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How to Avoid Predatory Publishers and Conferences

Identifying Predatory Publishers: A Checklist

Deceptive publishers (also "predatory journals") are for-profit entities that claim to publish high quality academic research, but who do not follow accepted scholarly publishing best practices. Their ultimate goal is to make money, not publish quality research.

A deceptive publisher may acquire the copyright to your research but never publish. A deceptive publisher may publish your work, but then disappear, resulting in there being no public record of your published article.

The aim of this checklist is to assist you in avoiding publishing your work in a low-quality deceptive publication. Being associated with a deceptive publisher can be harmful to your reputation and that of your institution, even possibly impeding the promotion and tenure process.

Tactics of a deceptive publisher

If any of the following statements are true, do not submit your work. These are tactics commonly used by deceptive publishers:

  • Publication is guaranteed
  • You received a spam-like unsolicited email invitation to publish work (Note:  these are different in nature than emails received from organizations  or societies you belong to or have published with in the past)
  • The articles published in the journal do not match the journal's title and stated scope

Common Practices of Deceptive Publishers

While there is no single criterion that point to whether or not a publication is legitimate, the following are some of the typical practices used by deceptive publishers. An accumulation of negative indicators can point to a deceptive publishers.

Process and Timeline

Calendar IconMuch of this information can be found in author guidelines or instructions. This information should be clearly presented and address quality control processes, style/formatting, copyright, and other journal policies (such as corrections and retractions).

Publication is guaranteed  
The time of submission to publication is unexpectedly short  
The peer review process is unclear, lacking information, or not apparent  
There is minimal information about the various steps in the process from submission to publication  

The journal requires copyright transfer during the submission process

  • Copyright is typically transferred after the acceptance of manuscript. Most open access journals will apply a Creative Commons (CC) license to the research that allows for reuse and remixing; in many cases, the author will retain copyright. If a journal isn't using CC licenses, terms of use and reuse should be clear.
 
The journal does not follow a regular publication schedule  

Article Processing Charges

Many open access journals ask for Article Processing Charges (APCs), and this is an acceptable practice. Legitimate journals will always ask for payment after acceptance, and their fees are clear and easily available.

APC payment is required before acceptance

  • APCs are generally paid post-acceptance but pre-publication. You should not be asked to pay for an APC before the peer-review process begins, These charges should clearly be listed on the publisher's website.
 
It is unclear what fees will be charged
 
  • In some fields, a modest submission or membership fee is charged at the time of manuscript submission, These feed fund editorial or peer review. In other cases there are post-acceptance fees, which might include page, colour or figure charges. The amount and purpose of any additional fees should be clearly outlined on a journal's website or policies. Look for unconventional charges like 'handling fees'. If you aren't sure, check with colleagues about accepted practices.
 

Website and Contact Information

The journal's name is easily confused with another better known journal in its field

  • Look for verifiable information such as an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) which can confirm the title, country of publication and where the content may be indexed.
 

The publisher cannot be easily identified or contacted

  • Consider looking for contact information including a telephone number and mailing address and check to see that the contact information aligns with the journal's other claims (i.e. the telephone number area code matches where the journal is based, the mailing address is not a private residence). Most publishers will have a general email account you can contact; be wary of email addresses that may be non-professional or have no affiliation with the journal (i.e. a Gmail or Yahoo email address).
 

The journal website looks amateurish or unprofessional

  • You may find that the journal's website is poorly designed and difficult to navigate, including dead links, as well as spelling and grammatical errors. While many legitimate journals may be poorly funded and lacking professional websites, errors adn broken links are indicators that warrant a closer look at the journal.
 

Scope or Subject Matter

Scope IconThe journal lacks a well-defined scope, subject area or mission

  • Journals generally have a clearly defined scope and focus on a
    fixed set of topics.
 

The articles published do not match the title and stated scope and/or the journal title

  • For example, a nursing journal that publishes geology papers.

Indexing, Impact Factor and Archiving

IndexThe journal is not indexed where it claims to be nor where you would expect to find the subject content

  • This is verifiable information. Consider the databases that you use to find research (e.g. Scopus, Web of Science, Sociological Abstracts, or PubMed). Is the journal included in these indexes? Not that Google Scholar, SHERPA/RoMEO, ORCID and other scholarly networking sites like ResearchGate are not indexes.
 

Claims about impact factors are not verifiable

  • Deceptive publishers may list fraudulent metrics such as teh "Global Impact Factor" (GIF), Index Copernicus, or "Universal Impact Factor" (UIF). These are not based on recognized methodologies.
  • Recognized metrics include Clarivates Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and Elsevier's CiteScore among others. Queen's University Library offers licensed resources such as Journal Citation Reports to verify this information. Not all journals are indexed in these resources and newer journals may not have journal level metrics available.
 

Affiliation/Publication Ethics and Policies

Affiliations IconThe publisher is not a member of a recognized scholarly organization

  • Deceptive publishers may falsely represent their affiliations. It is best to verify stated affiliations via the website of the organization a journal claims to be affiliated with. The following are some recognized organizations

Editorial Board Members

Editorial Board IconPlease note it can be very difficult to verify who is on an editorial board, so it is good to cross-check to ensure the information is accurate.

Members of the editorial board do not mention the journal on their own website or public CVs

 

There is no information about the editor or editorial board on the journal's website

 

Journals from the Global South

When deciding whether to publish in a journal, please remember that some of the same criteria used to disqualify deceptive publishers can also disqualify journals from the global south.*

In low- and middle-income countries, journal publishers may not have access to the resources to create impressive websites, register an ISSN, or maintain their own email server. A lack of resources should not disqualify these journals from your consideration if they are publishing high-quality research. A careful review of the journal’s articles and a discussion of the journal with your colleagues or supervisor will always be your best guide.

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* The global south refers to "all nations classified by the World Bank as low-and middle-income that are in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It does not include low- and middle-income nations in Eastern Europe, including the Russian Federation". From Urban Poverty in the Global South: Scale and Nature by Diana Mitlin, David Satterthwaite pg. 13.

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Attribution

This checklist has been adapted with permission from the Identifying Deceptive Publishers Checklist, prepared by University of Toronto Libraries and Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.