Predatory journals

So-called ‘predatory’ publishers and journals charge authors Article Processing Charges (APCs) to publish articles but offer little to no editorial support. They abuse the Open Access system. Legitimate open access publishers also charge APCs but use them to cover their publishing and archiving costs. Predatory publishers usually promise these same services but do not provide them once authors have paid the APCs. Note that Open Access journals are not by definition predatory. There are many credible Open Access journals and some even do not have APCs.

What does this mean for me as an author?

Publishing in predatory journals can be harmful to you as an author because publications in these journals may not count towards doctoral thesis regulations or tenure-track goals. You should also be wary of predatory journals when using and citing sources, as the articles in predatory journals may not have been thoroughly peer reviewed.

Tips for identifying predatory journals

How can you distinguish between credible and predatory journals? Consider doing the following:

Verify information on the journal website

  • Take a look at the editorial board: Does it include experts from your field or other credible scientists? See if you can verify the contact information of the journal’s board members elsewhere, for instance, on their university webpage.
  • Look for the journal’s editorial office location and see if you can verify the address.
  • If the publisher provides the Journal Impact Factor, try to verify it. You can look up Journal Impact Factors on the Journal Citation Reports website.

Assess how the journal presents itself

  • Look at the emails you have received from the publisher. It is not a good sign if they are unsolicited and poorly written, appear overly flattering (e.g., ‘you are a leading expert in your field’), or make contradictory claims. Assess the look and feel of the publisher’s website. Be wary if the journal website posts non-related or non-academic advertisements. Pay special attention to the layout of the website. Websites of predatory publishers often mimic those of credible publishers.  
  • See if the publisher clearly communicates about the peer review process, the publishing schedule, copyright agreements, and fees. Publishers should be transparent about these. Open access should never demand the copyright.

    Look at the published materials

    • Scan some of the articles that the journal has published and assess their quality. Is it the level you would expect in terms of content and language? Do the articles fit within the journal’s stated scope?
    • Look at the time between the submission and acceptance of articles. Is this enough for peer review and revision?

    Search for the journal in directories

    • See if the publisher is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ is a list of credible open access journals. An alternative ‘whitelist’ of open access journals is Quality Open Access Market (QOAM).
    • See if the publisher is on Beall’s List. This source lists over a thousand publishers considered ‘potential, possible, or probable predatory’ by academic librarian Jeffrey Beall. Note: as of January 2017, this list is no longer maintained. It will lose its completeness and accuracy over time.
    • See if the journal is indexed in a major bibliographic databases, like Scopus, Web of Science or PubMed. If a journal is indexed there, it is trustworthy.

    If you are still not sure, contact us. We can help you assess the authenticity of a publisher or journal.