Helping scientists deal with the onslaught of shady-sounding CFP

Jun 03 2010 Published by under scholarly communication

Many/most/all (?) scientists and engineers who have ever published anything anywhere are now being inundated with calls for papers (CFP).  At least 3 have made it to my desk in the past month, forwarded from my colleagues who are curious and want to know more about the publisher. Two of these were precisely the same e-mail, with just names and article titles changed. That was enough that I spent a few minutes to create an internal wiki page as a guide to authors. I'm not going to share the whole thing, but I'll sketch out some points.

I started out by trying to make the point that whether or not a journal is open access has nothing to do with the quality of the journal - there are high quality and low quality OA and toll journals. I also pointed to some of the reporting from The Scientist on conference scams. Then I went through some general points in evaluating a new publication venue.


  • Who is the publisher?
  • Who is on the editorial board (one of these only gave the first names of the editorial board - how strange!)?
  • Where is it indexed? If it's older than 2 years, does it have an impact factor? (one of these journals was supposedly indexed in ERIC, but it was on nanotechnology, so, um no)
  • How well cited is it?
  • Does the call for papers make sense? Is it written in decent English? Is it even on a topic you know something about?


  • Who are the organizers? Who is on the committee?
  • Where will the proceedings appear?
  • Is this its first year?
  • Who else is going - do you know them?

I also mentioned that librarians talk to each other and we might know some inside information on a particular publisher - it's always a good idea to be friends with your librarian, but you can also ask him or her to look into one of these for you. In the end, if you've done decent work, then you should submit it to the venue that will give it the broadest reach so it can do the most good. If it's not decent, then don't publish it.

For librarians - maybe you should consider creating a libguide or similar on this topic.

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