Identifying “Predatory” Journals

I, like many dentists in private practice, am presented daily with a number of professional reading options: printed journals and newsletters, online journals and online communities offering blogs, articles and advertisements.  Hopefully altogether these provide a group of learning sources that keep one clinically sharp, enlightened and stimulated and this range of information from systematic reviews to opinion and surveys  perk our interest and needs in a timely way.

But, one has to be careful because some sources might be suspect.

For example, some sources may not be refereed or have a respectable journal impact score. Should that keep us from reading them? It depends, but it would be helpful to know going in how respectable a source is.

I’m reminded that back in the day I said to a patient (when wanting to reassure them) that I had not gone to the Internet to find out the answer to their problem. That was funny then, but now the joke doesn’t work as well because the Internet is a dependable source of professional information. There is a plethora of online publications meant for continuing education, and having it available  is helpful. The modern dentist who relies on online publications for continuing education needs to understand how to identify unreliable sources that pollute the literature.

I recently googled “dentistry” and got around 90 million hits.  Many are linked to “expert” sources serving to edify the clinician.  In fact, according to Dr. Michael Glick’s June, 2016 “Publish and Perish” JADA editorial, in 2014 there were more than 6000 dental journals published. In effect that means there is a dental article published every 24 minutes!

Dr. Glick uses the term “predatory journals” for those that do not follow standard scientific publishing guidelines. How does one know if a Journal is possibly a predatory journal?  He provides these clues:

  • Spam solicitations for articles, to be a guest editor, or to be on the editorial board
  • Poor grammar and misspellings in a solicitation letter and on the journal’s website
  • Incorrect or fake editorial office addresses
  • Use of a fake impact factor to promote the journal
  • Fake editorial board members
  • Editorial board members you do not recognize although the journal is purportedly in your area of expertise
  • Indeterminate geographical location of a journal, although a geographical name, such as “American” or European,” is used in the title of the journal
  • A promise for a quick turnaround from the time of submission to publication (sometimes 24 hours)
  • No mention of or a difficult-to-ascertain article-processing charge
  • A plagiarized website
  • Lack of transparency about ownership

Recently there has been another article in JADA with good recommendations about this issue of predatory publishing. It is good to know that our profession’s researchers are tuned into these problems. For those of us who are not advancing an academic career, these are important reminders to be vigilant with our sources.

In contrast to “predatory journals”, there are some very good sources that are available that dentists should be paying attention to. Recognizing predatory publishing is a good reminder of the value of, say, the UTHSC-San Antonio CATs literature and also the ADA’s EBD may be helpful.

Author/advertiser funded publications can and will make claims that get their products sold and look authentic and of high authority. Almost any idea and any product can be substantiated with “literature” to be credible. So we have to be careful out there. But we also need to allow ourselves to be stimulated by new and sometimes important insights. You never know when yit may lead to an idea that will lead to something helpful.


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