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Why do authors publish in predatory journals?

Mariana ZanettiWhy do authors publish in predatory journals that do not properly review articles and are more interested in making money than maintaining a good reputation? In search of answers, Tove Faber Frandsen, an expert in information science from the University of Southern Denmark, analyzed a number of scientific papers on this phenomenon.

She published a review article in the journal Learned Publishing in January, describing the two types of authors that use this type of journal. On one side, there are uninformed researchers, usually in the early stages of their careers, who are attracted by how easy it is to publish in these periodicals and do not necessarily realize that their practices are unethical. On the other, there are those with ill intent, who know the true nature of these journals but seek to artificially inflate their academic output, often in an attempt to further their career. According to Frandsen, unethical authors often try to justify their actions by claiming a lack of awareness. “But the fact is they are actively searching for a low-barrier way of getting published,” she said. The researcher opposes the use of the word “predatory” in cases involving deliberate intent, because nobody has been cheated or tricked: these are authors who know what they are doing and seek to benefit from the practice.

Although many predatory journals are published in countries like India and Nigeria, such publications are not limited to developing nations. Frandsen cites a 2017 study by researchers from the University of Ottawa, Canada, which showed that a significant number of papers published in predatory biomedical journals were written by authors from developed countries, including some affiliated with prestigious universities. She also refers to a survey conducted by two public television stations in Germany that identified 5,000 researchers from the country publishing in predatory journals.

“At least two different approaches to the problem are needed,” she wrote. The poorly informed should be mentored and given the tools needed to assess the quality of scientific journals, as well as training to ensure they are able to meet the expectations of high-quality journals. For those with malicious intentions, Frandsen recommends that institutions punish those who use predatory journals and revoke career progression policies that are based on the number of articles published.