Skip to Main Content

Open Access Publishing

What Is a Predatory Publisher?

Predatory or deceptive publishing are terms describing publishers or entities that exploit authors by charging publication fees (commonly known as article processing charges) yet don’t deliver on their promise of the editorial and publishing services (such as peer review) that are associated with legitimate publishers. Deceptive publishers typically prey on a researcher’s need to publish in order to get an academic appointment, gain promotion, or achieve tenure.

These publishers often engage in deceptive and unethical business practices and make false claims about a journal’s impact factor, indexing, high standards, and peer review.

Why Do Authors Publish in a Predatory Journal?

Authors generally don't want to be exploited by an online scam, but it can happen if an author is:

  • Unfamiliar with the journal’s field
  • New to research/publishing in general
  • Feels pressure to publish (for Tenure, Promotion, and Retention considerations)
  • Feels pressure to publish quickly

Ways to Identify Predatory Journals

  • Rapid publication is promised
  • The homepage language targets authors
  • The journal does not have clear policies on retraction, corrections/errata, or plagiarism (see the ICMJE Recommendations for more detailed discussion about best practices)
  • Description of the manuscript handling process is lacking
  • The contact email address is non-professional and non-journal related
  • Manuscripts are requested to be submitted by email instead of through an online submission system
  • Journals claiming to be open access either retain copyright of published research or fail to mention copyright
  • Article processing and/or publication charge is very low (e.g. < $150)
  • Information on whether and how journal content will be archived and preserved is absent
  • Scope of journal is not clear
  • Website contains spelling and grammatical errors

(Adapted from 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 15(1) 28.

Other Red Flags

  • No ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)
  • Not indexed by MEDLINE, Scopus, PsycINFO, Web of Science, or other legitimate abstracting or indexing services or databases
  • Journal title mirrors the title of an established journal with one or two words being different
  • Journal is not published by reputable or known publisher
  • Journal sends unsolicited email invitations for submissions, reviewers, or to serve on its editorial board
  • Looks like a trade journal, not a scholarly journal
  • Advertising is accepted

Quality Indicators for Open Access Journals

The following are positive indicators that a journal or publisher is not predatory:

  • Scope of the journal is well-defined and clearly stated
  • Journal’s primary audience is researchers/practitioners
  • Editor, editorial board are recognized experts in the field
  • Journal is affiliated with or sponsored by an established scholarly society or academic institution
  • Articles are within the scope of the journal and meet the standards of the discipline
  • Any fees or charges for publishing in the journal are easily found on the journal web site and clearly explained
  • Articles have DOIs
  • Journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of content at article level (e.g., Creative Commons CC BY license)
  • Journal has an ISSN (check the validity of the ISSN using ISSN Portal)
  • Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
  • Journal is registered in UlrichsWeb Global Serials Directory
  • Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Journal is included in legitimate abstracting or indexing services or databases (such as MEDLINE, Scopus, PsycINFO, Web of Science)

CC Licensing

Creative Commons 4.0 license

The material on this webpage is adapted from the libguide Predatory Publishing, developed by Ellen Dubinsky and Ahlam Saleh and licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License