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Are questions or answers that cite, refer to or are based on work published in predatory journals (in the sense discussed here, here, or here) to be tolerated?

If no, how do we check if a journal is predatory?

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    $\begingroup$ It might be better if you give an example of how we currently handle them incorrectly. AFAIK, we currently close all questions about personal theories (published or not) and DV (maybe even delete) answers based on non-mainstream theories. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 24 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos This question: physics.stackexchange.com/q/456976 and a comment to this answer: physics.stackexchange.com/a/475637/36194 both refer to material published by SCRIP en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Research_Publishing $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 24 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ So you commented on the one but didn't VTC as non-mainstream? Why not? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 24 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos In large part because I wanted to highlight possible problems with the source of the question, rather than silently close without comments. Nobody picked up on it but you can see the question still rightly died in obscurity. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 24 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Chair Predatory journals do not necessarily publish non-mainstream stuff, although probably most non-mainstream stuff is either published in predatory journals or never gets published anyways. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 24 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Related: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/7750/2451 $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Apr 24 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic this is an interesting link; of course the problem is precisely that predatory journals give the appearance of being peer-reviewed, and sometimes are “technically” peer-reviewed, if only by the editor of the journal. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 24 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ I've clarified what is meant by "predatory" and removed some comments that attempted to start an existential debate about the scientific publishing industry. That would be an interesting discussion to have, but this comment thread isn't the place for it. $\endgroup$ – rob Apr 24 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ You handle them in the same way you would handle them for any scientific publication: you cite them if they are relevant and you don't cite them if they are irrelevant. As I usually say, in a scientific paper, you can even cite what's written on a toilet paper's box if it's relevant: what matters is the purpose of the citation. $\endgroup$ – Massimo Ortolano Apr 24 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ @MassimoOrtolano That seems more like an answer than like a comment. $\endgroup$ – rob Apr 24 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @rob It's not a complete answer, just a hint. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to complete it. $\endgroup$ – Massimo Ortolano Apr 24 at 21:02
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I don't think we need any additional policies about referring to or questioning about papers published through predatory journals.

Assuming the paper is mainstream...
Well, we don't really need to do anything. Maybe, in the case that the post is written by the author of the paper, we could provide a link indicating that journal is predatory, but nothing really needs to be done here, treat the post as any other.

Assuming the paper is non-mainstream...
We already have functioning policies on questions about non-mainstream physics, so I think this would be handled already. We also handle answers based on non-mainstream physics with downvotes (and in some cases deletion).

We also close questions based on peer review, regardless of the mainstream/non-mainstream aspect, so this shouldn't be a concern as well. Hence, I don't think an additional policy is needed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I will provide a link or context explaining the possible predatory nature of the journal. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 30 at 11:45
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This Stack Exchange is about "mainstream physics". It is about mainstream physics whether it is published in leading journals or trailing journals. It is not about non mainstream physics whether the non mainstream physics is published in leading journals or trailing journals. This Stack Exchange is about mainstream physics, not journals.

Anyone can easily find non mainstream physics articles published in leading journals. And anyone can easily find mainstream physics articles published in trailing journals.

Why would anyone publish in a trailing journal? I will tell you a story.

Some years ago, I discovered a new method of writing unitary matrices. I messed around with publishing it at Journal of Math Physics but they pissed me off. I'm an amateur. I do not need to "publish or perish". I do not need to have other physicists read or care about my work. So I put it on to Vixra here where it has presently been downloaded 1082 times:

Unitary Mixing Matrices and Their Parameterizations (2015) We present a new decomposition of unitary matrices particularly useful for mixing matrices. The decomposition separates the complex phase information from the mixing angle information of the matrices and leads to a new type of parameterization. ... http://vixra.org/abs/1511.0083

A new decomposition of unitary matrices is an important and unexpected addition to quantum mechanics. So it has been picking up citations:

Parametrization of 3 × 3 unitary matrices based on polarization algebra Gil, J.J. Eur. Phys. J. Plus (2018) 133: 206. https://doi.org/10.1140/epjp/i2018-12032-0

My paper also gives a geometric calculation for CP violation and is cited here but they replaced "vixra" with "arxiv" in the text:

The Geometric Origin of the CP Phase H. Fanchiotti, C.A. García Canal, V. Vento The complex phase present in CP-violating systems such as neutral kaons is shown to be of geometrical origin. It is also concluded that the complex phase of the Cabibbo--Kobayashi--Maskawa (CKM) matrix is a Berry-like phase. https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.08127

The above paper isn't published (yet), but it is good enough that it is cited in a peer reviewed paper here (as [28]):

Testing CPT violation with correlated neutral mesons Roberts, Phys. Rev. D 96, 116015 (2017) https://arxiv.org/abs/1706.03378


It is a good thing that you do not have to distinguish between "good" journals and "bad" journals. It is a good thing because journals are not static objects. Good journals can become better and they can decay. Bad journals can improve. Good journals can publish bad articles and bad journals can publish good articles.

You should not judge people based on their commonalities such as skin color or religion. You should not judge articles based on their authors or the journal they are published in. You do not judge based on skin color no matter how good the statistics you have that prove how bad the average person of a particular color is. You judge people based on their merits and you judge articles based on their content. This is the way that science has been (correctly) done for thousands of years and you are not in a position to change that tradition. Truth is truth, no matter where it's published or who says it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps there's a catch-22 issue there Carl. Some might say if it's in a high-impact journal, it's mainstream physics, and if it isn't, it isn't. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Apr 26 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ We should run a contest to find the worst paper ever published in a high-impact journal... $\endgroup$ – Carl Brannen Apr 26 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ Vixra is neither a journal nor a predatory resource, it's literally just a server to hold anyone's documents. Could you amend your answer to actually talk about predatory journals, as defined in the post? Otherwise, this is a complete non sequitur. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 26 at 11:48
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Are questions or answers that cite, refer to or are based on work published in predatory journals (in the sense discussed here, here, or here) to be tolerated?

Yes. You should take a question on its merits. Ditto for an answer. If it's junk science you say so and explain why, and point out that the journal will print any old tosh for money. If it's serious sincere science you deal with it as normal, then you ask yourself why it appeared in a journal you don't rate.

The alternative is to close down serious sincere questions and/or delete serious sincere answers, which will drive contributors away. You should try to avoid this.

If no, how do we check if a journal is predatory?

You go and look up the journal and point out its submission rules. You don't just declare that it's predatory because it's appeared on some list. Note this from the Wikipedia article on Jeffrey Beall:

Joseph Esposito wrote in The Scholarly Kitchen that he had been following some of Beall's work with "growing unease"[27] and that Beall's "broader critique (really an assault) of Gold OA and those who advocate it" had "crossed the line".

Also note that the word predatory is something of an ad-hominem, and that all journals are predatory to some extent. We fund science, then we've got to pay through the nose to read a paper that results from that funding. Not just a dollar or two, such that pricing is pro-rata comparable to the price of a book. But tens of dollars. So much that most people don't read it, and express their irritation at a paywall. Also note that journals that use this model do not like Open Access. They have an axe to grind.

You mentioned this question: What is the reason for the reported opposite-of-QM handedness of photons in a Bell test with circularly polarized photons? and a comment to this answer: https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/475637/36194. I took a look and thought it was all serious sincere science. So I think you should "tolerate" it. Especially since there are bona fide physicists who can't get their papers published in a high-impact journal. As to why, I'd say it's to do with the not mainstream issue. But that's one for another day.

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    $\begingroup$ Let's try the comments on this answer again from the beginning, without speculation about the roles played by flat-earthers, geocentrists, and inquisitors. If you find yourself wanting to respond by "lol"-ing at someone, or by accusing someone of riding a "high horse," the moderators respectfully request that you flag the comment thread for cleanup again and go do something less fighty for a while. $\endgroup$ – rob Apr 26 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ ...point out its submission rules. You don't just declare that it's predatory because it's appeared on some list. Uh, what if that "some list" you refer to does precisely what you suggest (i.e., looks at the submission rules) and do it predatory? Isn't that kinda the raison d'etre for such lists, so that you don't have to? So I'm not sure why this point was made. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 26 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Kyle Kanos : the point is that the only list that's referred to (twice) in the question is Jeffrey Beall's, and it's not impartial. It's an attack on open access by a guy who's in bed with Elsevier. You can't trust his list. Didn't you even put a minute into looking it up? Remember something I've said on numerous occasions: do your own research and think for yourself. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Apr 26 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ No, I didn't bother to look it up; but it seems to me that there is more than just Beall's list & all lists do exactly what it is your saying we should be doing. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 26 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the reception to this answer. The poster's history of low-quality content is irrelevant; this answer is perfectly correct. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 26 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos It looks to me like your understanding of Beall's list is a bit too coarse-grained. As you point out, Beall did indeed go and look at the submission rules, but it is important to note that the population it described is extremely heterogeneous, and that a number of publishers made the list because a strict subset of their catalogue was predatory, with other journals being fine, and it is not fair (or indeed, reasonable academic practice) to tar those journals with that brush. (cont.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 26 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Beall's list is not, and was never phrased as, an immediate indictment. It does form a flashing orange warning sign that requires one to go and look in detail at the journal and its publisher and to form a clear picture of what they're about, but it does not automatically discount all content associated with either the journal or the publisher. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 26 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty The first two lines would be enough for an answer. The rest - starting with the “sincerity” part, is either irrelevant or a rant against some publishers. The focus on Beall’s list is out of place (we use Cabell’s where I work and there are plenty of alternative) as it obscures the virtues of such lists behind accusations of conspiracies with evil Elsevier. ... $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 27 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ ... The suggestion that all journals are predatory to some extent is absurd and uninformed, as is the suggestion that paywalled journals have an axe to grind: try that for size on EPL or CJP. The reality is that a number of journals are shoestring operations subsidized by local societies, and need subscription fees to keep going. ... $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 27 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ ... There are no doubt many bona fide physicists who can't get their papers published in a high-impact journal, but very few who cannot get their work (if correct) published in middle-tier properly refereed non-predatory journals. What is certainly true is that too much crap work ends up in predatory journals rather than in bins where it belong. One can be rightly incensed at the subscription cost of some journals, but please let’s stop conspiracy theories. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Apr 27 at 1:07

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