"Compass to Publish": online tool helps to identify predatory journals and publishers

Service from University of Liège assists researchers in determining the degree of authenticity of open access journals

Lorena Caliman
14 december, 2020≈ 5 min read

The University of Liège made available, at the end of November, the Beta version of "Compass to Publish", a service that, through various criteria, quantifies the degree of authenticity of open access scientific journals that require or hide article processing charges (APCs).

The online evaluation tool presents a 7-color scale of results, which categorize the fake or deceptive character of the tested journals. At the edges are dark red - indicating that the magazine is most likely predatory, and it is best to avoid it - and dark green - indicating that the answers show a high probability of not being a predatory publication. The idea behind the seven-color scale is to allow a more nuanced view in comparison to the binary logic of trusted lists and databases of predatory journals.

The service uses an assessment method based on 26 criteria in the form of questions for the person who is submitting the test. The criteria and questions are the result of critical and analytical work by the team behind the tool, which examined the practices of a significant number of predatory journals and publishers. The team also carried out a qualitative research and selection of criteria developed by trusted lists and directories, from which those that were really incriminating and easy to check, sufficiently relevant and clear, and user friendly were selected.

The 26 criteria are divided into 7 main sections: trusted lists (indexing platforms), lists of alleged predatory magazines and publishers (known as 'blacklists'), hijacked magazines, indexing and metrics, editorial board and peer review, content and presentation, and communication strategies. Check the complete list of questions covered by the test.

About predatory journals and publishers

The importance of this type of tool is highlighted, considering estimates that in 2014 alone, between 255,000 and 420,000 articles were published in predatory journals. An international investigation into Fake Science, led by dozens of news outlets, including Le Monde, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung and The New Yorker magazine, reported in 2018 that there could be more than 10,000 predatory journals in operation.

Predatory journals pass themselves off as journals that publish on open access and charge APCs for services they claim to provide. However, they often do not provide these services, or do so only superficially. Although they claim to provide services that include archiving and indexing policies, editorial review, editing, formatting and the peer review process, they often do not - and in some cases, they do not even publish the material sent and for which they required the fees.

The "author-pays" model, hijacked by the predatory journals, is common in academic publications. It allows readers to have free and open access to research content through fees paid, whether by the authors, their institutions or funders. The model of payment by the author, however, is not the most common in Open Access publication: more than 70% of the journals included in the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) do not require payment of APCs.

Predatory publishers and journals use a business model based on quantitative publishing, for the simple reason that the more they publish, the more money they receive. To maximize their profit, predatory publishers generally have a very wide catalog of journals, and predatory journals generally adopt a high-frequency publishing strategy, releasing large numbers of issues.

Researchers who want to stay competitive through fast publishing can become easy victims of this type of predatory publishing. It is common for stakeholders in scientific communication to still use primarily quantitative methods of evaluating research, which can influence researchers to publish on predatory channels, either deliberately or unwittingly.

In addition to the Open Access publishing models, the phenomenon of 'fake science' is also associated with false conferences and the vanity presses (editorial house where authors pay to have their books published) that offer to publish works by students and researchers using a print-on-demand model without providing serious services such as editorial, peer review, editing, formatting etc.

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Discover the Compass to Publish website.

Go to the test.