What is Predatory Publishing?
Predatory publishers share several characteristics:
- They engage in questionable business practices, such as charging excessive author fees or failing to disclose publication fees to potential authors.
- They fail to follow accepted standards of scholarly publishing, particularly in regards to peer review.
- They exist to make money by taking advantage of the "author-pays model" of open access journal publishing,* and have no interest in promoting scholarship or advancing knowledge.
*Charging authors/funding bodies to publish articles open access is a model used by many reputable journal publishers and is not the single factor used to determine if a journal should be considered "predatory."
For further information, please review Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing by Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.
Lists of Predatory Journals/Publishers
Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has compiled lists of "potential, possible, or probable predatory" journals and publishers.
A journal or publisher's inclusion on the list does not mean it definitely engages in unscrupulous practices. The lists are based on Beall's opinions and research, and change frequently as journals and publishers modify their business practices.
Authors using these lists to screen publishers and standalone journals are encouraged to reach their own conclusions.
Evaluating Open Access Journal Publishers
Many questionable open access and print journals send invitations to publish in future issues or serve on editorial boards. Before submitting an article or agreeing to a seat on an editorial board, investigate the reputation and legitimacy of the journal.
Fortunately, opportunistic journals are easily detectable. Steps to determine whether a journal or publisher is predatory include:
- Visit the journal's website. Some publishers' websites appear professionally created and managed, however closer inspection may reveal poor design, typographical errors, and grammatical errors that would not appear on a reputable publisher's site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
- Review the journal's scope as described on the website. Most questionable journals have scopes so broad that they will publish articles on nearly any topic.
- Check that a journal's editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of board members and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
- Examine articles that appear in the journal and judge their caliber. Predatory publishers are not interested in producing journal articles that demonstrate excellent research or that offer compelling arguments, and rarely engage in screening or quality control.
- Check the peer-review policy. Unscrupulous publishers promise a quick peer-review turnaround. Considering the peer-review process used by reputable journals can take months, a publisher that states their peer-review system takes as little as 21 days is either rushing the process or not doing any peer-review at all.
- Check for the author's publication fee schedule. If it does not appear on the website or if the publisher states it will notify authors of the fee after their papers are accepted for publication, the publisher is likely charging excessively high author fees. Legitimate journal publishers make this information easy to find on their website.
- Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
- Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org).
For More Information
Head, Scholarly Communciations
Recent articles on predatory publishing
Blog on Predatory Publishers
Jeffrey Beall's blog links to news about and examples of questionable publishing practices that he has uncovered or that have been forwarded to him from researchers.