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Open Access

Open Access information for USC researchers

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With Open Access (OA) becoming increasingly popular in disseminating research publications, vanity and predatory publishers are also on the rise. These dishonest publishers exploit the OA model, existing on fees paid to them by the author.

Note: These types of publishers should not be confused with legitimate OA scholarly publishing, which whilst digital, online and free of most copyright restrictions, employs the same peer review and editing processes as traditional scholarly publications.

Predatory Publishing

While similar to vanity publishing, predatory Open Access publishers seek to take advantage of the Gold Open Access model, whereby the author pays to have an article available as Open Access on the journal website. These publishers can set up websites that closely resemble legitimate online publishers, and often send out spam emails requesting authors to submit articles, many times with hidden author processing charges that are invoiced to the author on acceptance of their manuscript. Although purporting to be based in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada or Australia, most are actually based in India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Jeffery Beall from University of Colorado, Denver, put together a list of predatory publishers and standalone journals. The list, started in 2011, was discontinued at the end of 2016.

Beall's archived lists are available here:

Also archived are two other relevant lists compiled by Beall:

  • Misleading Metrics: This list includes companies that "calculate" and publish counterfeit impact factors (or some similar measure) to publishers, metrics the publishers then use in their websites and spam email to trick scholars into thinking their journals have legitimate impact factors.
  • Hijacked Journals: This list includes journals for which someone has created a counterfeit website, stealing the journal's identity and soliciting articles submissions using the author pays model (gold open-access).

So how do you identify a predatory journal?

The website Think Check Submit is designed to help you identify a reputable journal for submitting your research to.

Vanity Publishers

Vanity publishers are publishers that will charge the author a fee for publishing a book. While there are some instances where publishing with a vanity publisher is warranted, generally these publishers do not have any interest in promoting and selling the book. Vanity publishers do not get their money from selling the book, but rather from selling the book production services to the author.

Vanity publishers often target early career researchers who are seeking publishing opportunities or may offer to publish their thesis.

Vanity publishing usually:

  • does not undergo peer review or proofreading to the same level of rigour as scholarly publications
  • can require the author to pay for a publication fee

Note that research publications published by a vanity publisher may not be eligible for HERDC/ERA reporting.

For an excellent account of an experience with a vanity publisher, see "I Sold My Undergraduate Thesis to a Print Content Farm" by Joseph Stromberg.

Evaluating Open Access Publishers

Academics considering publishing in journals should carefully evaluate the scholarly credibility of both the publisher and the journal. Some things to consider include:


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