Predatory Open-Access Journals: Part 2

For much of the last week, I have been looking for a solid reason to either go ahead or not ahead with a manuscript I submitted to HOAJ Biology, a journal I later discovered made Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers. There were many good reasons, in my mind, to just do it – it was peer-reviewed, my article and software are sound (though a minor contribution) and I would like closure on this project I finished a year ago. It turns out, there are some even better reasons not to publish with this journal. First and foremost, there is a FICTIONAL PERSON on the Editorial Board.

Shortly after this post, Dr. Todd Vision, with NESCent and UNC Chapel Hill, emailed me and asked if he might be of help. After sending him the manuscript with some additional details, he replied with this advice:

As for HOAJ Biology specifically, <an editor’s name deleted> may be legitimate, but that doesn’t mean he actually helps oversee peer review. I suggest you look up the credentials of another one of the editors, Peter Uhnemann, before you draw any conclusions about the involvement of the editorial board:

I highly recommend people read that whole post, but for those in a hurry: “Peter Uhnemann” from the “Daniel-Duesentrieb Institute” is a fictitious person from a fictitious institution. And he’s listed plain as day on HOAJ Biology’s Editorial Board! (I did contact one person on the Editorial Board via email to make sure he was actually affiliated with the journal, which he confirmed, but I guess that didn’t cut it.)

So, I am retracting my submission and going instead with either arXiv or figshare, which are non-peer reviewed, but citeable places to deposit research articles and/or software.

Dr. Vision also shared this advice with me for future manuscripts:

There are technical aids to finding the right journal in which to publish (like but in the end one still needs to make a personal judgement about how to weight the many different factors. And while I am personally a strong advocate for gold OA journals, paying for publication upfront does require us as researchers to be more informed about the choices – library subscriptions no longer keep the low-quality publishers out of the market. In the future, if you are trying to decide among OA publishers, members in the OASPA ( is generally a reliable indicator of being on the up and up.

So what to do if you say no? If you aren’t interested in sending it to a more reputable outlet for minor contributions (like, say, BMC Research Notes), you could simply post it as a technical note on your website (a very common thing in CS) or on a preprint server like Figshare.

We’ll support you whatever you decide.

I am grateful to Dr. Vision (and Dr. Jonathan Eisen for the original post about “Peter Uhnemann”) and to all the commenters here for advising me when I really wasn’t sure what to do. (Final note: I suppose I should say that my experience with HOAJ Biology doesn’t mean all the smaller, open-access journals out there are Bad. Doing my homework paid off, though!)

11 comments on “Predatory Open-Access Journals: Part 2

  1. I wonder if the other (living, breathing) people on the editorial board know this.

    • Jeremy Fox says:

      Either way, it reflects badly on them.

      I also wonder if they know that this journal asks authors to review their own mss (see part one post). And again, either way it reflects badly on them.

  2. Lou Jost says:

    The fact that they didn’t even give you a summary decision letter was a bad sign as well. No serious journal I know just passes the raw reviews to the author without a substantive decision letter from an editor.

    Also, just because an editor happens to be a real person, do not assume he really is an editor. I know someone who got signed on as “editor” to an open-access journal without his consent.

    I get invitations constantly (two in the last few days) from these journals to “guest-edit” a “special issue” on the topic of my choice. Of course they are hoping I’ll be able to recruit paying authors for this issue. Little do they know I am not very well connected (or maybe that is part of their plan, trying to flatter me), but these journals really smell bad. “Predatory” is the right word.

  3. One red flag is when a publisher does not name who runs them, as is the case with Herbert Publications. Transparency is key.

    Although their website is silent on this matter, the director of Herbert Publications is Vamsheedhar Vulupala according to Companies House 07813687

    Declaration: I am a staff Associate Editor at PLoS ONE, this post is my own opinion and not that of PLoS.

  4. Mike Taylor says:

    Hird — is your paper scientifically sound? If so, then irrespective of how “important” you or anyone else guesses it will be, it’ll be welcome at PLoS ONE. Once published there, you’ll be able to track how much impact it’s actually having using the article-level metrics. If you can’t afford the full fee ($1350), they will give you a partial or complete fee waiver, no questions asked — pay them what you were going to pay HOAJ Biology.

    (I am not affiliated with PLoS in any way. I just admire their approach.)

  5. Congrats on your decision!
    I am waiting for someone to start YELP for journals. It is so hard to pick a journal. I would like to have the “hard facts” (does it have OA option, what is mean turn around time, impact factor) and also the experiences of other authors & reviewers all in one place.

  6. […] (PPS – There’s a follow-up post here.) […]

  7. […] The world of academic publishing has recently seen the convergent evolution of mimicry in ways that remarkably mirror the strategies seen in the natural world. As has been carefully researched and documented by Jeffrey Beall, a reference librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, the Open-Acces movement has inadvertently given rise to a legion of ‘predatory publishers’. The publishers offer (for a hefty fee) to publish research papers without the process of rigorous peer review that would normally precede the publication of scholarly work. (NIB contributor Sarah Hird described her experience with a predatory publisher here). […]

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