What you should know about Predatory Publishers

Academic publishing has undergone a plethora of changes in the last few years, including the rise of open access and online publishing.  As an author, you wade through thousands of journals with different publishing practices to find the right fit for your article. It is against this backdrop that the problem of predatory publishers has emerged.


Who or what are predatory publishers?

Good question; they are difficult to define. However, they do share common characteristics.

  • Your research is not viewed as an avenue to advance a discipline’s scholarship.
  • Their business practices are outside the norm (i.e. excessively high author fees and lack of business transparency).
  • Publication fees are difficult to find on the publisher’s website.
  • Common peer review standards for scholarly publishing are not followed.
  • Articles are published on the journal’s website or in obscure databases.
  • Impact Factors from unfamiliar providers are used, such as Universal Impact Factor (UIF) or Global Impact Factor (GIF).
    • Familiar providers of Impact Factors include: InCites Journal Citation Reports (JCR), JCR Journal Impact Factor (JIF), JCR 5-year Impact Factor, JCR Eigenfactor Score,  Elsevier’s SCImago Journal Rank (SJR), and Source Normalized Impact per Paper(SNIP).


How can you identify a predatory publisher?

Predatory publishers commonly send flattering, yet unsolicited, emails asking for manuscripts or encouraging membership on their editorial boards. Before replying, check the credentials of the editorial board members on LinkedIn or other professional websites.  Is the journal affiliation included?

Does the journal name sound familiar, but not quite right?  Predatory publishers commonly name their journals with a title that closely resembles well-known, credible journal titles.

They often have a large editorial board that may contain the names of famous scientists; however, these famous scientists may not have agreed to participate.

They may have no Editor-in-Chief listed.

Their website may not contain a list of bylaws, a constitution, a code of ethics, nor a list of Board of Directors with contact information.

Review the websites of the publisher or one of their journals.  Although the websites look professionally designed and managed, you may see poorly constructed sentences or misspelled words.

Does the publisher promise a quick turn-around time, such as a few weeks, from the receipt of the manuscript to the publication date? Predatory journals may use a turn-around time that is too short for the peer-review process.

Read the articles on the webpages to evaluate their quality.  Predatory publishers are not interested in quality research.


What you can do to protect yourself and your research?

Use the Think, Check, Submit checklist http://thinkchecksubmit.org/ to find a trust-worthy journal for article submission.

If submitting to an open access journal, look for the journal title in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) website, https://doaj.org/.  DOAJ indexes and provides access to high quality, peer-reviewed, open access journals.

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), https://oaspa.org/membership/members/,  evaluates small, medium, large, scholarly, commercial and non-commercial publishers, to ensure consistent high standards in the open access global publishing community.

Are you affiliated with an academic university?  Speak to a Librarian for help.

Determine if the Scientific Professional Societies in your field of research have an affiliated peer-reviewed journal.  For example, the Society for In Vitro Biology in association with Springer publishes In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Animal (http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/cell+biology/journal/11626) and In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Plant (http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/plant+sciences/journal/11627).


Some Available Resources:

  1. Deprez EE, Chen CE (2017) Medical journals have a fake new problem. Bloomberg Businessweek.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-08-29/medical-journals-have-a-fake-news-problem.  Cited 31 Oct 2017.

  1. Kebede M, Schmaus-Klughammer AE, Tekle BT (2017) Manuscript submission invitations from ‘Predatory Journals’: What should authors do. JKMS 32: 709-712.
  2. Kolata G (2017) Many academics are eager to publish in worthless journals. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/science/predatory-journals-academics.html Cited 31 Oct 2017.
  3. Nims JK, Storm P. Predatory publishing defined. Predatory publishers research guide.  http://guides.emich.edu/predatorypubs  .  Cited 23 Oct 2017.
  4. Snyder C. Publishers and Publishing. Publishing your research libguide. https://library.midwestern.edu/publishing/publishers  Cited 31 Oct 2017.
  5. Journal Impact Factor. InCites Help. Clarivate Analytics.  http://ipscience-help.thomsonreuters.com/inCites2Live/indicatorsGroup/aboutHandbook/usingCitationIndicatorsWisely/jif.html  Cited 14 Feb 2018.
  6. Measuring a journal’s impact. Elsevier for authors. https://www.elsevier.com/authors/journal-authors/measuring-a-journals-impact Cited 14 Feb 2018.
  7. Directory of Open Access Journals, DOAJ (2017) https://doaj.org/. Cited 31 Oct 2017.
  8. Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, OASPA. https://oaspa.org/ ..
  9. Check. Submit. 2017. http://thinkchecksubmit.org/ . Cited 23 Oct 2017.
  10. Sorokowski P, Kulczycki E, Pisanski K (2017) Predatory journals recruit fake editor. Nature, 543:481-483.
  11. Bohannon J (2016) U.S. charges journal publisher with misleading authors. Science, 354:23-24.
  12. Who’s afraid of peer review (2013) Science, 342:60-64.


Submitted by:

Michael J. Fay, Ph.D.
Professor of Pharmacology
Biomedical Sciences Program Director 
Midwestern University
Co-editor, In Vitro Report
Catherine Lencioni, MS, MLIS
Research and Instructional Librarian
Midwestern University