Predatory publishing



Publishing via the gold route to open access can be completely free of charge, but some journals require the author to pay an article processing charge (APC).

Among those journals that use APCs as their financial model, a number have been identified as untrustworthy and engaging in unsound practices.

These journals publish submissions without conducting any form of quality control and accrue their profits directly from the publishing fees (APCs) they charge. The term used to describe this practice is ‘predatory publishing’.

Predatory journals carry out only a very superficial peer review, if any, and are willing to publish any text as long as the authors pay the APCs.

Such journals are damaging the integrity and credibility of academic publishing. Unfortunately, the superficial peer reviewing of scholarly texts is neither a new phenomenon nor something only found in Open Access journals.

Closed access journals are not infrequently duped into publishing articles on the basis of fake reviews or of publishing computer-generated texts or texts that do not meet the generally accepted criteria of good academic practice.

However, it is important to note that in the case of predatory journals, the actions of the journal publishers themselves are tantamount to professional fraud.

The SULB offers its research staff guidance and online assistance in recognizing deceptive journals and recommends the use of checklists as well as whitelists of genuine open access journals.

The use of whitelists of genuine OA journals is considered preferable to the use of blacklists of predatory journals, as there is still significant debate regarding which criteria should be used to identify and assess the latter. One indication of the problem is the fact that some blacklists are known to list journals that are included in respected academic databases where very strict selection criteria apply.

This highlights the fact that any assessment as to whether a journal is genuine or deceptive ultimately requires detailed analysis, which may need to be conducted on a case-by-case basis. Identifying whether a journal should be considered predatory or not is not often straightforward and is best done by using a number of different criteria.

The checklist below provides a rough first means of identifying predatory or deceptive journals. It is followed by a list of sources of further information.

I am a researcher, how do I identify a predatory publisher?

  • The journal uses aggressive methods when soliciting submissions from authors; contact is by email and often exhibits the following features:

    • Use of a general term of address (e.g. ‘Dear Author’) rather than the addressee’s name
    • The scope of the journal either does not match with your own research area or is extremely broad.
    • Dubious or incorrect contact information (invalid postal address, email address is from a free email hosting service).
  • The journal is very new or its title or the design of its website imitates that of a well-respected journal. (This is why it can be very informative to visit the journal’s website.)

  • Submissions are reviewed and accepted in a very short space of time.

  • Notification of acceptance is usually accompanied by an invoice for the publication fees.

  • The journal claims to be indexed in recognized databases such as Web of Science or Scopus, but is in fact not indexed by these platforms.

  • The ISSN of the journal does not exist; this can be checked at the ISSN International Centre.

Online resources that can help to assess the legitimacy and reliability of an open access journal

  • The DOAJ only indexes Open Access research journals that use an appropriate quality control system.

  • The ‘Think. Check. Submit.’ checklist provides a comprehensive list of criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of a journal.

  • The Quality Open Access Market (QOAM) is a ranking system for OA journals in which authors and reviewers score their experience with particular journals. Journals in the QOAM with positive ratings are those that are transparent regarding the peer review process and workflow, the editorial board and journal governance.

  • Academic publishers that wish to join the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) are subjected to a rigorous vetting procedure, which ensures the legitimacy of OA publishers on the OASPA list of members. However, it is important to note that publishers that are not approved OASPA members cannot be categorized per se as predatory.

  • The same applies to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Publishers that apply to join have to undergo a vetting procedure. Listed members can be considered legitimate, but publishers that are not members of COPE should certainly not be automatically regarded as untrustworthy or predatory.