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Publishing: Predatory Publishing

Scholarly communications, publishing, and research

What is a predatory publisher?

As defined by Grudniewicz et al. (2019) in a Nature article, “Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices” (para. 7).

Author fees are a common feature of the predatory business model without the added benefits commonly associated with legitimate publishers, such as having a creditable peer-review process.

This predatory practice also extends to conferences. Scholars and researchers should be aware of the warning signs so they can protect themselves from publishing or presenting with questionable entities. 

Grudniewicz A, Moher D, Cobey KD, et al. Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature. 2019; 576(7786):210-212. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y

Warning signs

Additional tips from Judit Ward, Library Contact for SEBS/NJAES, Liaison to the Center of Alcohol Studies, Mabel Smith Douglass Library, Rutgers University.

Flattering email to invite you to submit an article or serve on the editorial board of a "scholarly" journal

  • poor language with typos and awkward style 
  • vocabulary below industry standard with multisyllabic words
  • offer sounds too good to be true

Journal title 

  • sounds similar to a reputable publication (words are in different order or mixed from several other titles)
  • contains prestigious-sounding but potentially vague terms such as "advanced", "global","international", "universal", "world", "open",  (although these words are also used by reputable journals)
  • might be hijacked from a legitimate academic journal: a bogus website offers rapid publication for a fee 

Website with information on the journal, editorial board, and publisher

  • site looks amateurish and unprofessional (layout, typos, poor quality pictures, flashy ads, dead links, abundance of well known logos) 
  • multiple pages "under construction", including current and past issues, editorial board
  • missing, scarce, or contradictory information on "About Us" page (claiming a US address - check with Google Maps)
  • contact information is missing, incomplete, or leads to unavailable links
  • unclear or falsely claimed affiliation to scholarly associations or reputable organizations
  • same publisher publishes multiple journals with a broad scope and from different disciplines
  • editors and editorial board members are from all over the world and have no academic credentials (or are unaware that they are listed!)

Metrics and indexing

  • no ISSN, no DOI
  • invented or fake metrics (sounding similar to established metrics used by reputable journals)
  • Impact Factor can't be verified in Journal Citation Reports
  • falsely claimed to be indexed, e.g., in DOAJ
  • not listed in reputable sources such as Ulrich's Periodical Directory

Article processing and peer review

  • lack of clear instructions to authors
  • lack of transparency or policies about fees related to publishing 
  • article processing fees look below that of reputable open access journals 
  • peer review process is not clearly explained
  • peer review seems to be extremely fast (i.e., days) -  may be non-existent
  • articles are to be submitted via email (some predatory publishers use legitimate editorial manager systems - it doesn't make them legitimate)

Negative reputation

  • journal and/or publisher is already listed on Beall's list
  • listed on Cabell's Blacklist

Ward, J. (n.d.). Predatory publishing: Warning signs / red flags. Rutgers University Libraries. Retrieved May, 16, 2022, from https://libguides.rutgers.edu/predatory/Start

Identifying predatory publishers

Resources to better understand how to identify predatory publishers:

Identifying Predatory Publishers, YouTube video by the University of Manitoba Libraries.

Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, a list created by COPE, DOAJ, OASPA and WAME.

Thinkchecksubmit.org, website to help identify trusted publishers for your research.

Email the libraries at RRH to receive assistance from a librarian.