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Predatory Publishing

A guide on predatory publishing, legitimate journal recommendations, and open access.

What is Predatory Publishing?

Predatory publishing is an exploitative practice that targets authors to submit articles to a journal. Predatory publishers often target authors with promises of extremely fast publication, without providing the editorial or publishing services associated with legitimate journals. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is, especially if the publisher is asking for large sums of money!

Characteristics of predatory publishing:

  • Soliciting for articles or asking to serve on editorial boards
    • Especially in the form of badly-edited emails
  • High author publishing fees
  • Little or no peer review of submitted articles
  • Difficult to identify names and/or contact information for journal editors
  • The website seems extremely similar to, but is not, the website of an established journal

comic about being fooled by a fake scholarly journal

From xkcd.com

Questions to consider for analyzing journals

First Contact

  • Were you contacted by email to submit an article for publication? Legitimate journals rarely solicit for articles.
  • What types of articles are accepted in the journal? Are they scholarly, peer-reviewed articles?
  • Is their email or website filled with spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Did they promise rapid publication?
    • Note that some legitimate journals are beginning to experiment with forms of rapid publication.
  • Is the email address non professional or non journal affiliated?
  • Are there upfront fees before a decision on acceptance?

Research the Journal's website

  • Is the website aimed at authors or readers?
    • Legitimate journal website are typically designed with readers in mind first.
  • Is the language of author information taken directly from other places?
  • Is the journal's scope too broad?
  • Are the images of high quality or are they distorted and fuzzy?
  • Where is the journal indexed?
  • What are the author fees?
  • Where are the editors based compared to where the journal is based?
  • Is there information on how the articles are preserved long-term?

Research the Publisher

  • Can you easily identify the publisher?
  • Is there a link provided to the publisher's website?
  • Can you find the contact information for the publisher?
  • Have you heard of the publisher before?

Adapted from Shamseer et al. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine. 15:28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9

The Risks of Predatory Publishing

  • The cost associated with high publishing fee
  • Your work may be subject to sub-par peer-review.
  • Your publication will have low visibility or is difficult to find
    • This will lead to poor research impact
  • Your article could disappear when the journal ceases to exist
  • Serving on questionable journal boards will lower reputation
  • Potential embarrassment from falling for a scam
  • Publishing in predatory journals could have an adverse affect on your professional repuatation

Useful Resources

Librarian Support

If you would like assistance evalauting journals, reach out to your liaison librarian. Librarians can help you with:

  • Reviewing email solicitations from editors or publishers
  • Analyze journal or publishers to see if they are predatory
  • Recommend safe journals to consider for publication