What is a Predatory Publisher and How Do I Avoid Them?
With the advent of Article Processing Charges, it was inevitable that unscrupulous publishers would start coming out of the woodwork. These publishers may appear legitimate, but their main goal is to get researchers to submit their work (along with a processing charge), with the promise of expedited or even guaranteed publication. The peer-review process for these journals may be questionable, or even non-existent. They may also make false claims about their indexing and archiving practices (e.g. long term digital preservation). Because of this phenomenon, many people have made the mistake of equating open access with predatory. Open access does not equal predatory. So how can you tell if a journal is predatory? While there is no one, clear-cut resource, fortunately, there are several tools and techniques to help you steer clear of these publications. At the present time, these tools can be divided into three general categories known as: white lists, black lists, and check lists.
A White List can be an index or simply a published list of journals that meet certain quality standards, excluding those journals considered "predatory." Ideally, such a list would be updated on a regular basis. The following tools for finding quality journals contain both open access and subscription based journals:
In the health sciences, checking Journals Currently Indexed in MEDLINE is a great place to start when checking to see if the journal that you've selected is reputable. MEDLINE, the principal online bibliographic citation database of the National Library of Medicine's PubMed system, uses a rigorous set of standards to determine whether or not to include a journal. Type the topic, journal title or abbreviation, or ISSN in the search box. If you get a list of results, use the Currently Indexed filter on the left side of the page to choose Journals Currently Indexed in MEDLINE. If you get a single result, the journal record will indicate the journal's Current Indexing Status. If you are checking to see if a journal is reputable and you find it indexed in MEDLINE, you need check no further.
In the Automated Tools section above (for choosing a journal that might be interested in your manuscript), we listed the Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE). JANE is also a great resource for judging the quality of a journal as JANE now tags journals that are currently indexed in MEDLINE, and open access journals approved by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent. All funding is via donations, 40% of which comes from sponsors and 60% from members and publisher members. All DOAJ services are free of charge including being indexed in DOAJ. All data is freely available.
Cabell's Journalytics provides complete contact and publication information, multiple quality metrics, submission experience data, and peer review indicators for over 11,000 verified journals across 18 academic disciplines.
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)'s website states that they "educate and support editors, publishers and those involved in publication ethics with the aim of moving the culture of publishing towards one where ethical practices becomes a normal part of the publishing culture." Members pledge to adhere to certain publishing standards. You can check to see if a publisher is a member by clicking on About COPE and then Find a Member.
Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)'s website states that "OASPA is committed to developing and disseminating solutions that advance open access, preserve the integrity of scholarship, and promote best practice... Approved members have been through a rigorous application review process and adhere to OASPA's Code of Conduct."
The Journals Online Project website states that they aim "to provide increased visibility, accessibility and quality of peer-reviewed journals published in developing countries so that the research outputs produced in these countries can be found, shared and used more eﬀectively."
The MLA Directory of Periodicals offers detailed information on over 7,100 journals, with 4,400 currently indexed in the International Bibliography. The detailed entries include editorial contact information, as well as frequency, circulation, subscription prices and submission guidelines.
Directory of Nursing Journals goal is "to to help nurse authors find suitable and reputable journals in which to publish their work. We also intend this Directory to affirm, for readers and consumers of nursing literature, the credibility of literature sources used to guide practice, research, policy and education."
International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) is a trade organization of publishers which works to develop "standards and technology to ensure research is of high quality, trustworthy and easy to access."
There are a few resources that list journals that are considered to be "predatory," such as Cabell's Predatory Reports and Beall's List. We do not have a subscription to Cabell's Predatory Reports at the current time. Beall's List is no longer maintained and active, and so we have chosen not to include it here.
What if you are considering submitting your article to a journal and it is not listed in one of the "white lists" above? In the absence of "black lists," how can you decide whether or not to submit your article to that journal? The best thing to do is to make use of a "check list."
Sometimes, it may not be clear cut whether or not a journal is considered "predatory." In fact, the latitude between "legitimate" and "predatory" can, at times, be more accurately described as a sliding scale, rather than the difference between black and white. Keep in mind that no White List or Black List is comprehensive or a substitute for assessing individual journals.
When trying to decide whether to submit your article to a journal that is not on a list, here are some useful tools that will help:
Think. Check. Submit. Think. Check. Submit.'s website states that they help "researchers identify trusted journals for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications."
This online guide from Bernard Becker Medical Library lists Quality Indicators, Questionable Indicators, and things to look for if you receive a Solicitation to Publish.
Assessing Journal Legitimacy is an online guide from Strauss Health Sciences Library at the University of Colorado.