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Boxer Library

Predatory Publishing

This guide describes the different types of predatory publishing and provides links to resources and tips/tricks for avoiding them.

What is predatory publishing?

Predatory publishers and journals promise academic publishing opportunities for a fee without actually performing those academic publishing functions. Their goal is largely to make money off of publication fees that they gather from authors.

It is important to note that predatory publication happens on a spectrum. On one end are publishers/journals that trick authors into paying fees without ever "publishing" their work or even holding research data hostage until they receive a certain amount of money. On the other end are publishers/journals who may provide some publication functions, like actually putting author work online, but have lax or low quality scholarship standards. 

Note on fees: A publication fee does not equal predatory behavior. Many reputable publications require a publication fee if you want your work to be open access. Publishers that have open access options forgo money that they would usually receive through more traditional subscription based fees. Because of this, publishers do need to require fees to cover costs of providing the work for "free." Predatory publishers take advantage of this fee-based system. This is why it is important to not use the presence of fees as the determining factor of predatory behavior.

Quick Checks

The following are quick checks that you can do that can indicate whether you need to do more digging to determine whether a publisher is predatory.

These are not perfect checks and should be only used as a first step to point you in the right direction. 

Is the journal indexed?

If the journal you are looking up is a health sciences journal, a good place to look is PubMed.

  • Go to PubMed
  • Click on Journals under the Explore section
  • Type in the journal title

You can also check Boxer Library journals.

  • Go to the Boxer Library website
  • Click on the Journals & eBooks tab
  • Search for the journal title

Is the publisher/journal listed on a predatory journal list?

Check if the journal or publisher is listed on Beall's List. Beall's List was started by Jeffery Beall in an attempt to list publishers/journals that had suspicious behavior. This list is no longer active and is considered archived. Like many other tools in this process, this is not a perfect list. Some publishers or journals have refuted the fact that they are on the list. Inclusion on the list should only serve as an indication that you should investigate the publisher further.

When you look the journal/publisher up on Google, do you find other scholars or websites discussing its practices?

Simply type the publisher or journal name into Google and see if there are any posts or questions from other scholars regarding its behavior. Sometimes you will find things on forums like Reddit, Quora, and StackExchange. These forums may help you see if other scholars are being solicited with the same emails or tactics.

Does the journal have an ISSN?

Published journals should have an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) assigned to them. You can check this in the International Standard Serial Number Portal. ISSN's are an eight digit number divided by a hyphen into two four digit parts. Example: 1234-1234 

Be aware that some journals will make up an ISSN to put on their website (which you can double check through the ISSN portal). 

Other Signs of Predatory Behavior

  • Solicitation through email
    • Most of the time journals or publishers will not contact you directly through email asking for you to publish with them. If journals do send out calls for papers, they are usually to many people and it is not a guaranteed publication, just an invitation to submit a proposal. 
  • Promises quick and guaranteed acceptance
    • Academic journals and publishers have a standard of academic excellence that they seek to uphold. Part of this includes a review process (even if its not the full peer-review process) before a submission is accepted into their journal. Be suspicious if a journal is willing to publish anything or claims to be so impressed by your work that they will publish anything you write. 
  • Fast publication timeline despite claims of rigorous peer review process
    • Any scholar who has published before knows that the peer review process is often lengthy and can vary greatly depending on the types of feedback and edits required. A reputable journal may be able to give general timeline goals for peer review and publication this usually is not done until after your article has been accepted. 
  • Website Issues
    • Do their pages lead to where they say they will? Do they have a lot of broken or circular links?
  • Can you access their past issues, especially if they claim to be open access?