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Scholarly Communication: Predatory Journals & Publishers

Predatory Journals and Publishers Defined


"Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices"

Grudniewicz, et. al. (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature576(7786), 210–212.

Think, Check, Submit

Questionable Publishers

As you explore opportunities for publishing and presenting at conferences you may come across predators who prey on individuals with a variety of money-making ventures. They may take the form of publishers, journals, or conference organizers.  It's essential that you have confidence in the quality and integrity of the resources that publish or host your research.

Where to start...if you are unfamiliar with the quality indicator noted below you may want to start with a checklist or checkpoint you can utilize to determine the integrity of journals and conferences. Keep in mind that no list is comprehensive and you may find that you need to use more than one or add questions of your own.

Science, in particular, seems to afflicted with this issue more so than other disciplines. For more information read the articles below.


While there are several lists that attempt to identify predatory journals and publishers you will most likely want to check more than one as they are updated at various intervals.

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:

  • The scope of the journal is well-defined and clearly stated
  • Journal’s primary audience is researchers/practitioners
  • Editor and/or the 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
  • The publisher is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
  • Journal is included in Ulrichs Global Serials Directory
  • Journal is included in major academic databases and/or indexes

Questions to ask yourself:

  • 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?

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 are not available
  • Information on peer review and the 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 the same issue
  • The publisher has a negative reputation (e.g., documented examples in the Chronicle of Higher Education, list-servs, etc.)

Credit:  The listing of Open Access Journal Quality Indicators was developed by the Grand Valley State University Libraries, and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.