A recent article in The Australian newspaper Higher Education Supplement entitled “Unscrupulous journal sites flourish” [1 described ‘predatory journals’ with inadequate or non-existent peer review and provided a timely warning regarding journals with substandard peer review. This article led Smith and Baker [2 to reconsider their submission of a paper evaluating a short-form of the Berg Balance Scale (SF-BBS) to the International Journal of Research in Medical & Applied Sciences (IJRMAS).
The primary motivation for Smith and Baker [2 to publish was the desire to inform physiotherapists and others about the advantages of the SF-BBS. The SF-BBS reduces testing time by half without loss of reliability or validity, and lengthy testing time has been identified as a significant impediment to use of the original Berg Balance Scale [3. The candidate journal was IJRMAS and the first warning sign of reduced standards was poor grammar in both the email inviting publication and on the IJRMAS website. Irrespective of whether or not grammatical errors should ever be tolerated, the extremely rapid turnaround time (IJRMAS offered publication within 24 hours of receiving payment of $USD 50 for online publication) suggested inadequate time for review.
One method of identifying questionable journals is to consult lists such as those by Beall citing potentially predatory open-access journals [4 and publishers [5, and it is an encouraging sign that IJRMAS appears on the former list and its publisher Contemporary Research Center on the latter. However, this is a rapidly changing field with lists such as these quickly becoming outdated. Consequently, a useful additional resource is criteria for evaluating journals and publishers, also by Beall [6. Although generally excellent, investigation of many of the listed criteria require considerable time and effort, therefore the following warning signs are provided as a useful short-cut for identifying journals which may be substandard and likely to have deficiencies in their peer review process:
- 1. Poor grammar or syntax (spelling is generally good).
- 2. An exceedingly rapid turnaround time from submission to publication suggesting insufficient time for reviewers to receive, process and return papers to the journal editor and authors.
- 3. An abnormally low fee for online publication.
- 4. Use of an inappropriate publication template lifted verbatim from another journal.
- 5. The otherwise uncommon action of a journal actively soliciting authors.
- 6. Although a number of reputable journals have ‘International’ as part of their title, this may be the first indicator of a questionable journal.
Ethical approval: Not applicable.Conflict of interest: None declared.
A cautionary fail.