An increasing number of scientific researchers, particularly those in less well-developed countries, are being bombarded with phishing emails from scam journals (now commonly referred to as predatory journals), which purport to offer open access publication in exchange for payment. However, while articles submitted to such journals may get published (although this is not always the case), they are not subjected to robust editorial oversight.

These journals have no interest in the advancement of science; their goal is purely financial gain at the authors’ expense. As the majority of the journals are not indexed, much of the research submitted to them will never be read, and those articles that are published are likely to be poorly written and not subjected to rigorous scientific review.

Therefore, it is advisable that any author check the credentials of journal to which they are planning to submit, particularly if it is a less well known title. A few minutes of research may save months of wasted time/effort.

The first port of call is a website set up by Jeffery Beall, called Scholarly Open Access, which publishes a very comprehensive list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”. If your target journal/publisher appears on this list then you would do well to avoid it.

Also, check whether your target journal appears in the Directory of Open Access Journals, that the journal is indexed in science databases (e.g., PubMed), and that the publisher belongs to a professional organisation (e.g., Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association).

Other simple checks include making sure that full, verifiable contact information, including an address, is provided on the journal website (it is common to find only web contact forms) and that the peer review process and author fees are clearly described.

Finally, if the journal boasts very high acceptance rates and/or lists an impact factor not cited on ISI Web of Science or Scopus then it is best avoided.

If something looks too good to be true, then it probably is!