What is predatory publishing?

The following consensus definition of predatory publishing was published in Nature:

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.

This guide is meant to help authors avoid predatory journals and publishers. We use the terms "predatory" and "unethical" interchangeably.

Assessing journals

Journal assessment checklist

The following checklist can help you evaluate journals in which you are considering publishing. Keep in mind that evaluating a journal or publisher can be an imprecise business. It is entirely possible for a legitimate journal to fail to meet one or more criteria, and we have made an effort to note potential caveats for some of these criteria.

  • DOAJ listing. If the journal is an open access one, it is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Caveat: Absence from the list does not necessarily indicate a failure to meet the DOAJ's standards for inclusion.  It can be difficult for new journals to meet the criteria for listing, and it can take up to six months for an application to be approved
  • Reputation. You or your colleagues are familiar with the journal, read papers in the journal, or know authors that have published in it.
  • Editorial board. The journal posts clearly the members of its editorial board, and they are experts in the field. If editorial board members note their editorial activities on their professional websites or profiles, they list the journal in question.
  • Publisher. The name and contact information for the journal is readily found on its website.
  • Peer review. The journal provides clear information about its peer review practices on its website.
  • Discovery and visibility. The journal is indexed by the databases you normally use in the course of your own research. Ulrich's periodicals directory is a good tool for this purpose. Magazines for Libraries (available only in print) includes academic journals in its listings, and may also be useful. Caveat: New journals may be ineligible for inclusion in some indexing services, and many services are biased towards English language publications from Europe and North America. 
    • If published in Bangladesh, Nepal, Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Central America and Mongolia, the journal is hosted on one of INASP’s Journals Online platforms. The Journal Publishing Practices and Standards (JPPS) framework also provides an assessment of journals on this platform.
    • If published in Africa, the journal is hosted on African Journals Online (AJOL). The Journal Publishing Practices and Standards (JPPS) framework also provides an assessment of journals on this platform.
    • Bioline International supports quality open access journals in many developing countries.
  • Fees. Information on fees charged is clearly communicated and easy to find on the journal's website.
  • Author information and copyright. Information for prospective authors, including submission requirements and policies (such as plagiarism and research misconduct), and the journal's copyright policy, are clearly stated and easy to find on the journal's website.
  • Professional memberships. The journal or its publisher a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). If it is an open access journal, it (or its publisher) is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA) and/or the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Caveat: Membership in these organizations may be out of reach financially for some legitimate journals.

Tip: The Directory of Open Access Journals summarize some of the above characteristics (charges, peer review process), or provides links to that information (editorial board, information for authors), for open access journals in its database, saving you the trouble of having to check some of the criteria individually.


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