UU English Department Blog

So why do fake invitations to publish exist?


By Andrew Cooper

Academic publishing is a dysfunctional industry, and predatory publishing is a symptom of the fundamental problems which categorise it. Academics are required to publish frantically – and in practice their careers depend largely on the frequency of their publications, specialists are required to determine their quality. Legitimate publishers use academics as free labour, charge high subscription fees, enforce inequitable contracts upon university libraries and have waiting times for publication longer than junior lecturer’s contracts. Predatory publishers exploit these problems by avoiding them completely – and charging a moderate fee.

Scholars on the periphery of academic English are more likely to be affected by the disreputable practices of these organisations, mainly for social reasons. Their institutions may not even distinguish between predatory publishers and other publishers so long as they are international. This sort of broad-brush policy-making encourages a shadow industry of Outer- or Expanding-Circle scholars writing for zero-prestige journals based in Outer- or Expanding-Circle countries pretending to be in Inner Circle countries. The ghost of Empire haunts the marches of academic publishing, along with so much else.

In the research papers Josep Soler and I published, we defended the idea that these features combine to target junior scholars mostly in Expanding Circle countries who use English for academic purposes – but nothing else. This group is most likely to 1. not spot language or pragmatic errors in the invitation, 2. demonstrate inadequate English skills for publication in Inner Circle journals, 3. belong to a socio-economic class with the funds to pay for publications, 4. have institutions with publishing requirements which do not take predatory publishing into account, 5. find internationalisation particularly appealing, 6. have only a superficial knowledge of Inner Circle publishing practices. Unlike the case of the general scams assessed by Healey, education and intelligence cannot be a factor.

Of course, I still receive these emails most weeks. My favourites are the ones from publishers who I openly state are frauds telling me how much they enjoyed the paper where I openly stated they are frauds. The circle closes itself.

Last modified: 2021-02-22