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Watch out for faux journals and fake conferences.

About a year ago, Robert Calin-Jageman, PhD, noticed an uptick in email solicitations requesting manuscripts for journals he wasn't familiar with or inviting him to academic conferences he hadn't heard of before. Upon further investigation, the Dominican University psychology professor traced the journals and conferences — all of which had seemingly legitimate websites — back to OMICS Publishing Group, an India-based firm that has been accused of using unethical publishing practices, such as inviting potential authors to submit manuscripts without informing them of pricey author fees, or fraudulently listing academic editors who have nothing to do with the journal.

Calin-Jageman also found that the group was one of more than 300 publishers on a blacklist of "potential, possible or probable predatory scholarly open access publishers." This list of suspected predatory publishers is maintained by Jeffrey Beall, an academic librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado in Denver. Beall estimates that these publishers now disseminate 5 percent to 10 percent of all open-access articles. They often specifically target their solicitations to graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty, all of whom may be anxious to find ways to get their work published, Calin-Jageman says.

"You can imagine the temptation of seeing a journal where it looks like you can get published rapidly and quite easily to add to your CV," he says. "But it's really important to avoid submitting to these journals because they're not just poor, they're actually fraudulent."

Beall says it's usually pretty easy to spot a potentially predatory journal solicitation. Most of their email messages use poor grammar and include typos, and are often signed by a generic term, such as "managing editor." But Calin-Jageman warns that some publishers have begun personalizing their correspondence further, praising earlier work published by the recipients and requesting another article on the topic.

To avoid getting inadvertently involved with or citing research from a suspicious publisher, Beall recommends seeking advice from your advisor, consulting his list or conducting a Google search with the journal title and adding the word "scam" or "bogus" to the search. It's also a good idea to search the journal's website for full contact information, including the publisher's address, as well as full affiliation listings for all members of the publication's editorial board.

In the event you submit a manuscript to a publication you later suspect as being less than trustworthy, get your university's counsel involved in demanding the publication be retracted, Calin-Jageman says.

"Even if it seems embarrassing, it's best to wipe it out quickly with a letter from university's counsel," he says. "That's what they're there for — to protect the school's reputation — and that includes helping students with these types of issues."

— Amy Novotney