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Please pardon my somewhat peculiar case, I hope this is still a question useful to others.

After school I became an undergrad but paused studying after a few semesters of university to work full time. During the several years I was employed, I also became co-author of three papers, two of which were were with a "potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publisher".

At the time I was not aware journals like that even existed, and as a professor and two doctors were also authors, I would never have imagined this could be an issue. As I am now a university student again and learned about this, I obviously regret my decision to participate. I am not sure how my mistake will be judged by others, and how far-reaching the consequences are, this is why I am asking here.

To be honest, I think it, while bad, was no terrible blunder, as I was "only" an employee at the time (though an undergrad before that). Also, I suspect most future employers would probably not even recognize my mistake.

Clearly it is different if I were to pursue an academic career. Are past flaws of this kind forgivable - and if so, should I (actively) point out that I made a mistake and will avoid it in the future?

Annotation: Many people claimed (elsewhere) that the journal in question did no peer-review. This was not the case for me, as we always had a list of (content) issues to address, usually by 4 to 6 reviewers.

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    Note also that there is some dissent about the list of possible predatory OA journals you linked to; I haven't formed an opinion myself, but the author of this article has quite a few complaints about Beall and his methods. – Dan May 6 '15 at 20:32
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While publishing in a predatory journal doesn't help your CV, I don't see this as anything near a fatal mistake even if you are pursuing a career in academia. The main cost is just the wasted time and effort and the fact that you could have gotten credit for these papers if published elsewhere.

Given that you were at such an early career stage when you wrote these papers, it seems that you can readily be forgiven for falling victim to a predator publisher. Tricking people in this way is, after all, often a component of their business model. When I see a professor publishing repeatedly in these journals, that suggests he or she is trying to pull something over on someone. When I see an undergrad or someone straight out of undergrad doing so, I feel badly for the student and angry at the publisher.

I would simply list these papers on your CV and move on. They're part of your publication record, so you can't really omit them in good faith -- but nor do you need to beat yourself up over it. If someone asks, be forthcoming both about the fact that this journal is questionable and about the way that you ended up publishing there.

You haven't done anything terrible. You've been exploited, and maybe if someone is a harsh judge he will think this makes you look a little silly. But in your situation I don't think most people would hold that against you.

  • Assuming you could convince all your co-authors, would it be possible to retract and republish? – Raphael May 3 '15 at 10:00
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    @Raphael: I don't think retracting is possible (publishing is a contract with the publisher, which you cannot cancel because you don't like the publisher any more - and you cannot "unsay" the words), nor is it necessary. Retraction would be necessary if a fatal flaw of the paper turns up (and even then only if it is a flaw that was there at the time of publication). But the problem here is (presumably) not the paper, but the journal. – cbeleites supports Monica May 3 '15 at 10:32
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    @Corvus: I'd say "could have gotten more credit". I assume the paper is OK in quality, though not the super ground breaking seminal finding (which would have gone to a top-tier journal). So the decision was probably between the (now known to be predatory) journal and some other lower-tier journal. IMHO there should be no wish to hide an OK paper even if the journal wasn't that great. Possibly the OP now looses citations as the journal now has a bad reputation, but IMHO not being cited are about all the bad consequences it will have (besides the fact that trolls have been fed). – cbeleites supports Monica May 3 '15 at 10:44
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Almost always you sign the rights over to the journal when you publish. Now, imagine you are a phD student, publishing his or her's graduate life to this one journal. You find out it's a scam, and now your work is published in a scam journal and you have no rights to your own work anymore. This is where the big problem with those scam journals come from. Not that they were published per say, but that you now have no legal claim to your own research.

It doesn't sound like that's your case. As others have said, list them on your CV, and that's that. If anyone asks, you can tell them what you told us. It certainly isn't a stigma or a black hole of academia. Though, I would highly advise you in the future to be more cautious and to only work with those in academia/ research who are more knowledgeable on this topic.

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