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Open Access Resources (OER/OAT): Predatory Journals

Open Education Resources are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. Open Access Textbooks (OAT) are textbook licensed under an open copyright license,

Predatory Journals: An Introduction

Features of predatory journals

(Anderson, R. (2017) Cabell’s New Predatory Journal Blacklist: A Review Scholarly Kitchen blog)

  1. Falsely claiming to provide peer review and meaningful editorial oversight of submissions
  2. Lying about affiliations with prestigious scholarly/scientific organizations
  3. Claiming affiliation with a non-existent organization
  4. Naming reputable scholars to editorial boards without their permission (and refusing to remove them)
  5. Falsely claiming to have a high Journal Impact Factor
  6. Hiding information about article processing charges (APCs) until after the author has completed submission
  7. Falsely claiming to be included in prestigious indexes


13 criteria for assessing potential predatory journals

Shamseer, et al., identified 13 evidence-based characteristics by which predatory journals may be distinguished from presumed legitimate journals. These may be useful for authors who are assessing journals for possible submission or for others, such as universities evaluating candidates’ publications as part of the hiring process.

The full study was published in BMC Medicine.

* The authors note the following caveats:

  • We comment on the importance and rationale for these items, including how legitimate journals differ
  • We assessed biomedical journals, but the items are likely applicable more broadly
  • In our experience, illegitimate publishing entities are dynamic in nature, and these criteria may not apply perpetually to a given journal/entity
  • The information that we suggest examining is not always in an obvious location, including in legitimate journals. Authors should thoroughly examine the websites of journals to which they are planning to submit. 






The scope of interest includes non-biomedical subjects alongside biomedical topics

Look to the “aims and scope” section of a potential journal website. If multiple, wide-ranging and unrelated fields of study are combined (eg, agriculture, geology, astrophysics, health), you should be concerned.


The website contains spelling and grammar errors

If you see multiple, obvious English-language typos and grammatical errors on a journal’s home page, this is probably a sign of low quality (and poor translation).


Images are distorted/fuzzy, intended to look like something they are not, or are unauthorised

Low-resolution or stretched images, screenshots or those that resemble or replicate legitimate industry images are a likely sign of a low-quality, if not illegitimate, publishing entity. Obtaining knowledge of or referring to legitimate publishing industry logos in your field may be handy. The Google Chrome similar image search feature may also be helpful here.


The home page language targets authors

If the wording on a potential journal’s web page is aimed at attracting authors and submissions (eg, prominently inviting submissions, promoting quick peer review or publication), this is probably a good warning to stay away. You likely want your research to be read by a specific target audience. Publishing it in a venue with little focus (ie, vastly different topic areas) reduces this possibility.


The Index Copernicus Value is promoted on the website

A metric called the Index Copernicus Value (ICV) is associated almost exclusively with illegitimate entities. Legitimate journals do not appear to use this questionable metric. Not all illegitimate entities have it, but if you see this metric listed on a potential journal’s website, it’s probably best to stay away.


Description of the manuscript handling process is lacking

A journal should provide authors with details of what to expect after you submit your paper, including details about peer review. If you cannot find this information anywhere on the journal’s or publisher’s website, be concerned.


Manuscripts are requested to be submitted via email

In the submission area of a journal’s website, if you are instructed to submit your manuscript via email to the journal/editor for consideration, rather than through an electronic submission system, this may be a sign that the journal is unfamiliar with standard/legitimate practice. Submitting your manuscript via email is probably unwise. If you encounter this, check with peers about the norms in your field.


Rapid publication is promised

At this moment in time, most legitimate journals are unlikely to make any indication that your manuscript will be published rapidly. Whether or not an article is published at all typically depends on the outcome of peer review.


There is no retraction policy

Every journal should have a mechanism for recalling or retracting an article. This information may be found in the journal policies section, or even in instructions to authors. Even in the best of journals, errors, omissions and fraud are possible. Journals should have an explicit, transparent statement of how they intend to handle such instances.


Information on whether and how journal content will be digitally preserved is absent

Perpetual preservation of content, following a variety of industry digital archiving protocols, is a technical obligation of scholarly journals. It is a prerequisite for any journal seeking to be indexed in databases such as PubMed; it also a vital part of the inclusion criteria for entities such as the Directory of Open Access Journals. This information can be difficult to locate or to understand (if it is located). A good indication of preservation is whether the journal’s publisher deposits content to a central repository (in medicine, PubMed Central is an example of this).


The article processing/publication charge is very low (eg, <$150)

In open access biomedical journals or those with open access options (hybrid) article processing charges (APCs) can be quite high (upwards of $800, about £650). Information about APCs may be found within journal sections on open access, journal policies or instructions to authors. If a journal claiming to be open access does not indicate a fee, or if the fee is very low (eg, <$150), check with your peers about the going rate for article processing charges in your area of research/publishing.


Journals claiming to be open access either retain copyright of published research or fail to mention copyright

Pure open access journals do not require authors to sign over the copyright for their manuscripts to the journal. Authors should be able to retain copyright of published open access work. Look for this information before submitting to or publishing in a journal. It is often found in the journal policies or the instructions to authors sections.


The contact email address is non-professional and non-journal affiliated (eg, or

Journals, journal editors and journal staff should all have institutional or journal-affiliated email addresses as a marker of professionalism. Check the “contact us” email address(es) as a first pass.


Additional Helpful Tips

Tips for identifying mediocre or predatory academic journals and publishers

Adapted from University Affairs (Canadian newspaper for Academia)

  1. Take the time to read articles in the journal that you’re interested in and research the journal itself. There should be absolutely no obvious spelling or grammar mistakes in the journal. Publishers’ websites should be easy to navigate, transparent in terms of contact names and methods, and shouldn’t crash or suffer from ongoing technical problems. Also, legitimate open access journals are always transparent and clear about their peer-review processes and author fees. A short peer-review process and sudden request for fees are signs of a predatory journal.
  2. Cross-industry coalitions have started ventures to protect against deceptive journals, and universities are doing much more with committees and codes to stop deceptive practices compared to three or four years ago. For basic advice, refer to the site (although a default attitude of “think, check, don’t submit” might serve you better).
  3. Avoid using journal “whitelists” because such lists and indexes weren’t created for the purpose of conferring legitimacy. For instance, the Directory of Open Access Journals and Clarivate's Master Journal List (which provides a list of journals appearing in at least one of 24 indexes) are legitimate operations, but their lists contain many predatory journals. Ditto for Scopus, Science Citation Index and other academic lists, citation databases and indexes.
  4. Don’t be fooled by a journal’s association with legitimate businesses, codes and committees. The scholarly publishing industry is doing a poor job of policing itself and legitimate companies, such as firms that sell software and agencies that distribute ISSN numbers, offer services and licenses to almost anyone, including predatory publishers. For example, although the Committee on Publication Ethics, or COPE, contains more than 10,000 members worldwide and provides advice on how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct, many of its members are from predatory journals.
  5. Has the journal been identified by others as predatory? Google your journal title with the word "predatory." You may be able to easily find news stories about the journal and it's predatory practices.  
  6. Cabell's maintains a list of Predatory Reports, that is accessible by subscription only, however, they do provide a useful (and free) list of criteria when evaluating journals for quality.


Think, Check, Submit

Reference this checklist about journal quality from Think.Check.Submit. to evaluate your chosen journal for legitimacy.

  • Do you or your colleagues know the journal?
    – Have you read any articles in the journal before?
    – Is it easy to discover the latest papers in the journal?
  • Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?
    – Is the publisher name clearly displayed on the journal website?
    – Can you contact the publisher by telephone, email, and post?
  • Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses?
  • Are articles indexed in services that you use?
  • Is it clear what fees will be charged?
    – Does the journal site explain what these fees are for and when they will be
  • Do you recognise the editorial board?
    – Have you heard of the editorial board members?
    – Do the editorial board mention the journal on their own websites?
  • Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?
    – Do they belong to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) ?
    – If the journal is open access, is it listed in the Directory of Open Access
    Journals (DOAJ) ?
    – If the journal is open access, does the publisher belong to the Open Access
    Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA) ?
    – Is the journal hosted on one of INASP’s Journals Online platforms (for journals published in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Central America and Mongolia) or on African Journals Online (AJOL, for African journals)?
    – Is the publisher a member of another trade association?



This is a list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers.

Criteria  - intended to provide a framework for analyzing scholarly open-access publishers and journals. (Jeffrey Beall, 2015)

“Double-Blind” Review Criticism, opinions, and research

The Ethics Blog - a European perspective

Cross-sectional comparison (in biomedical journals)

Retraction Watch (A blog dedicated to looking at the issue of increasing retractions)

News Articles

Retraction Watch

NIH to researchers: Don’t publish in bad journals, please

Written by Alison McCook , December 1st, 2017 at 8:00 am

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has noticed something: More of the research it’s funding is ending up in questionable journals. Recently, the agency issued a statement highlighting some qualities of these journals.  Read More ...

New York Times Article

Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals


This page was created by Olga Verbeek, 2017. Evaluative criteria updated 2023.