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Predatory Publishing: Predatory Journals

Definition

"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" (Grudniewicz et al., 2019).
Note: This term was originally coined by Jeffrey Beall. (See the Resources for further information.)
 

Predatory Journals

  • Take advantage of the open access publishing model, which relies on Article Publishing Charges (APCs) from authors, to make money.
  • Exploit the need for academics to publish in order to meet promotion and tenure or grant funding requirements. Predatory journals target novice faculty members who face pressure to publish and are less familiar with traditional publishing business practices.
  • Use deception to appear legitimate by through making false claims on their website and in email solicitation including false impact factors and association affiliation along with listing journal editors, who did not agree to be an editor, or using fake names to populate the editorial board.
  • List journals that may be plagiarized, completely fake, or promoting unsound science that would not have been published in more mainstream journals.
  • Making false claims about services offered including expedited peer review to get your article published quicker.
  • Use unethical business practices such as charging exorbitant author publishing fees. Predatory publishers may, also, promise low article processing fees. However, once an article is "published," the publisher will invoice the author a much larger price than originally quoted.

 

Dangers of Publishing in a Predatory Journal

  • Lack of Peer-Review: Predatory publishers often promise rigorous, yet speedy peer-review process even though rigorous peer-review is a time-consuming process. In reality, predatory publishers often publish papers that have not gone through any peer-review process.

    • The peer-review process: establishes the validity of research; prevents falsified work from being accepted and published; and allows authors to revise and improve papers prior to publication.

  • ​Your Work Could Disappear: Unlike legitimate publishers, predatory publishers are not committed to preserving your published work. Papers published in predatory journals could disappear from their website at any time making it difficult to prove that your paper was ever published in said journal when applying for promotion or tenure.

  • Your Work Will be Difficult to Find: Predatory publishers often claim to be indexed in popular databases, when they are not actually indexed in these resources. Fortunately, it is easy to double check this claim by doing a simple search for the journal in these databases.
  • Your Reputation may be Harmed: Publishing in a predatory journal can hurt your along with your institution's reputation and may effect your career advancement.

Common Signs of Predatory Publishers
 

  • E-mailed Invitations to Submit an Article:
    • Was the e-mail poorly written (typos, misspelled words, awkward or unprofessional language)?
    • Did the e-mail use flattery to convince you to submit your article or join their editorial board?
      • Example: "your contribution towards the research is absolutely prominent" or "Dear Esteemed Scholar" (See further examples)
    • Did the e-mail come from a generic contact address (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)?
  • Misleading Journal Title:
    • Is the title trying to make you believe it is a prominent journal or publisher with which you are already familiar?
      • Many predatory publishers create journal titles (and even publisher company names) that are intentionally similar to well respected journals or publishers.
    • Does the title suggest that the journal in one geographic area although in reality the publisher might be based in another country?
  • Outdated or Unprofessional Website Appearance:
    • Is the journal website easy to find?
    • Does the website appear outdated or unprofessional (typos, spelling and/or grammatical errors)?
    • Are images distorted or fuzzy? Are images authorized to appear on the website? 
    • Does the website include "About" information? If so, is the information provided sufficient?
    • Is the journal sponsored or produced by a well-known, and well-respected organization, association, or academic institution?
    • Does the journal/publisher claim to be a "leading publisher" or use boastful language regarding their reputation? Some predatory publishers make boastful claims about their reputation, even if they are a startup or a new publisher.
  • Broad Aim & Scope:
    • ​Does the aim and scope seem appropriate for the journal?
    • Predatory journals often have an extremely broad scope in order to attract a large number of article submissions.
  • Insufficient Contact Information: 
    • Is full contact information including a physical address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses provided? Be wary of journals that only provide a web contact form.
    • Use Google Maps to search for the address. Look at the street view of the address. Does the building look like the type of space you would except a reputable journal to use? 
  • Lack of Editors or Editorial Board:
    • Does the journal list the members of its editorial board on their website? Are the listed editors recognized experts in the field with full credentials?
      • Be aware that predatory journals include the names of leading scholars in a field among their editorial boards without their knowledge or consent.
    • Contact journal editors and board members and ask about their experience with the journals. Editorial board members of legitimate journals welcome questions from potential authors.
  • Unclear Author Fee Structures:
    • Are author fees clearly explained? How much are author fees, article processing charges, and other associated publication costs?
    • Do the author fees seem comparable to other reputable open access journals?
    • Is it clear when fees are due?
  • Bogus Impact Factors:
    • Does the journal claim to have an impact factor?
  • Invented Metrics:
    • What type of metrics does the journal use?
    • Do other reputable journals use the same metrics? Many predatory publishers use fake or invented metrics to fool you into believing they are a credible journal.
    • Does the journal promote the questionable Index Copernicus Value?
  • False Index Claims:
  • Peer Review Process:
    • What is the journal's peer review process? Is this process clearly explained on the journal's website? Can you verify that this process is actually followed?
    • Does the journal promise a quick peer-review?
      • Be wary of promises of a speedy peer-review process. Proper peer-review is a time consuming process. Promises of a speedy peer-review process in an indication that either no peer-review is taking place, or the peer-review that is happening is of low quality.
    • Many predatory journals claim to have a rigorous peer review process when no peer review actually exists.
  • ​"Instructions for Authors" Information is Unavailable:
    • Are there clear instructions for authors regarding how to submit a manuscript? 
    • Is there information about how manuscripts are handled once submitted?
  • Manuscripts Submitted via E-mail:
    • Legitimate publishers typically require manuscripts submissions via a journal-specific or third party submission system. 
    • A majority of predatory publishers require manuscript submission via e-mail.
  • Evaluate Published Articles:
    • Are published articles available? Some predatory publishers don't have any "published" articles available on their website.
    • Have numerous articles been published by the same author(s)? 
    • Do article titles and abstracts seem appropriate for the journal? Do these articles seem well researched? Are articles based on sound science?
    • Do you recognize articles that you have seen in reputable journals?
      • Predatory publishers sometimes re-publish (plagiarize) papers that have already been published in other journals without providing credit, claiming the publication as their own.
    • Are published articles written by academics and experts?
      • Predatory publishers publish papers that are not written by academics, or that are pseudo-science.
    • Feel free to contact past authors and ask about their experiences with the journal.
  • Publisher has a Negative Reputation:
    • Have you found documented examples that the journal or publisher has a negative reputation?
  • Digital Preservation Information is Lacking or Inadequate. 
  • No Retraction Policy
  • Copyright Information is Lacking
  • No or fake ISSN or listing an ISSN associated with another journal.

Qualities of Reputable Journals

Note: No single checklist determines if a journal or publisher is legitimate or predatory.

  • Journal website
    • Journal's scope is well defined and clearly stated on the journal's website
    • Peer-review process is rigorous and clearly explained on website
    • Fee structure is clearly explained and easy to find on website
  • Editors and editorial board consists of recognized experts in the field
  • Journal is affiliated with or was established by scholarly or academic institution or organization
  • Journal is hosted on one of INASP’s Journals Online platforms (for journals published in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Central America and Mongolia) or on African Journals Online (AJOL, for journals published in African).
  • Journal Articles
    • Articles fall within the scope of the publication
    • Articles have Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) (Search International DOI Foundation to verify the DOI matches the article name.)
  • Journal has an ISSN verified by The ISSN Portal that matches the journal title..
    • Note: Having an ISSN "does not guarantee the quality or validity of the contents" (What is an ISSN?)
  • Journal has a impact factor from a reputable index.
  • Copyright and usage rights are clearly stated (e.g. Creative Commons License CC By license)
  • Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
    • Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ, so this should not be your only criteria when evaluating journals.
  • Publisher is a member:
  • Journal is indexed in subject databases or indexes.
    Note: Inclusion of articles from a journal in GoogleScholar or ResearchGate should not factor into determining the quality of the journal article. Also, see Manca et al. (2018) for discussion of potential predatory journals in PubMed.
  • Contact information is clearly provided and available
  • Publishing schedule and publication frequency is clearly stated
  • Solicitation of manuscripts and other direct marketing are appropriate, well-targeted, and unobtrusive

This guide is intended to provide information about predatory publishing and is intended as a guide only. Deciding where to publish is solely the responsibility of individual authors.

This guide was adapted from Predatory Publishing, George Washington University.

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