Spotting dodgy journals – a guide.

It can be harder to spot a journal that will provide questionable value for you as an author than you might think. This post provides a few things to think about as you assess requests to publish.

Here’s a good example of an email from an engineering journal requesting submissions. Most would reject this out of hand, but I suggest you may not, not immediately. Why? Because a lot of small journal editorial teams don’t have sophisticated IT support, and just because its freaking ugly doesn’t mean it might not be a good opportunity to submit your research to it on that fact alone. To see whether it is a good place to publish, I’ve highlighted four things that lead me to come to a conclusion on it’s suitability.

One: Who it is From?

The address here is a random throw away email. If this was from a legitimate source it would be from the domain that hosts the journal ( or the personal address of the editor if they are not savvy enough to use the domain they registered to host it.

Two False Claims

A quick search on the Directory of Open Access Journals doesn’t find *any* ISOR journals. Claiming to be indexed in the DOAJ and not being there is a big black mark. It takes a while to get indexed by the big directories, and some smaller journals don’t even know they should, so not being present in the DOAJ or Scopus isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but claiming that your are, and lying? That’s a critical fail.

Three: Random Stuff.

Open J Gate is a weird mashup of kind of reputable terms. Open is always good. Peer J is a reputable OA platform. Research Gate is a thing. What is Open J Gate? Just because its hosted in India doesn’t make it a bad thing – there is an astonishing amount of implicit racism in assessing platforms, one famous blacklist, now defunct, would automatically call any activity not in the western hemisphere (including the entire south american publishing system, and the one of the largest OA platforms in the world) ‘predatory’.

I’m going to use a few typical Librarian yardsticks here. I’ve never heard of Open J Gate, and I’ve been in the business for a few years now. It’s website doesn’t use UTF8 compliant fonts – a rookie’s mistake in the i18n world, and if journal indexes are anything, they are international. Finally, the wikipedia page for it is sparse, and all the information has been added by one person who has only contributed to this page. Never a good look. So, final call: Open J Gate looks like another low value option.

Three: The Ask.

There are two things journals will want you to do. Read it, and submit material to it. A journal that believes in itself will ask you to read it, and because its good, it will get submissions as a matter of course. A journal that first and foremost asks for submissions rather than readers…? Exceptions to this are journals that are new, or are starting up from having been fallow, but in the majority of cases, if the ask is write, not read – there is a good chance it’s not going to provide you with good value.

Four: Another throw away email

I’ve gone into far more depth looking at this than you should. The throwaway email addresses, and the write not read should be enough to make you suspicious enough to toss this out. However, I’ve highlighted a few other techniques you can use to further check the status of thei jounral.

If in doubt, send it on to your local Librarian. Assessing sites is really fun, and it can start good conversations on where you might choose to publish.

Postscript 12 Oct 2020

I had a closer look at the indexes that this journal claim to be harvested by. Let’s look at them one by one.

  1. Crossref. Well, doh, anything with a DOI is in crossref, because crossref issue DOIs. They are not a journal index.
  2. NASA ADS – NASA have a ‘Astrophysics Data System’, of which part is a journal aggregator anyone can belong to. This publisher’s journals no longer seem to be there.
  3. DOAJ, as above. Just a lie.
  4. Index Copernicus does index these, but flags that they are probably ‘predatory’.
  5. Open J Gate is a thing! It is a pay for aggregator of free information, and as such I’d recommend Google Scholar as an alternative.

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