Predatory or Deceptive Publishers – Recommendations for Caution

The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of author-pay peer-reviewed open access journals. A publishing model that has arisen in parallel with this is a form of publishing – commonly referred to as “predatory,” “deceptive,” “vanity” or “parasitic” – in which authors are charged a fee to publish their articles but the publisher does not provide the level of peer review, copy editing, typesetting, layout, distribution, long-term archiving, indexing, etc., that are associated with publishing peer-reviewed content that meets conventional scholarly publishing standards.

Jeffrey Beall, Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, coined the term “predatory publisher” and developed a set of indicators to define it (see bibliography). Resources such as Think. Check. Submit (http://thinkchecksubmit.org/) and the WAME guidelines provide criteria checklists developed by coalitions of scholarly publishing organizations. Additional websites such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and the RoMEO database can also assist in determining the validity of a journal or publisher. While these resources are useful for authors considering where to submit their work, they do not guarantee identification of all scholarly journals meeting minimal standards acceptable by the conventional scholarly publishing community.

The Council of Science Editors is committed to supporting high standards of peer review and quality control in scholarly publishing.  CSE presents the following resource to help educate our members, as well as the larger scholarly publishing community. We encourage authors to carefully research journals to which they are considering a submission and to have an ongoing dialogue with their supervisors, mentors, healthcare and other science librarians, and colleagues about experiences others have had with specific journals.

Some of the signs – far from exhaustive – that a publisher/journal may be deceptive are provided below.

Some of the signs that raise red flags:

  • The publisher has a large catalog of online journals that are inaccessible, non-functional, have no or few published articles, or are obviously of poor quality
  • The publisher has no functional telephone number or postal address, or the address is residential
  • The journal makes false claims of being indexed by databases such as SCOPUS, Web of Science, and PubMed Central
  • The journal falsely claims to be a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA) or Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
  • Article processing charges are not transparent
  • The peer-review process is not clearly described, and the journal claims unrealistic peer review-to-publication turnaround times (e.g., 1 week)
  • The journal publishes a small number of articles per year but has an inordinately large editorial board (e.g., 50 articles published per year and hundreds of editors) or vice versa

Selective bibliography of articles and websites providing guidance on assessing whether a journal is “predatory”

  • Barroga, E. 2015. Predatory publishing practices corrode the credibility of science. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 30:1535–1536.
  • Beall, J. 2017. Predatory journal threaten the quality of published medical research. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 47:3-5.
  • Beall, J. 2016. Dangerous predatory publishers threaten medical research. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 31:1511-1513.
  • Beall, J. 2016. Best practices for scholarly authors in the age of predatory journals. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 98:77-79.
  • Beninger, P.G., J. Beall & S. Shumway. 2016. Debasing the currency of science: the growing menace of predatory open access journals. Journal of Shellfish Research. 35:1-5.
  • Clark J. How to avoid predatory journals—a five point plan. 2015. Avail­able at http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2015/01/19/jocalyn-clark-how-to-avoid-predatory-journals-a-five-point-plan/
  • Committee on Publication Ethics. 2014. Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. Available from: http://publicationethics.org/files/u7140/Principles_of_Transparency_and_Best_Practice_in_Scholarly_Publishing.pdf
  • Eriksson, S. & G. Helgesson 2016. The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics. Medicine, health care, and philosophy. 2016, DOI 10.1007/s11019-016-9740-3, PMID: 27718131.
  • Gasparyan, A. Y.,M. Yessirkepov, S.N.Diyanova & G. D. Kitas. 2015. Publishing ethics and predatory practices: a dilemma for all stakeholders of science communication. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 30:1010–1016.
  • Harzing, A.W. & N.J. Adler. 2016. Disseminating knowledge: From potential to reality – New open-access journals collide with convention. Academy of Management Learning & Education. 15:140-156.
  • Kearney, M.H. 2015. Predatory publishing: What authors need to know. Research in Nursing and Health. 38:1-3.
  • Lukić T, Blešić I, Basarin B, Ivanović B, Milošević D, Sakulski D. 2014. Predatory and fake scientific journals/publishers – a global outbreak with rising trend: a review. Geographica Pannonica. 18:69–81.
  • Mehrpour, S, Khajavi, Y. 2014. How to spot fake open access journals. Learned Publishing, 27:269–274.
  • Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., Clark, J., Galipeau, J., Roberts, J. Shea, B.J. 2017. Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine (2017) 15:28 DOI 10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9
  • Org website. Available at http://thinkchecksubmit.org/
  • Van Nuland, S.E. & K.A. Roger. 2016. Academic nightmares: predatory publishing. Anatomical Sciences Education. DOI 10.1002/ase.1671
  • WAME 2017. Identifying predatory of pseudo-journals. http://www.wame.org/identifying-predatory-or-pseudo-journals