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Guide to Science Information Resources

About Deceptive or Predatory Publishers

Integrity Word Art

Researchers and scholars have increased demands to publish and now are provided with many avenues of doing so, including open access.  These broader factors have given rise to deceptive* or predatory publishers,  or academic, commercial publishers that use questionable practices to solicit, review, and distribute original research. 

Open Access and The Rise of Deceptive or Predatory Publishers  

Open access publishers distribute their information with minimal or no restrictions.  They generally operate by having the costs of publishing be covered by authors who pay a fee to have their research articles published.  A drawback to this is the emergence of publishers that misuse the open access model.  Instead of freely distributing information for the benefit of creating new knowledge, deceptive publishers aim to make a profit off authors who are eager to pay for their research to be published. 

The Problem  

Deceptive publishing hurts scholarly pursuits in various ways:

  • Deceptive publishers utilize questionable publishing conduct and ethics in terms of soliciting research, their editorial processes, and utilizing peer review, all of which affect the quality of information being published.
  • New and emerging research heavily relies on established knowledge to inform their studies, so the information it uses needs to be valid and accurate.    
  • Later studies that are informed by deceptive publications are liable to be based on flawed or inaccurate premises, and may lead to negative outcomes or be a waste of time and resources.  
  • An additional problem with such publishers is their journals and articles may be found in established indexes and databases as PubMed, ProQuest, or others while doing a literature review.

Possible Solutions  

A standard "list" of deceptive journals does not exist.  Publishing experts acknowledge the fluid nature of deceptive publishers make the use of checklists problematic for evaluating them.  Experts suggest to review qualitative and quantitative aspects of a publication, and then weigh and evaluate these attributes to decide whether or not a publication is deceptive.  This Research Guide provides some aspects to consider in your deliberation.  Contact your campus librarian if you need assistance.

The best way to spot them is to critically appraise them using a combination of the following ways; see also "How can I determine if an article or publication I found is reputable?" for more specifics below:

  • Critically appraise a publication interest in terms of its content, organization, and writing conventions. 
  • Identify the editor, editorial board, and their affiliations.
  • See the consistency of when new issues or articles are published.
  • Read a journal's policies on acceptance, peer review, copyright, retractions, and its publishing workflow.
  • Find out if a publication is included in established indexes (e.g., Scopus, MLA International Bibliography, etc.) and if it has bibliometrics (keep in mind that not all journals have these).

A researcher will become cognizant of high impact journals, research organizations, and publishers as he or she reads more literature within their field.  However, some journals with scholarly titles may still have the attributes of a deceptive or predatory publication, so let the reader beware.

*Note: 'Deceptive' publishers is the largely accepted term synonymous with 'predatory' publishers; scholarly publishing and communication experts believe the first term accurately describes more of their attributes.

Characteristics

A deceptive publisher may have a combination of the following characteristics.  When considering whether or not a publication is deceptive, weigh the following since many works or publishers may possess one or more.

  1. Promises of quick acceptance or peer review, often within 24 hours.
  2. Aggressive, frequent, or unsolicited calls for manuscripts, usually by e-mail.
  3. Exaggerated or fake bibliometrics such as Journal Impact Factor.
  4. False bibliographic information such as ISSN.
  5. The scope of a publication includes many unrelated topics or disciplines.
  6. The publication is published irregularly.
  7. Sham or misrepresented editorial board.
  8. False-flag or hijacked publication:  one with a similar or slight variance in publication name.  See the hijacked Jokull Journal and the actual Jokull Journal of Earth Sciences.
  9. Wants an author processing charge (APC) before acceptance of manuscript.
  10. Publication is deceptive about its professional, scholarly affiliations, or make them up.
  11. Contact information is a general e-mail address (e.g., @gmail.com).
  12. Sponsored publications:  one that is created to promote an agenda or product by a company or organization.

How can I determine if an article or publication I found is reputable?

CautionThe best way to determine that a publication is reputable is to perform due diligence.

Deceptive or predatory publishers do not have set attributes, and 'official' lists of them do not exist.  Consider the following ways to determine the quality and reliability of a publication in question.

1.  Visit its home page.  

Examine the following information to determine the legitimacy of a journal or other publication; this can often be found through their home page.  For an example, compare the journal Geophysical Research Letters with Journal of Earth Science & Climatic Change.    

  • 'About' page:  identifies the publisher or organization responsible for the publication.
  • Editorial board:  contact information for the editor or editorial staff.  Deceptive publishers often have sham editorial boards, so contact the editor or someone on the editorial staff if needed to confirm their role.
  • Contact information:  is complete information provided, such as a name, address, and phone number, or is it only a general email address?
  • Indexing and abstracting sources:  shows the information companies (e.g., Elsevier, ProQuest) or publications (e.g., Chemical Abstracts, Science Citation Index) that index their work
  • Bibliometrics:  bibliometrics such as Journal Impact Factor and other measures of author, citation, or publication influence may be provided, but be aware many quality journals do not have these.
  • Frequency of publication:  browse a journal's issues or site to determine the frequency and consistency of its publications.  Deceptive publishers often irregularly publish new works.
  • Professionalism:  does the web site appear professional or is it outdated or have typos?  Review the rigor and overall qualities of the works submitted in a publication.  
  • Publishing policies:   A publisher should be transparent with its policies regarding manuscript submission, peer review, retractions, erratum, and its publication process or workflow.  Policies should adhere to the guidelines by publishing ethics organizations like COPE.
  • Affiliations:  Check on the affiliations of a publisher.  Is a publisher associated with a professional, scholarly organization, an academic institution, or a business/ commercial entity?  Deceptive or predatory publishers tend to not have scholarly or professional affiliations, or they are fraudulent.

2.  Consult with UlrichsWeb (FAUNet ID required).

UlrichsWeb often provides the following information about a publication:

  • Start year:  when the journal started being published.
  • Refereed:  indicates if a title is peer-reviewed.
  • Abstracting and Indexing:  identifies information companies and publications that provide information about a publication or abstracts of its articles.
  • ISSN:  has the journal been assigned an ISSN?
  • Status:  is a journal still being published, or has it ceased?
  • Content type:  describes the audience or intent of the publication. 

3.  Check the journal title, if it is an open access journal, with a reputable open access organization or web page.

4.  Ask around.  Ask your colleagues where they publish or what they use, as well as the journals they thought were questionable.  Librarians can also provide insight and information.

What are Deceptive or Predatory Publishers? [Video]

University of Manitoba Libraries (2018). Identifying predatory publishers [Video]. YouTube.  https://youtu.be/crDKooW_2kUBy 

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Last updated on Jan 11, 2023 9:45 AM