Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Internet Explorer 11 Will No Longer Be Supported as of November 20, 2020. Read More...

Scholarly Communication Services - Scholarly Publishing: Deceptive or Predatory Publishers

Deceptive or Predatory Publishers

Integrity Word Art

Researchers 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 predatory publishers,  or academic publishers that use questionable practices to solicit, review, and distribute original research. 

Open Access & 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 or predatory publishers aim to make a profit off authors who are eager to pay for their research to be published. 

The Problem.  New and emerging research heavily relies on established knowledge to inform their studies, so the information it uses needs to be valid and accurate.   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.  Later studies that are informed by such publications are liable to be based on flawed or inaccurate premises, and may lead to negative outcomes.  An additional problem with predatory publishers is their journals and articles may be found in established indexes and databases as PubMed, ProQuest, and others while doing a literature review.

Organizations that sponsor research noticed many of their funded studies were increasingly published in deceptive or predatory journals.  For the purposes of preserving the credibility of these studies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other organizations released statements to caution researchers about submitting their work to these types of journals (e.g., NOT-OD-18-011), and recommend evaluating a publication before submitting manuscripts.

Possible Solutions. 

A standard "list" of predatory journals does not exist.  Although Beall's List attempted to define deceptive or predatory journals, its evaluations were criticized by many in the academic library and publishing fields.  It was deactivated in 2018 after pending legal action by publishers.  This LibGuide provides some specific ways to do this, but the best overall way to identify deceptive journals is to check on a publication, and the articles that appear in it through the following ways:

  • 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 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.

What are Deceptive Publishers?

University of Manitoba Libraries (2016). Identifying predatory publishers [Video]. YouTube.  https://youtu.be/crDKooW_2kUBy 

Original Content Statement

Original content from Guide to Science Information Sources (2019), by Kristy Padron, MLIS. https://libguides.fau.edu/science_resources/predatory_pubs

How to ID Deceptive Publishers

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 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.
  • 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 (although not all publications have these).
  • 'Browse Issues:'  determine the frequency and consistency of publications, and also see the quality of published articles.
  • Contact information:  is complete information provided, such as a name, address, and phone number, or is it only a general email address?

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.