About a month ago, I got an irate email from a stranger. This person, another academic at an American university, wondered how I could possibly agree to be on the editorial board of a journal that had recently spammed her inbox with an invitation to contribute a paper. She noted the ungrammatical and unidiomatic prose with which the journal advertised itself. She also pointed out the shockingly lax plagiarism policy: “If more than 25% of the paper is plagiarized- the article may be rejected and the same is notified to the author.” To be clear, if a student of mine plagiarized a fourth of their paper, they would have violated my university’s honor code and be subject to discipline.
My emailer was polite enough not to call attention to the fact that this journal, which publishes monthly—that’s suspiciously fast turnaround for a publication that promises “double blind peer review”—charges a publication fee of $160, plus $25 per copy for print editions. Links to Paypal and Payoneer are prominently displayed on the website for easy payment.
Of course, this was all news to me: I had no idea that this journal existed, much less that I was on its editorial board. Whoever was in charge of this outfit probably just scooped up my name, university affiliation, and photo from my department web page and plunked it on their website. I asked my university’s council to write a cease and desist letter, but they declined. The university, the lawyer said, didn’t involve itself in matters of faculty reputation. This is just one opinion. Another academic, who was also alerted to the misuse of his name and likeness by this “journal” asked for, and immediately got, his university’s office of legal counsel to write a cease-and-desist letter on his behalf. But no matter. I am exploring other legal channels.
Unless I had gotten that surprising email, there’s little possibility that I would have ever learned of this identity theft. Interestingly, the websites for the Journal of Liberal Arts and Humanities, and its publisher, the American Research and Publication Center, seem to have been hidden from search engines. So I’m risking a small amount of embarrassment to post this, in the hopes that anyone who googles “Journal of Liberal Arts and Humanities” or its parent outfit, “American Research and Publication Center,” will also see the words “Predatory Publishing” and “Identity Theft”. I hope, in other words, that I’m making it easier for them to be found and identified for what they are.
According to Megan O’Donnell, a Librarian at Iowa State University, “A predatory publisher is an opportunistic publishing venue that exploits the academic need to publish but offers little reward for those using their services.” Predatory publishers charge fees for publication, but do not offer quality editorial and publishing services in return. They fail to follow ethical business practices, standards of academic writing and research, and best practices of scholarly publishing.
Anyone interested in publishing their work should take some care to avoid predatory publishers. There are a number of lists of such publishers and journals available on the web, but these have some drawbacks. First, they need to be updated frequently. I was unable to find the Journal of Liberal Arts and Humanities or its publisher on several of these lists, and I suspect that some predatory publishers change their names (and stay away from search engines) to stay ahead of the list-makers. Second, some of the criteria for identifying predatory journals have been controversial. It is not the case that all open access journals are predatory. Nor should the place of publication or the quality of web design or written English be considered definitive signs of predatory publishing. (However, if you see poor grammar and proofreading in conjunction with a dubious Washington DC address, as is the case with the Journal of Liberal Arts and Humanities, you might want to beware).
Instead, when searching for suitable publication venues, consider consulting journal “whitelists.” Membership in the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA) indicates adherence to accepted publication practices, as does inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). For more basic tips, in multiple languages, on finding publication venues that will help you disseminate your work and enhance your career, go to https://thinkchecksubmit.org.
March 7, 2020