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I am currently in a very embarrassing situation.

I have a paper (forgot to say, this paper takes no more than two pages) submitted to a journal. The journal accepted my paper for publication and I saw it online. But today I found that my paper disappeared without notifying me! I emailed them, and a staff member replied that a reviewer asked them to withdraw my paper. The reason given for this was:

Your paper does not meet the requirements for publication.

And I then tracked the publisher and the editorial policy, I found the journal is nearly a predatory one. First, it is a new journal, published only for one year. They require no publication fees only this year, from next year on, they do require! Second, the publisher is in the famous list of predatory publishers. Also, it took only two and a half weeks from submission to acceptance.

On top of this, I may face problems because I have used this paper to apply some scholarship.

What can I do?

  • 5
    Yes, certainly.. You cannot withdraw a paper, based on quality concerns once it has been taken in for review and eventually accepted for publication. I am not sure what you can do, against them, but I would blow the whistle on the publisher, and avoid them in the future. Good luck! – posdef Oct 15 '14 at 9:45
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    It sounds to me like they think you plagiarized or fabricated data. I can't think of any other reason they'd yank the paper like this otherwise. If this isn't the case, then you should write to them and request that they transfer the copyright back to you and try at another journal. – shane Oct 15 '14 at 10:45
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    @posdef of course you can. It's called "retraction" and journals do it all the time for all kinds of reasons. – ff524 Oct 15 '14 at 12:15
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    So you didn't pay anything and your paper will not be published in a fake journal. What is the problem? Submit to a legitimate journal and move on. – Cape Code Oct 15 '14 at 12:33
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    @CapeCode ummm, copyright transfer and scholarship applications seem to be two obvious problems. – StrongBad Oct 15 '14 at 12:38
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The most important thing you need to do is figure out the copyright status. If you have given them exclusive rights to reproduce the work, then you may not be able to publish it anywhere else. It is likely that the copyright transfer was part of a publication contract where the publisher has agreed to publish your work in exchange for the copyright transfer. Hopefully, the publisher will given up the rights you transferred to them. If they won't, you may need to get a lawyer to explore your options.

Having listed the paper in a scholarship application is problematic. Paper-based journals and journals that generate DOIs create a permanent record of the published papers. In your case, it seems a published paper has simply disappeared. I would write to the places you have submitted an application and explain the situation. something along the lines of

The paper XXX, which I listed on my application, was published by YYY. Unfortunately, YYY is a known predatory publisher and has since made the paper unavailable. I still stand behind the research; attached is a copy of that work. I am currently working towards resubmitting the manuscript to a reputable publisher. I am sorry for any problems this causes.

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    Predatory journals are often "open access", and at least reputable open access journals usually don't require you to transfer the copyright. Rather, you just grant them a permanent non-exclusive right to distribute, or release the paper under a Creative Commons license or similar. So if this journal emulates that aspect of a real journal, this issue may actually be okay. Of course, one has to check. – Nate Eldredge Oct 15 '14 at 13:45
  • I think it is possible to have both free as in beer and free as in freedom reputable open access journals. The freedom ones will use a permissive license like CC and allow access and reuse, but the beer ones will only allow access and generally not reuse. – StrongBad Oct 15 '14 at 13:58
  • Ok, my experience is limited and perhaps not representative. – Nate Eldredge Oct 15 '14 at 14:20
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    @NateEldredge most fake journals have confusing policies regarding copyright, and only a fraction use CC licenses (or sometimes they claim to do so, but still ask for copyright transfer). They seem to know as much about publishing as they do about science. – Cape Code Oct 15 '14 at 15:41
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    Well, if the paper eventually got rejected by the journal, for whatever reason, then the whole contract, including the copyright transfer, should be invalid. But it depends on how exactly the contract is written. – yo' Oct 20 '14 at 8:04
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It's hard to give objective advice without knowing more about the case, especially which journal, but this journal's behavior is surprising. Usually fake journals will publish anything as long as you pay for it.

Some have as strategy to generously offer free publishing to 'high quality papers' (which tells you something about the papers that don't fall in this category by their standards...) or to Western authors. In the later case, the goal is to give a false appearance of international recognition to cater for the needs of (mostly, but not limited to, India- and China-based) authors to publish in 'international' journals. Of course they have no real strategy to archive the work that they receive, they probably have no data management or backup strategy, nothing. I suspect some operate from internet cafés. It's frequent that entire journals just vanish without a trace, and without reimbursing the APCs, obviously.

In your case, why would they not publish your paper is mysterious, but is probably not unrelated to the fact that you didn't pay anything. It's possible that they actually evaluated it and found an issue with it (plagiarism, ethical concerns, blatant off-topic, etc.) or that it didn't serve their purpose of legitimating the trash that they accept for a fee, but only you can know if this is an option.

Or, they have bad intentions, from which I can think of a few:

  1. They will ask for money to publish it.
  2. They will want to sell you back the rights.
  3. They will sell the content to some unscrupulous scholar who will publish it as his/her own.

At any rate, brace yourself, anything is possible. I would recommend, in the short-term, to upload a pre-print on your personal website to give access to it to your scholarship committee, even if the copyright contract prevents you to do so. Fake journals rarely have the firepower (or enough legal notions) for seriously fighting over copyright issues. You should also tell your story to Beall, at least for the sake of warning other scholars.

  • I don't think it is my problem. The paper takes no more than two pages and how can any problem not to be detected before publication? Moreover, if they "suspected" there is some issue in the paper, then they should contact me first, instead of withdrawing it sneakily without notification. – Megadeth Oct 16 '14 at 2:00

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