Fraudulent Publication - From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Fraudulent Publication
From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing
Writing as Professional Development

After a group of doctoral students was assembled for their final, required class together and a student said, “I have a question. I noticed the words ’in press’ in a reference list. What does that mean, exactly?” “I wondered about that too,” another student commented, “if I get a letter that my article has been accepted, can I put it on my CV as ’in press’?” The professor replies “A publication is not in press unless it actually is in the production phase. Even if an article has been accepted for publication, it is, strictly speaking, not in press. For example, one of my colleagues had an article accepted for the state level publication of a professional organization and, shortly afterwards, the association decided to cease publishing the journal because it was not cost effective. So, due to circumstances beyond that author’s control, it never was in press or in print. Of course, there are grey areas as well. If a text book publisher advises the authors that the book is going into production, it is difficult to know exactly when that will occur. The safest route is to describe exactly where a manuscript is in the process. Sometimes, in desperation, faculty will list manuscripts that were merely submitted for review as a way to show that they are trying to get published. But this sort of information has no more of a place on the CV than a list of courses you would like to teach someday. After a manuscript has been reviewed, revised, accepted and edited, some publishers will post a typeset copy online. The manuscript appears just as it will when it is published in a particular issue—other than the page numbers. That way, authors have documentation that the article truly is in press and awaiting publication.”

The ethical issues surrounding published manuscripts are complex and have been further compounded by major changes to the communication environment, such as online publications and the internet (American Association of University Professors, 2015). Consider, for example, the following situations.

Situation 1

After making a conference presentation, a professor receives a very flattering e-mail from a book publisher he has not heard of previously. The editor invites him to submit a manuscript. The letter assures him that the book will not be reviewed and promptly published directly from the file he submits without any edits. When he checks the submission policies, he discovers that he has to pay a fee to get the book published.

There is a saying in the business field that, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The situation just described may result in a book, but it will not count towards tenure and promotion. The absence of a peer review process is an indication that it is a hoax. If a publisher reassures you that your work will not be reviewed or edited, you might as well take your manuscript to the local copy store and have it bound because it is useless from an academic standpoint. This “pay to get published” scheme is commonly referred to as a “vanity press” because the goal is to have a physical copy of a book with your name on it as author and put it on display.

Situation 2

A writing team has their article accepted for a respectable journal in their field. As part of the acceptance process, they are asked if they want to order color reprints or provide open access (OA). Both are very expensive, so they decline and choose to have the work published in black and white in the print journal and available to academic libraries with subscription services to the journal.

Many times, when authors submit a manuscript, they will be asked if they want to provide “open access”. What open access does is to post the work online and make it available to anyone who has a computer, free of charge. Readers do not need access to a university library, a subscription to the journal, or to pay for a download. The author is, in effect, paying for others to read, download, print out, and distribute the work. While this appears to democratize access to research, the fees charged often are exorbitant—sometimes over $1,000 U.S. dollars.

In theory, open access (OA) gives the work the widest possible distribution; however, some questionable publishers have given it a bad name. Generally speaking, reputable scholarly publishers will not require you to pay to have work published. Purchasing color reprints on glossy paper probably is not worth it when you can download black and white copies through a university search engine for free.

Online Tool

For details on Open Access, consult the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, 2003 at

Activity 12.4 Predatory Publishers

At some point, you will receive a very flattering letter inviting you to submit a manuscript to a journal. Before you start writing, click on the “author policies” and “submission guidelines” for the journal. If they have something called an “Author Publication Fee” or “page charges”, beware! These can range from a few hundred to over S1000 U.S. dollars. A good source for checking up on publishers is Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers at

The truth is that what might first appear to be a shortcut turns out to be a detour and dead end. Rather than succumb, make your manuscript as close to perfect as you can get it and work with respected, professional publishers who have a presence in your field.