Beware of predatory journals and rogue publishers
The strong growth of open access has brought with it a large number of rogue publishers and so called predatory journals. Before submitting a manuscript to an open access journal it is therefore vital to verify that you are dealing with a genuine academic publisher of adequate quality.
Predatory journals use a number of deceptive practices to appear legitimate. They will charge the author for the publication, but will not perform the services that are expected from a genuine journal or publisher. Examples include lacking or non-existent peer review and no archiving or preservation of journal content.
Please find below advice to assist in assessing the quality of an open access journal. As a complement, useful checklists are available from the Think. Check. Submit. initiative.
Open Access Quality Indicators
Check if the journal can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals or in Web of Science. If it is indexed in any of these sources, it is most likely a genuine academic journal.
- Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
DOAJ indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.
- Web of Science's Master Journal List
It is preferable that a pure open access publisher is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). Publisher members of OASPA undergo a strict initial review procedure and must then continue to exemplify high standards to remain part of the association.
Note that PubMed is not a recommended resource for assessing journals in this regard. Studies have shown that articles from dubious journals can be included there.
General warning signs
Proceed with caution if:
- The journal is not indexed in the DOAJ or in Web of Science
- The publisher or journal is not a member of OASPA.
- The journal or publisher is mentioned on predatoryjournals.com
Some common characteristics of predatory journals
Below are some common characteristics of predatory journals. The list is however far from exhaustive.
1. False information regarding inclusion in well-known scholarly resources
The journal may falsely claim to be indexed in DOAJ, Web of Science, or some other respected resource. Beware of sentences that indexing in some well-known index or database is ”in process”, ”coming soon” etc. Always verify that any information provided by the journal in terms on indexing services, logotypes of indexes or databases etc. are correct. Check the source.
2. Use of deception to appear genuine
Predatory journals often attempt to appear genuine by referring to sources that do not have a bearing on scholarly quality. Common examples include the ISSN-registry, ORCID, Google Scholar or PubMed Central. None of these sources, however, have any impact on quality, publishing ethics or integrity.
The journal or publisher will often have information on publishing ethics and the benefits of open access to the scholarly community and to society etc. A genuine open access journal should be able to support similar statements through inclusion in some respected index, such as DOAJ or OASPA.
3. Misleading or fake metrics
Real journal impact factors can be made up. Check the source. Reference can be made to any number of fake metrics, including but not limited to the Global Impact Factor, GISI Impact Factor, CiteFactor, Universal Impact Factor or Index Copernicus. Further examples are available on predoryjournals.com.
4. Promises of fast peer-review
You may see promises of an unusually fast peer-review process or offers of fast peer-review at an extra charge. (Although this option may also be offered by a genuine journal)
5. Lack of transparency
The article processing charge is not immediately visible on the website, or not known prior to submitting the manuscript.
6. Fake editorial boards
Be aware that the editorial board may be fake. The journal may use fake names or real names without permission. Can the information provided be verified somehow? Are the board members’ home university and email addresses visible? Are they correct?
In some cases there may be no information at all regarding the editorial board.
7. Title imitation
Journal titles are often similar to the titles of established journals, and the look of well-known publishers’ or journals’ websites may be imitated.
8. Using aggressive email solicitations of authors
Predatory journals and publishers will frequently send unsolicited emails requesting you to submit an article or invite you to be on the editorial board. A number of common features in emails from predatory publishers (with examples) has been collected by Rutgers University. Do not respond to predatory publishers’ emails.
Googling the journal or publisher, and adding ”predatory” to your search, will often provide valuable information on other researchers’ views and experiences from dealing with the publisher.