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Open Access

A guide to open access publishing

Predatory Publishers

"Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices." 

Grudniewicz, A., Moher, D., Cobey, K.D., Bryson, G.L., Cukier, S., Allen, K., ...& Ciro, J.B. (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Science (576)7786. 210-212.

While the open access movement has given rise to predatory publishers, all open access journals are not predatory. Regardless of whether a journal is subscription based or asks for an APC, authors can critically evaluate journals by looking at certain characteristics, while keeping in mind the following:

  • Not all open access journals are predatory
  • Not all open access journals charge a fee
  • There is no single criterion that can indicate high or low quality
  • There is no comprehensive list that provides coverage of high or low quality publishers
  • Evaluation should be done on a case by case basis

Evaluation Tools

Whether deciding to publish in a traditional or open access journal, it is important to carefully evaluate the credibility of the publisher and the journal. 

Cabell's Directories includes a tool called 'Predatory Reports' that uses established criteria to identify deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory journals. 

Think, Check, Submit offers guidelines not just for journals, but also for books and book chapters. Similar guidance is available for conferences


Some other lists that you may want to consult, however note that these lists may not be up to date or as systematic with their evaluative criteria. 


Characteristics to Consider

While there is no single criterion that can indicate high or low quality, organizations such as COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) and others publish guidelines for identifying predatory entities. The following list of characteristics are derived from the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.

Some characteristics of predatory journals and publishers:

  • Scope of journal is unclear (for example, overly broad and spanning multiple disciplines)
  • Promise of rapid publication
  • Editorial and peer-review process and timeline are not clearly stated
  • Non-professional contact email address
  • Website has grammatical and spelling errors
  • Ownership and/or management of the journal is unclear or misleading
  • No ISSN 
  • Rights for use and re-use of content are not clearly stated
  • Not indexed by a legitimate abstracting and indexing service or database
  • Journal title mimics that of an established journal, differing by only one or two words
  • Journal sends unsolicited email invitations
  • Advertising is accepted
  • Repeat lead authors in same issue

Some characteristics of quality journals and publishers:

  • Scope is well-defined; articles are within the scope of the journal and meet discipline standards
  • Editorial board are recognized experts in the field
  • Full names and affiliations of editors are indicated on the journal website
  • Editorial and peer-review process and timeline are clearly stated
  • Journal is affiliated with established scholarly society or academic institution
  • Fees, if any, are easily found and clearly explained on website
  • Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifier)
  • Rights for use and re-use of content are clearly indicated
  • Journal has an ISSN
  • Journal is indexed by a legitimate abstracting or indexing service or database
  • Journal's primary audience consists of researchers and/or pracitioners
  • The journal states its business model
  • The journal website contains an archive of its past issues

Find a Quality OA Publisher or Journal

Predatory Conferences

Criteria for avoiding predatory conferences is similar to that for journals. 

Use the criteria from Think, Check, Attend to evaluate conferences. 

Read this 2016 Science article by Adam Rubin - Dubious conferences put the 'pose' into 'symposium' - to learn more about how predatory conferences work. 

Further Reading

Evaluating Journals Matrix