There are many “publishers” who abuse the Open Access principle to their advantage. There are a number of fraudulent/pseudoscientific publications that are based primarily on collecting royalties. This should be avoided.

So-called predatory publications do not pass through a quality peer review process and therefore often do not have high professional quality, the published facts are not verified/confirmed by reviewers, and such publications are not perceived as credible in the professional community. Such journals and publishers have come to be known as “scam OA journals/publishers”; predatory OA journals/publishers; questionable journals/publishers. Publishing in such a source is not advisable, and we recommend that unknown journals be properly vetted and considered for publication. The line between a predatory journal and a lower quality journal is not clear, but the resulting effect on the author is essentially the same. It is up to the author’s discretion where to publish, what community to provide their results to.

Basic instructions:

  • Check the journal credibility and the books & chapters credibility on the website Check. Submit.
  • Check the conference credibility on the website Check. Attend.
  • Many articles have been published on the subject, an interesting article providing an overview on predatory publishing was published in 2019 in Nature.

Types of predatory publications:

  • Standalone journals
  • Journal collections of one publisher
  • Conferences (conference events themselves as well as conference proceedings, which might be independent proceedings or proceedings published with predatory journals)
  • Books – so-called vanity press (publishing on demand). Authors cover the costs of publishing while publishers do not provide common editorial processes. E.g. Lambert Academic Publishing, a part of Omniscriptum Publishing Group (formerly VDM Verlag Dr. Müller) – they often address graduates with an offer of publishing their final thesis. The same politics as with journals: the lack of peer-review process, high costs, low impact and consequently it is impossible to publish the results with respectable publisher.

Most affected disciplines by predatory practices:

  • Social sciences and humanities, educational disciplines, medicine, biomedicine, pharmacology, natural sciences in general, biology and chemistry in particular and general engineering.

The danger of predatory publications:

  • Publications are not submitted to good quality peer-review process and as a result their content is not reliable (published information might not be reliable), there might be serious mistakes in the text or misleading conclusions.
  • Author does not have a chance to share the research results with the desired scientific community. The impact of these publications is questionable.
  • As the results have been published, it is not possible to reuse them for respectable publishing.
  • Any communication with the publisher regarding the article retraction or correction is usually impossible.
  • Author’s name (and affilliation) is connected with unreliable publisher, which devalues the work itself. Everybody can see the publication on the Internet and there is no way to change the situation.

Typical signs of predatory publications:

  • Deviation from best editorial and publication practices.
  • None or fictional peer-review process. Misleading claims about the rigour of peer review process. Epressions such as “Review in 3 weeks”, “Publishing within 72 hours” are common (See example 1) – peer-review time is just too short for a process of a good quality.
  • Fast peer-review process, absence of author’s final proofreading, publication of the article without author‘s consent.
  • Difficult communication with editorial board.
  • Very low percentage of denied publications (works of low quality).
  • Breach of publication standards.
  • Aggressive or tempting solicitation practices: repetitive e-mail invitations for publishing in a journal or invitations for attending a conference.
  • Too general scope, general titles, misleading geographical names such as “European journal of …” with the residence outside Europe.
  • Too broad or unclear journal and conferences titles. Common titles include e.g. “journal of advances in…”, “journal of current trends in…”, “journal of research in …”, “journal of modern trends in…”, “international journal of…“.
  • Imitating titles of prestiguous journals – changed word order of a specific journal title, resembling and replacable abbreviation of a respected journal title (see example 2), changed name of the reputable journal by added definite article “The”: Journal of versus The journal of, etc.
  • Misrepresentations of the editorial board. Presenting esteemed scientists as members of publisher’s editorial board without their approval.
  • The same editorial board for more than one journal of different disciplines with one publisher.
  • Incorrect addresses, incomplete information on publisher’s residence (non-existing address, only P.O.BOX)..
  • Non-existing or short e-mail contact for editorial board (contact form, general e-mail account at public email servers, such as for example).
  • Contradictory website information, especially licence and copyright terms.
  • Presenting fake impact factors (“Global Impact factor”, “Universal Impact Factor” for exmaple). Misuse of ISI abbreviation (e.g. “International Scientific Indexing”). Originally ISI is the abbreviation for the Institute for Scientific Information, the company founded by the founder of citation indexes (dr. Eugene Garfield) in 1960.
  • Presenting wide list of databases, where the journal is indexed. Includes misleading indexes of questionable quality and formal indexes, which do not check journal quality (Google, Google Scholar, CrossRef/DOI (DOI register) for example).

Verification of the publications

Warning signs should be assessed with care. Signs to follow:

  • Obtain the journal references (possibly the references on the publisher) from your colleagues, from reliable debating forums, etc.
  • Read the journal articles to find out their expertise.
  • Check up on the publisher’s reputation. Is it a familiar institution in its discipline?
  • If an Impact Factor is stated or so-called ISI indexing, the journal must be indexed by Journal Citation Reports a journal index for Web of Science.
  • Check the DOAJ – Open Access journal register. DOAJ indexing is subjected to the regional editor’s review. DOAJ indexing might be carefully considered a sort of “whitelisting”. Since the list is not complete, the journal absence does not necessarily mean its unreliability.
  • Check the databases where the journal is claimed to be indexed:
    • Database quality check – necessary to check whether the database checks up on the quality of the content. The following databases do: Web of Science, Scopus, Ebsco, ProQuest, Elsevier, Chemical Abstracts (CAS), PubMed Central, BioMed Central, Inspec, BASE, etc.
  • Publishers present public indexes and search engines, however their indexing is done almost automatically and they do not check up on the quality of the content: Google, Google Scholar, Crossref (DOI register), ROAD, WorldCat and the like.
  • Publishers present many unknown registers of doubtful quality such as Index Copernicus, DRJI, Academic Keys, ResearchBib, even SCI-Hub and the like.
  • Check the regular journal indexing in the databases – it is necessary to check, whether the journal is indexed regularly and systematically. Publishers might mention the database even when only several chosen articles might be indexed, or even when indexing itself might have been interrupted (because of the lower quality for example).
  • Beall’s list – blog, which contains, among others, criteria and a list of potential predatory journals and publishers collected by Jeffrey Beall (librarian at the University of Colorado). The original blog was withdrawn by the author in January 2017. J. Beall’s activities brought an attention to predatory publishing and summarized criteria that are typical for predatory publishers. A number of activities follow up on Beall’s list, and are anonymous on purpose. These lists shall be assumed as an informative list of potentialy predatory journals and publishers: Beall’s list of predatory journals.
  • Check the ISSN identifier in the ROAD register to verify ISSN existence formally.

Recommendations for conference review

  • Check the conference organiser to ensure that it is not a fictitious institution.
  • If the organiser announces in advance that papers will be published in a special issue of a journal, it is advisable to check these journals and their publishers.
  • Obtain information on previous editions of the conference.
  • Find whether papers from previous editions of the conference have been cited.
  • Check the invited speakers.
  • Obtain maximum information about the conference from colleagues.
  • You can use the Basic guide to verifying conference credibility in the guide on the page Think, check, attend.

, Last change: 03.04.2024