Scholarly Publishing and Copyright

Resources in scholarly publishing, research impact and metrics, and copyright for the health sciences community.

Predatory Journals: What does it mean?

A predatory publisher is an opportunistic publishing venue that exploits the academic need to publish but offers little reward for those using their services.

The academic "publish or perish" scenario combined with the relative ease of website creation has inadvertently created a market ripe for the exploitation of academic authors. Some of these publishers are predatory on purpose, whereas others may just be making mistakes because of neglect, mismanagement, or inexperience. Although the motivations and methods vary predatory publishers exhibit common characteristics:

  • Their primary goal is to make money.
  • They do not care about the quality of the work published.
  • They make false claims or promises.
  • They engage in unethical business practices.
  • They fail to follow accepted standards or best practices of scholarly publishing.

Read more at Predatory Journals from Centre for Journalology

It can be difficult to identify a predatory publisher. They frequently reach out by email correspondences. One way you can avoid these emails is by using a Gmail account that filters out spam for you. This is not always feasible for a variety of reasons. Here an email example from a predatory publisher you can look at to see how to determine the validity of their request.

Email Example (names removed for privacy):
From: Current Trends in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2018 3:21 AM
To: [name]
Subject: Fast track Review process - Current Trends in Analytical and Bioanalytical chemistry
Dear Dr. [name],
I am writing to enquire about your availability of writing an article for
Current Trends in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.
It is open to receive Manuscripts towards Volume 2, Issue 1.
The Journal welcomes a variety of articles such as Original, Reviews, and other short articles.
I would like to have the manuscript submission for publication in our journal on or
before March 20, 2018.
Submission process: Online submission system or you can mail as an email attachment.
Kindly let me know of your decision at your earliest convenience.
With best regards
Current Trends in Analytical and Bioanalytical chemistry
1805 N Carson Street, Suite S
Carson City, Nevada 89701, USA

Now this email may not be an issue. It appears okay. There are some space issues between some words, but really we do this from time to time. Your next step would be to check their website About Us page. This can usually give a better indication of where or not they are a reputable publisher. Another thing to remember is that journals will typically not solicit a publication. Most publishers would advertise broadly via listserv, colleagues, announcements, etc, but unless there is a personal relationship, very rarely to a specific person from a specific person.

What are authors writing about predatory journals?

Lists of Predatory Publishers

Other sources that assist in identifying predatory publishers.

Sherpa/Romeo - RoMEO is a searchable database of publisher's policies regarding the self- archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories.

Google Maps - Look at the street view of a publishers address using Google Maps. Does it look like the type of office you would expect a publisher to operate from?

Identifying Predatory Publishers

Here are some steps to follow that can help identify a predatory publisher:

  • Where is the Journal indexed? MEDLINE, Web of Science, etc
  • Have your or any of your peers heard of this Journal?
  • Are the names of the editors recognizable or known in their field?
  • Does the Journal's physical address actually exists?
  • How professional is the Journal website?
  • Does it have a Journal Impact Factor from a reputable source?
  • Does the Journal URL reflects the name of the Journal?
  • Can you find and access other articles from the Journal - are they well-written?
  • Does the Country of publication matches the contact us location?
  • Are the Institutional affiliations of editors actually existent?
  • Is the contact email address professional and Journal-affiliated
  • Are the article publication fees reasonable (i.e., too low or too high)?
  • Do you only learn about fees after your paper has been accepted?
  • Is rapid publication promised?
  • Is the topic of the publication incredibly broad?
  • Do they email you frequently? 
  • Does the publisher belong to a well-recognized industry initiative such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? 
  • 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.
  •  If journals claim to accept articles for publication very quickly, they might have a compromised peer review process. Proper peer review and editing, regardless of the original quality of your work, will take several weeks minimum.
  • Go through the website archive and go over a few of their published articles. How is the quality of the work? Are there consistent mistakes or works broadly off the stated scope of the journal? How well does the journal archive its material?
  • Check the website for information on what fees they expect you to pay. A legitimate journal often clearly lays out how much publication will cost and what this money is being used for in the publication process. Submission fees are NOT standard, but publication fees can be. If the fee also varies largely from standard publication fees for your discipline, that's a warning sign.
  • Predatory publishers have a habit of listing academics as members of editorial boards without their permission, not allowing academics to resign from editorial boards, and occasionally appointing fake academics to editorial boards. Search the editors online, and see if they exist. If they do, check to see if they list the journal on their personal website or CV. 

Next Steps

If you need additional help feel free to check out the Think! Check! Submit! guidance - see in particular the Checklist - which will help you assess whether a journal operates according to proper scholarly practice. Do this before you submit your manuscript.


You can also contact a librarian at any point for assistance!

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