Jocalyn Clark (@jocalynclark), executive editor of the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition and other publications, was a senior editor at PLOS Medicine and assistant editor at The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). Her current BMJ blog entry focuses on “How to avoid predatory journals.” This is an excellent guide for doing your own homework when deciding where to publish your scholarly work.
Predatory journals (a term first coined by librarian Jeffrey Beall) are fake or scam journals that send phishing emails offering “open access” publication in exchange for payment, without providing robust editorial or publishing services. They have been discredited by the scientific community, and because they are not indexed in standard databases any research published in them is effectively lost. Their motive is financial gain, and their modus operandi is a corruption of the business model of legitimate open access publishing.
In summary, she suggests authors check Beall’s list of questionable or bad actors (essentially a black list), if the journal claims it’s Open Access, then also check the DOAJ for good actors (white list), then confirm any claims of indexing for a title with the sources named, and finally to look for evidence of the publisher following COPE’s sixteen principles of best practices for publishing ethics, including any association memberships:
Is the publisher a member of recognised professional organisations that commit to best practices in publishing, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE); the International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers (STM); or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
To these I’d simply add: consult your librarian if you need assistance in checking with the most relevant scholarly societies for your field. The community of scholars in your field has the final word on who are the credible publishers for your discipline. They’ll be most familiar with how an article in any particular journal will be perceived by others in your field.