Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

The latest news and answers to your questions about scholarly publishing and open access.

Dear Distinguished Faculty: How to assess a call for papers and avoid predatory publishers

Published by Ioana Liuta

By Emily Guerrero, former SFU Reference Librarian.

One of the first steps in getting your work published, open or otherwise, is picking the journals to submit to. With predatory journals on the rise, it's becoming even more important to assess any call for papers that might come your way via email.

As you look at calls to publish, here are a few general rules to keep in mind: 

  • Most journals will not be sending generic calls to publish directly to your email address. Check to see how the message landed in front of you -- was it sent to a listserv you subscribe to? Passed on via a colleague?

  • Similarly, most journals and publishers will not reach out to individual researchers they don't have pre-existing relationships with. If you aren't already familiar with the journal or scholar contacting you, it's worth it to do some background research, or run it by colleagues from your department.

  • Many open access journals charge article processing fees (SFU can provide funding to help cover APCs in some cases), but these charges should be transparent, and they should charge the same for articles across the board. If you can’t easily find the journals APC policy on their website, that’s a red flag.

  • Other things to keep an eye out for in callouts include mentions of “rapid-review” (which may indicate a less than rigorous peer-review process) and any mention of specific journal impact metrics (which goes against best practices for open access journals).

One thing which is NOT a reliable way to judge a journals quality is web design -- reputable journals which aren’t based in North America may have different web design practices, while some “vanity publishers” who do not conduct peer reviews have flashy and engaging sites. For even more tips, Scholarly Kitchen has a rich list of flags to keep an eye out for when navigating the terrain of scholarly publishing.

If you need help assessing a new journal that’s made its way to your inbox, check out SFU’s resources on scholarly publishing.