What is a Predatory Publisher?

A predatory publisher is one that “exploits the academic need to publish but offers little reward for using their services.” – From Iowa State University*

Predatory publishing has become an issue in recent years due to the proliferation of open access publishing. While it can take a variety of forms, most predatory publishers are looking to make money and may charge excessive fees to authors. They generally publish lower quality work with little to no peer-review, or very low quality peer-review that does not follow industry standards. They may lie about their product or make promises they cannot keep, and sometimes engage in unethical business practices. 

Not all open access journals are predatory, but some are. This guide will help you figure out how to spot predatory publishers and separate them from the legitimate higher-quality open access journals. 


Why do I need to avoid Predatory Publishers? 

Predatory publishers may charge money to publish your work, and they may not give you the positive professional exposure you are looking for. Predatory Publishers have a negative reputation, and therefore may not help your scholarly credentials in the way publishing in a legitimate journal does. Additionally, your work may not be subjected to rigorous peer-review. Your work is also unlikely to be searchable through academic databases if published by a predatory publisher, and the publisher may not keep archives of your work long-term. 

  1. You receive an email from the journal or publisher that contains spelling and grammar errors, or you see many spelling errors on the journal’s website. And/or The email is from a non-professional or journal affiliated domain (@gmail, @yahoo, etc)
  2. There is no description of the peer-review process for articles, or the description is vague and/or does not fit industry standards.  
  3. Rapid publication and/or short peer-review processes are promoted. 
  4. The journal’s scope of interest is undefined or very broad.
  5. The journal’s name is very similar to other well-known journals. 
  6. There is no article retraction policy or plan for archiving or digital preservation. 
  7. The journal claims to be open access but the publisher retains the copyright or doesn’t address copyright issues. 
  8. Publishing costs are not openly disclosed or easy to locate, or are far outside of industry standards. 

This was prepared in part by consulting Iowa State University’s guide at http://instr.iastate.libguides.com/predatory/id. 

  1. See if we have access to the journal. If so, does the database that contains the journal offer any information about the journal’s metrics? For example, check the Journal Citation Reports in Web of Science.
  2. Use the “think, check, submit” guidelines.
  3. Check out Beall’s List and Retraction Watch to see if the journal is mentioned. 
  4. Start by looking at the journal’s website. Does it contain spelling errors? Does it look like a professional journal? 
  5. Look for their editorial board. Do you recognize any of the names? Pick a few and double check them independently. Are they actually on the faculty of the institution listed? Does their contact information match? Beware that some predatory journals have been known to use faculty names without consent, or to not remove names upon request. 
    1. If you’re really unsure, consider reaching out to the editorial board – make sure you find their contact information independently of the publisher, such as through their institution’s website. Ask them about their experience with the journal. 
  6. Look for an archives of past issues. Do they have many past issues or only a few? Do those issues seem high quality? Do you recognize the names of any of the authors? 
  7. Look for their peer-review policy and lists of fees. Do they have a list of fees? Do they fit industry expectations? Is their peer-review process clearly explained? Does it fit industry expectations? Is it “too good to be true?” 
  8. Do a quick Google search for the name of the journal. Look to see if other journals pop up with very similar names. This might be a red flag that the journal is “piggy backing” on the reputation of other journals. Look for news articles or discussion boards where others have suggested this might be a predatory journal. 
  9. Research the publisher. Is it a publisher you already know? If not, do some research. Are they a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association? Is their journal (or other journals published by them) listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals? Do they belong to the Committee on Publication Ethics
  10. Google the publisher name, and look for results suggesting that they might be a predatory publisher. Some major predatory publishers have Wikipedia pages or have been flagged by the Federal Trade Commission or other consumer watchdogs, and this will often turn up in a Google search. Look for discussions by other academics raising questions about the integrity of the publisher or citing negative experiences. 
  11. Use your network! Ask fellow faculty and other academic connections and mentors if they have heard of the journal or publisher. You can also ask a librarian for help at refdesk@clarkson.edu.