include researchers in unrelated fields. These e-mails may request submission of conference presentations, papers, or book manuscripts, or may contain invitations to journal editorial boards.
- A high number of prominent typographical errors in text attributable to the publisher. For instance, at the beginning of this article "abstract" is mistakenly spelled "abstarct".
There is an established framework for researchers: Think. Check. Submit.
Note that an analysis of the numbers shows that The "problem" of predatory publishing remains a relatively small one and should not be allowed to defame open access. Researchers are generally smart enough to not fall in obvious traps; what's left is mostly problems with peer review which exist anywhere, but mostly in journals with scarce transparency.