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Publishing Open Access: Avoid Predatory Publishing

What is Predatory Journal

“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.”

Predatory journals are driven by self-interest, usually financial, at the expense of scholarship. They are characterized by the following:

  • False or misleading information: This applies to how the publisher presents itself. A predatory journal’s website or e-mails often present contradictory statements, fake impact factors, incorrect addresses, misrepresentations of the editorial board, false claims of indexing or membership of associations, and misleading claims about the rigour of peer review.
  • Deviation from best editorial and publication practices: Standards here have been set out in the joint statement on Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, issued by the DOAJ, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, COPE, and the World Association of Medical Editors. Examples of substandard practice include not having a retraction policy, requesting a transfer of copyright when publishing an open-access article and not specifying a Creative Commons licence in an open-access journal. These characteristics can be difficult to know before submitting, although such information is easily obtained from legitimate journals. An unprofessional-looking web page — with spelling or grammar mistakes or irrelevant text — should also raise red flags.
    Warning signs should be assessed with care. For instance, journals are not eligible for listing on the DOAJ or joining COPE until after one year of operation. A well-meaning but poorly resourced journal might not be able to maintain a professional website. Also, some journals claim to follow best practice but do not. Summit participants agreed that the burden of proof rests on the journal.
  • Lack of transparency. There are two reasons we list this separately from deviation from best practice. First, transparency in operational procedures (such as how editorial decisions are made, fees applied and peer review organized) is presently somewhat aspirational in academic publishing and thus cannot be considered a current best practice. Second, the absence of transparency in predatory journals makes it important enough to highlight separately. Predatory publishers often fail to provide their contact information or details about article processing charges. Editors and members of their editorial boards are often unverifiable.
  • Aggressive, indiscriminate solicitation. Although legitimate journals might solicit submissions, predatory journals often use aggressive solicitation such as repeated e-mails. These might be excessively flattering in tone, or might mention researchers’ past publications while noting that related submissions are urgently needed for a forthcoming issue. A clear warning sign is that the invitee’s expertise is outside the journal’s scope.



Evaluating and Checking Journals and Publishers


Cabells Predatory Reports Criteria


The following criteria are considered SEVERE:

  • Integrity
    • The same article appears in more than one journal.
    • Hijacked journal (defined as a fraudulent website created to look like a legitimate academic journal for the purpose of offering academics the opportunity to rapidly publish their research for a fee).
    • Information received from the journal does not match the journal’s website.
    • The journal or publisher claims to be a non-profit when it is actually a for-profit company.
    • The owner/Editor of the journal or publisher falsely claims academic positions or qualifications.
    • The journal is associated with a conference that has been identified as predatory.
    • The journal gives a fake ISSN.
  • Peer Review
    • No editor or editorial board listed on the journal’s website at all.
    • Editors do not actually exist or are deceased.
    • The journal includes scholars on an editorial board without their knowledge or permission.
    • Evident data that little to no peer review is being done and the journal claims to be “peer reviewed.”
  • Publication Practices
    • The journal publishes papers that are not academic at all, e.g. essays by laypeople or obvious pseudo-science.
    • No articles are published or the archives are missing issues and/or articles.
    • Falsely claims indexing in well-known databases (especially SCOPUS, DOAJ, JCR, and Cabells).
    • Falsely claims universities or other organizations as partners or sponsors.
    • Machine-generated or other “sting” abstracts or papers are accepted.
  • Indexing & Metrics
    • The journal uses misleading metrics (i.e., metrics with the words “impact factor” that are not the Clarivate Analytics Impact Factor).
  • Fees
    • The journal offers options for researchers to prepay APCs for future articles.
    • The journal states there is an APC or another fee but does not give information on the amount or gives conflicting information.
    • The journal or publisher offers membership to receive discounts on APCs but does not give information on how to become a member and/or on the membership fees.
    • The author must pay APC or publication fee before submitting the article (specifically calls the fee a publication fee, not a submission fee).
    • The journal does not indicate that there are any fees associated with publication, review, submission, etc. but the author is charged a fee after submitting a manuscript.

The following criteria are considered MODERATE:

  • Integrity
    • The title of the journal is copied or so similar to that of a legitimate journal that it could cause confusion between the two.
    • The name of the journal references a country or demographic that does not relate to the content or origin of the journal.
    • The journal uses language that suggests that it is industry leading, but is in fact a new journal.
    • The journal/publisher hides or obscures relationships with for-profit partner companies that could result in corporate manipulation of science.
  • Peer Review
    • The journal has a large editorial board but very few articles are published per year.
    • Inadequate peer review (i.e., a single reader reviews submissions; peer reviewers read papers outside their field of study; etc.).
    • The journal’s website does not have a clearly stated peer review policy.
    • The founder of the publishing company is the editor of all of the journals published by said company.
    • Evident data showing that the editor/review board members do not possess academic expertise to reasonably qualify them to be publication gatekeepers in the journal’s field.
    • No affiliations are given for editorial board members and/or editors.
    • Little geographical diversity of board members and the journal claims to be International.
    • The journal includes board members who are prominent researchers but exempt them from any contribution to the journal except the use of their names and/or photographs.
    • Editorial board members (appointed over 2 years ago) have not heard from the journal at all since being appointed to the board.
  • Publication Practices
    • No copyediting.
    • Little geographical diversity of authors and the journal claims to be International.
    • The Editor publishes research in his own journal.
    • The journal purposefully publishes controversial articles in the interest of boosting citation count.
    • The journal publishes papers presented at conferences without additional peer review.
    • The name of the publisher suggests that it is a society, academy, etc. when it is only a publisher and offers no real benefits to members.
    • The name of the publisher suggests that it is a society, academy, etc. when it is only a solitary proprietary operation and does not meet the definition of the term used or implied non-profit mission.
    • Authors are published several times in the same journal and/or issue.
    • Similarly titled articles published by same author in more than one journal.
    • The publisher displays prominent statements that promise rapid publication and/or unusually quick peer review (less than 4 weeks).
    • The number of articles published has increased by 75% or more in the last year.
    • The number of articles published has increased by 50-74% in the last year.
  • Fees
    • The publisher or journal’s website seems too focused on the payment of fees.
  • Access & Copyright
    • States the journal is completely open access but not all articles are openly available.
    • No way to access articles (no information on open access or how to subscribe).
    • The journal is open access but no information is given about how the journal is supported financially (i.e. author fees, advertising, sponsorship, etc.).
    • No policies for digital preservation.
    • The journal has a poorly written copyright policy and/or transfer form that does not actually transfer copyright.
    • The journal publishes not in accordance with their copyright or does not operate under a copyright license.
  • Business Practices
    • The journal has been asked to quit sending emails and has not stopped.
    • The journal or publisher gives a business address in a Western country but the majority of authors are based in developing countries.
    • Emailed solicitations for manuscripts from the journal are received by researchers who are clearly not in the field the journal covers.
    • Email invitations for editorial board members or reviewers from the journal are received by researchers who are clearly not in the field the journal covers.
    • Multiple emails received from a journal in a short amount of time.
    • Emails received from a journal do not include the option to unsubscribe to future emails.
    • The journal copyproofs and locks PDFs.

The following criteria are considered MINOR:

  • Integrity
    • Insufficient resources are spent on preventing and eliminating author misconduct that may result in repeated cases of plagiarism, self-plagiarism, image manipulation, etc. (no policies regarding plagiarism, ethics, misconduct, etc., no use of plagiarism screens).
    • The journal/publisher hides or obscures information regarding associated publishing imprints or parent companies.
  • Website
    • The website does not identify a physical address for the publisher or gives a fake address.
    • The journal or publisher uses a virtual office or other proxy business as its physical address.
    • The website does not identify a physical editorial address for the journal.
    • Dead links on the journal or publisher’s website.
    • Poor grammar and/or spelling on the journal or publisher’s website.
    • No way to contact the journal/only has web-form.
    • The journal’s website attempts to download a virus or malware.
  • Publication Practices
    • The number of articles published has increased by 25-49% in the last year.
  • Indexing & Metrics
    • The publisher or its journals are not listed in standard periodical directories or are not widely catalogued in library databases.
  • Business Practices
    • No subscribers / nobody uses the journal.
    • The journal’s website does not allow web crawlers.