There you are, a young doctor getting your career off the ground when you get an email from "The Journal of Clinical Case Reports" asking you to submit some articles. As it happens, you've got some interesting cases to report so you write them up and send them off. To your delight, they're accepted. A nice addition to your résumé.
Then comes the bill — the journal says you owe them $2,900! Shocked, you write back to say that you've never heard of being charged to publish and you have no intention of paying. They publish your articles anyway, offering to reduce your bill to $2,600. After a year of wrangling, the journal finally agrees to "forgive" your so-called debt.
Welcome to the brave new world of predatory publishing, an unexpected consequence of the open-access movement to make scientific findings more widely available. Jeffrey Beall, a research librarian, has been keeping a record of publications he considers predatory. He thinks there might be as many as 4,000 of them out there — that would be 25 percent of all open-access journals.
Suffice it to say that predatory publishers are more concerned with their profit margin than scientific rigor. If researchers can pay, they can get published, regardless of the quality of their work. As a result, the number of questionable studies published has multiplied. Unless you're an expert in a given field, it might be hard to tell which science is reliable and which is junk [source: Kolata].
Famously, to get ahead in academia, scholars must publish or perish. Small wonder that predatory publishing flourishes in such an atmosphere. Buyer (and reader) beware!