Predatory Open Access Publishing in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Fields

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Kelli J. Trei, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background: As government entities and researchers strive to make science accessible, open access (OA) publishing continues to grow. While many subscription-based publishers and existing OA journals contribute to this charge, there are some that see only a chance to profit financially. These publications, often referred to as "predatory", are listed on a website maintained by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver. His prominent blog, "Scholarly Open Access", contains a list of journals that fit a set of criteria, honed by Beall, which highlight dishonest publishing practices. While many OA journals require a payment to cover the costs of their publications, valid journals are transparent and often offer assistance to quality researchers without the means. Unfortunately, the number of predatory journals is growing, focusing on "pay to play" models, regardless of research quality, and even invoicing authors without first relaying the cost. While some research has looked at OA subject coverage in general, the trends in this predatory sphere have not been closely examined. Methods: The Directory of Open Access Journals subject categories were used to provide the terms for the study. Beall’s current list was analyzed to determine the percentage of STEM journal content. Each journal's website was reviewed for a description of content and then assigned to a term. While compiling the data some websites disappeared and others changed locations, defunct websites are not included. One indicator of predatory journals is the lack of a distinct subject and the tendency to accept any topic. These broad journals that specifically included scientific fields in their descriptions are classified as "General" and included in the broader analysis. Results: The list Beall curates has quickly grown over time; 23 journals were identified in 2012, 225 in 2013 and 322 in 2014. Of the most recent list, 89.44% of the journals include STEM publications and those defined as "General", and 74.22% are STEM only. The largest fields represented of the STEM journals are the Biology & Life Sciences (16.32%), Health Sciences (30.13%) and Technology & Engineering (41.84%). Specific fields with no predatory journals identified are Animal Science & Veterinary Medicine, Chemistry, Geology and Physics & Astronomy. Conclusions: STEM fields make up the majority of the journals considered predatory. The most likely reason behind this is that university and funding agencies provide a great deal of money for research in STEM fields. Coupling this with growing government open access requirements creates a breeding ground for dishonest publishing practices. If researchers do not stringently assess the quality of a publication, they run the risk of both embarrassment and high costs.  Using this information, academic librarians, research scientists and science faculty will be enabled to inform colleagues and students of trends in their areas of study while encouraging best practices in choosing open access forums for their research.