Predatory Publishers 101
What is a predatory journal? Who are predatory publishers? As a researcher, it is fairly likely that you may have received emails soliciting articles or inviting you to be the guest editor of a special issue and so on. There may be an email that has aroused your interest. However, there is just one snag: you have never heard of the journal. Is it the real McCoy?
“Predatory publishers” or “Questionable Publishers”, as their unsavoury adjectives imply, are typically those publishers that prey on academic authors to contribute articles to their journals but for which the APC (Article Processing Charge) is suspiciously high/low or not even made known until after the article has been accepted (which is usually immediately). These “journals” would also typically not have any peer review, editing or the quality control processes that one would expect from a genuine academic journal publisher.
Such scams may sound like they have been going on for a long time, but the term “predatory publishers” was coined relatively recently, in 2008, by a librarian, Jeffrey Beall. Beall had received many requests to serve on editorial boards of journals, but these email invitations contained grammatical errors aplenty (this background info is from his Wikipedia entry). Intrigued, he started his own investigations and eventually came up with what is known as Beall’s List, a list of journals that all scholars would do well to avoid.
His list ran until January 2017, when he abruptly pulled it down. No reason was officially given, though there was speculation that it could have been due to threats made against him by unhappy publishers. The archived list can be found here:
Beall’s list was a “blacklist”. In contrast, if the journal you are checking on is listed in sites such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (https://www.doaj.org/), it could be reasonably expected that the journal is academically reputable.
Red flags include:
The name of the journal is very close to that of a genuinely academic journal (the ol’ phishing scam)
There is no information about the manuscript handling process (because it does not exist)
The contact email address does not look professional (e.g., XYZ@gmail.com instead of a format such as Name@FamousUni.ac.uk or Name@JournalPublisher.com)
We hope the above will help you decide when you are evaluating a particular journal’s reputation.
More tips are available from our guide.
Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”! (Benjamin Franklin, 1736).
Nicholson, D.R. (2017). Predatory publishing practices: Is there life after Beall’s List? LIBRES, 27(2), 53-70.