Fear of the academic fake? Science and the discourse of predatory publishing

1st March 2021 : 17:00 - 18:00

Category: Public Seminar

Speaker: David Mills and Kelsey Inouye

Location: Online - Zoom

Convener: Natasha Robinson

Audience: Public


In this presentation we argue that the concept of ‘predatory’ publishing’ – used to describe deceptive journals exploiting vulnerable researchers – is inadequate and unhelpful for understanding the complex range of institutional and contextual factors that shape the publication decisions of individual academics.  In this presentation we review recent empirical studies on academics who have published in so-called ‘predatory’ journals. Their findings move the debate beyond normative assumptions about academic fraud, and offer particular insights into the academic pressures on scholars at the periphery of a global research economy.

We go on to analyse the language used in more than 200 scientific and medical journal editorials on this topic. More than 80% deploy an emotive discourse of fear, fakery and exploitation. This paper examines the amplification of this discourse across the science publishing system, focusing particularly on the role of major science journals, such as Nature. Our discourse analysis shows how few editorials offer alternative perspectives on these developments, and their relative invisibility in scholarly debates.