Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
It is an honour being approached by the editors of an internationally acknowledged academic journal to serve as a member on their editorial board. It is less honorable if you serve on an editorial board of a dubious journal. Before you accept such an invitation check the credentials of the journal first. There are already too many predatory publishers publishing thousands of shady journals! Serving on the board of such a journal is bad enough, but when you publish in a dubious journal you not only damage your reputation as a scholar, but also take the risk that you are not given any credit for your publication by your DPC or TPRC.
What are “predatory publishers”?
Jeffrey Beall has established criteria for determining predatory publishers. He has also published a list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers and their journals. In 2014, his list contains 477 predatory publishers, some of them publishing more than 100 journals.
Predatory open access publishing describes an exploitative open-access publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals.
How do you know whether a journal is not a reputable journal?
Remember that not all predatory publishers are listed on the Beall’s list. The first thing that should alert you is when a publisher is asking for money. Reputable academic journals – at least those in the humanities – usually do not charge publication fees, nor do they make it compulsory to purchase a subscription. I personally have never paid a cent for having my publications published in peer-reviewed journals. If your publications are good, they will get published by reputable journals.
Case Study: Journal of Language and Literature (JLL)
Recently I was approached by a colleague with the request to assess the Journal of Language and Literature. Doubts were raised whether JLL is a reputable journal. This is my assessment:
The Progress Publishing Company publishes six academic journals, one of them is the Journal of Language and Literature (JLL). Located in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Progress Publishing Company has a high-quality informative and attractive website. The Journal of Language and Literature has an ISSN number and a DOI (digital object identifier) name. The journal’s SCOPUS ranking is published which is a positive indicator, and the journal is available online and the impression is given that it is also available in print, which, however, does not seem to be the case. The only way that we found to access any of the articles published is by downloading individual articles for a fee of $20. The Journal of Language and Literature is published four times a year with each volume containing between 15 and up to over 80 articles. In 2014, 189 articles were published by the journal. The average page count per article is six pages. The Journal of Language and Literature also has a positive SCImago Journal Rank (SJR). The SJR indicator is a measure of scientific influence of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.
The honorary editor and one of the editors-in-chief are members of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. The second editor is Marek Smoluk from the Department of English Philology at the University of Zielona Góra. The journal has an advisory and review board with members from several universities around the world.
UPDATE : On 26 November 2014 I sent emails to Prof. M. Smoluk (editor-in-chief) and to the following members of the advisory board: Michael F. Shaugnessy (Eastern New Mexico University, USA), J. Hussaun Khan (Sardar Patel University, India), Servet Çelik (Karadeniz Technical University, Turkey), Sara J. Newman (Kent State University, USA), and Nancy Carlson (Lamar University, USA).
The first to reply was Prof. M. Smoluk. He told me that already in May 2014 he had complained to the publishers of the Journal of Language and Literature that “as a co-editor I have never seen any papers before they go to print and after when they’re published.” (email Prof. M. Smoluk to Dr Javid Jafarov dated 14 May 2014). The Journal’s publishers never replied to Dr. Smoluk’s email. On 27 Nov 2014 I received a follow up email from Prof. Smoluk in which he announced that he will step down from his position as editor-in-chief.
On 27 November 2014 I received an email from Servit Celik. He writes: “I have no affiliation with the mentioned journal. I have never seen an issue of it, or took part in its practices as a reviewer or editorial board member. […] I did send them an email to remove me from their editorial board long before your message without a response!”
On 02 December 2014 I received an email from Sara Newman who has hence requested to be taken off the JLL editorial board. Elaine Hewitt also responded on the same day and told me that her name has been taken off the advisory board. Dr. Carlson wrote to the publishers on 01 December 2014) “Please remove my name immediately from your editorial board membership. I was unaware of being associated with this journal nor aware of being a member of the editorial board.” They were replaced by Azizeh Khanchobani Ahranjani (Iran); whether he knows about his “appointment” is questionable.
Publication standards are, as will be shown later, only seemingly high. Under Instruction for Authors it is stated that “submission of a paper to this journal implies that the manuscript has not been published in, or submitted to, any other journal […]. All manuscripts are subject to review by two or more independent, anonymous referees chosen by the Editor-in-Chief. If revision is necessary, the author is asked to resubmit the dated, revised manuscript incorporating the suggestions and recommendations of the referees within three months. […]. The Editor-in-Chief reserve the right to reject a manuscript without peer review if the manuscript does not comply with the Journal’s Instructions for Authors.” The editors also require that “the style of the manuscript should conform to currently acceptable usage in matters of grammar and syntax”, and articles are “subjected to a double blind peer review process”.
On the webpage it is stated that “there is no publication fee. But, subscribe to receive 1 print copy (see example) of the journal is compulsory for authors.” The subscription price list for 2014 reveals that authors have to pay $290 to have their article published. For this, they get one free copy; any additional copy costs $80.
Authors & Quality of Contributions
Among the 189 articles of the four 2014 editions of the Journal of Language and Literature the overwhelming majority of authors is from Russia and from the other former Sovyet republics. There are also quite a few authors from Jordan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Authors from other countries (India, Iran, Italy, Vietnam) are rare.
Why do scholars pay $290 to get an article published? I can answer the question only for some Indonesian authors—I need to emphasize at this point that I do not want to generalize. Indonesia has, of course, its fair share of good and excellent scholars to whom nothing that is said here, applies!
Indonesia has a lot of former teacher training colleges (IKIP) that were transformed into state research universities (Unversitas Negeri). Lecturers (“professors” in US terminology) who never had to publish, are now required to publish. At many Indonesian universities it is a requirement to have at least one publication in English. The Universitas Sebelas Maret, for instance, has set a target that 10% of all publications shall be in English. However, they admit that this is difficult to achieve because many lecturers are not able to write in English. Less than 5% of Indonesians are capable of sustaining a comprehensible conversation in English, and the rate is not much higher among academics. These people are easy game for predatory publishers. To have their articles published, they pay $290 plus about $30-$100 to get the article translated into English. For that rate one cannot expect to get a qualified translator, but, as we will see later, the language requirements of the Journal of Language and Literature are very lax. Many articles published in the Journal of Language and Literature do not nearly fulfill the journal’s own standards requiring “acceptable usage in matters of grammar and syntax”.
For the authors all that matters is that they have an English language publication in an international journal, and they are happy to pay a couple of hundred dollars to fulfill one of the requirements for promotion at their home universities.
Example 1 (N.M.)
N.M. (we refrain from using his real name) is a lecturer at Malang State University. He has a B.A. from the same unversity where he is presently employed, and a PhD from the University of Indonesia.
I encountered three spelling mistakes on the first page of his article “Meaning shift of Arabic borrowed words: hafiz, qari’ and levels of education in Indonesian culture” in the Journal of Language and Literature 2013; 4(2), 64-70. This is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident but symptomatic for the journal. There seems to be little or no peer review or quality control as will be seen by he following examples:
Example 2 (I.H.I.P.)
I.H.I.P. is a lecturer at Brawijaya University also located in Malang. Her article “Defense mechanisms employed by Greg Heffley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid film” deals with the comedy film “A Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (2010). This is the abstract as provided on the website of the Journal of Language and Literature 2014 5(3), 407-413. The lack of peer review or quality control is evident. Not only is the topic trivial, but the abstract is full of mistakes:
Abstract: People who live in a society must interact with other people around them and experience many events in their life. Interaction and experience that people have in their daily life can shape their personality. In the process of personality development, people face many events in their life whether is good or bad and they will feel anxious when they face bad events. People who cannot handle their anxiety will try to defense themselves to reduce their anxiety by using defense mechanisms. The phenomena of defense mechanisms can be seen in Greg Heffley as the main character in film entitled Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This study aims to reveal how defense mechanisms employed by Greg Heffley because of the anxiety that he feels while he interacts with certain people around him. This study uses psychological approach to discover how defense mechanisms employed by Greg Heffley. Greg Heffley as the main character always shows his anxiety because he always gets problems with certain people around him, such as Rowley Jefferson, Patty Farrell, Rodrick Heffley, Manny Heffley, Quentin, Mrs. Irvine and Fregley. The problems with them appear when Greg Heffley tries to achieve his goal, that is to be voted in a class favorite. To reduce his anxiety, he tries to defense himself by using defense mechanisms. There are five defense mechanisms used by Greg Heffley such as denial, rationalization, displacement, sublimation and introjection. Then, the anxiety that occurred to him are realistic anxiety and moralistic anxiety.
The same article also appeared in “Jurnal Ilmiah Mahasiswa FIB” (Scholarly Journal of the Students of the Faculty of Cultural Studies)
Example 3 (O.M.F.K.)
O.M.F.K. is a lecturer at Petra Christian University, Surabaya. Her article “Adapted words as a window of cultural exchange between the Chinese and others” appeared in the Journal of Language and Literature 2014; 5(3), 388-394.
Her article also passed the alleged “double blind” peer review process of the Journal of Language and Literature despite numerous mistakes in the hardly comprehensible abstract:
Abstract: This article will analyze Chinese words which are adapted from outside China together with Chinese words that have been adapted by other languages in order to determine the relation between corresponding states. The method uses a literature review, which is used first in finding and collecting adapted words from some reference books, and later in grouping the words based on their time. The result is that, despite the long historical time of Chinese language, the globalization has influences that led to the upcoming of many newly adapted word forms. These adapted words indicate the areas that have influenced them, namely in the fields of cluture, politics, and science. Regarding the structure, these adapted Chinese words could be in several forms: a full translation-sound, a mixture between translation sound and their original meanings, and a Chinese morphems which have similar meanings with the original words.
The whole article can be read here.
Example 4 (Sardana Efimova)
The first three examples were taken from articles published by Indonesian nationals (mainly because I am myself a scholar of Indonesian studies). Indonesians are not the only ones who tend to have difficulties writing in English. The fourth example is taken from Saradana K. Efimova’s article “Linguistic study of Yakut and Japanese TV news” in Journal of Language and Literature 2014; 5(4), 12-15. S. Efimova is a Russian national of Yakut ethnicity. The following abstract has been copied faithfully from the publisher’s website—including the missing word segmentation.
Abstract: The paperincludes linguistic studyof Yakut and Japanese TV news what seems to be important because television has a great influence not only social and cultural situation in society but also a language situation. We held the lexical and stylistic comparative analysis of the Yakut and Japanese TV news for a deeper understanding of the current situation in languages and identification of similarities and differences of TV speech in Yakutia and Japan. The materials of research are 40 news broadcasts of Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. in Japanese and 40 news broadcasts of National Broadcasting Company of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) “Sakha” in Yakut language over 4 fields: politics, society, sport, economy and science.
It appears as if the Journal of Language and Literature is only available through its publisher’s website. The journal is not available in any of the 4,400 German and Austrian libraries that are indexed in the Zeitschriftendatenbank (ZDB). If a journal is not listed in the ZDB, then the likelyhood that you will find it in any other library is slim. To be on the safe side, I also checked the Academic Database Assessment Tool (ADAT). Same negative result. I also browsed the catalogues of some of the major libraries in the world including the Library of Congress and the Australian National Library, and also our own Hamilton Library. Again, no luck. This means that whoever wants to read an article published in the Journal of Language and Literature has to pay $20.
Is the Journal of Language and Literature a predatory journal?
The Journal of Language and Literature and its publisher Progress Publishing Company are not listed on Jeffrey Beall’s black list, but we do believe that it belongs there [Addendum: As of 3 Dec 2014 Progress Publishing Company is listed in the Beall’s List]. But the question is essentially irrelevant. What serious scholar wants to publish an article in a journal that is not available at the Library of Congress or the Australian National Library, and that is not open access either?
The Journal of Language and Literature and Indonesian universities
The Journal of Language and Literature, and also the other journals published by Progress Publishing Company are becoming increasingly popular among Indonesian scholars. For the February 2015 edition 25% of the papers are from Indonesian scholars. None of the authors is from one of the top Indonesian universities. They tend to come from the smaller and less prestigious universities. There is a worrying trend that lecturers especially from Universitas Kristen Petra (Petra Christian University in Surabaya), Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember, Universitas Sebelas Maret (11 March University in Surakarta), and Universitas Negeri Makassar (Makassar State University) but also from other Indonesian universities increasingly view the journals published by Progress Publishing Company as a convenient venue to get easy, and relative inexpensive, credit for tenure and promotion.
Scholars from Universitas Negeri Makassar, but also from other Indonesian universities, have been very active publishing in the International Journal of Academic Research (IJAR-Azerbaijan), another journal published by Progress Publishing Company. In the last edition of IJAR (Vol. 6, No. 6) 12 of the 128 (13%) articles published were written by Indonesian scholars.
Another journal published by Progress Publishing Company that also enjoys great popularity among Indonesians is the Journal of Economics and Engineering (JEE). Since its establishment in 2010, 83 articles have been published in JEE, and 12 of those (15%) were written by Indonesian scholars (15%).
I am unable to answer the question why Indonesians are so highly represented in JEE, IJAR and in JLL, but I notice that one of the members of the editorial board of International Journal of Academic Research (IJAR-Azerbaijan) is Prof. Dr. Sarwoko Mangkoedihardjo from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Surabaya.
Click here for more information about Prof. Sarwoko Mangkoedihardjo.
On 12 December 2014 the Journal of Language and Literature, together with all the other journals published by Progress Publishing Company became unaccessible. A message was displayed that the site was temporarily down. Since 20/12/14 anybody who tries to access any of the journals will encounter the following error message: “Not Found, The requested URL / was not found on this server. Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.”
What happened is unknown to me. It seems that the journal is out of business. Hundreds of scholars who paid for having their articles published now have to face the bitter fact that their publications are gone too.
ADDITION APRIL 2016