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Scholarly Communications: Predatory Publishers

Quality Indicators

Open Access publishing is not without faults. Some publishers that charge authors for submissions may use questionable publishing practices, such as slack or non-existent peer review, or only publishing for the sake of profit.

Note that there is no single criterion that indicates whether or not a publication is reputable. Rather, look for a cumulative effect of more positives or more negatives.

Positive Indicators:

  • 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
  • Journal provides a clearly written peer-review process
  • Any fees or charges for publishing in the journal are easily found on the journal web site and clearly explained
  • Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifier, e.g., doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2011.00054.x)
  • 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 (International Standard Serial Number, e.g., 1234-5678)
  • Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
  • Journal is included in Ulrichs Global Serials Directory
  • Journal is included in major academic databases and/or indexes

Negative Indicators:

  • Journal web site is difficult to locate or identify
  • Publisher “About” information is absent on the journal’s web site
  • Publisher direct marketing (i.e., spamming) or other advertising is obtrusive
  • Instructions to authors information is not available
  • Information on peer review and copyright is absent or unclear on the journal web site
  • Journal scope statement is absent or extremely vague
  • No information is provided about the publisher, or the information provided does not clearly indicate a relationship to a mission to disseminate research content
  • Repeat lead authors in same issue
  • Publisher has a negative reputation (e.g., documented examples in Chronicle of Higher Education, list-servs, etc.)

Credit:  Largely adapted from Grand Valley State University Open Access Journal Quality Indicators

Additional Tools

Ask Your Librarian!


Questionable Publishers

If you've investigated publishing in an Open Access journal, you may have heard of questionable or "predatory" journals or publishers. These publishers, while certainly not exclusive to OA journals, tend to target authors seeking to publish in OA journals or may contact authors directly asking for manuscripts. They exist exclusively to gain profit. Frequently, these publishers do not initially mention any author fees, but may later ask for a publication fee under the guise of operating as a quality OA journal.

Closely examine the editor, staff, and publisher of the journal:

  • Is a single editor responsible for a large number of journals across a publisher?
  • Is there a lack of information or diversity on the editorial or review board?
  • Does the publisher fail to list transparent policies and fees?
  • Did the publisher's operations begin with a large fleet of quickly created journals?
  • Is the contact information for the publisher, editors, or review board difficult to find or not present?
  • Is the journal title misleading, or does it list a false impact factor or other quality-determining metrics?
  • Does the journal send spam requests for manuscripts or peer reviews to scholars not qualified to write on or review the subject in question?
  • Are previously published articles low quality or re-published without proper permissions from other journals?

Additional Resources:

Impact Factor

Per Thomson Reuters, the impact factor is a measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period. The annual Journal Citation Reports (JCR) impact factor is a ratio between citations and recent citable items published. Thus, the impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years.

Calculation for journal impact factor.
A= total cites in 1992
B= 1992 cites to articles published in 1990-91 (this is a subset of A)
C= number of articles published in 1990-91
D= B/C = 1992 impact factor