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Open Access

Information about open access, self-archiving and repositories.

What is a Predatory Journal?

Predatory journals are pseudo-academic journals that exist for the sole purpose of collecting fees from authors. They have emerged to exploit the Open Access publishing business model whereby authors pay a fee to make their work freely available to the public. Predatory journals are a concern because they are sometimes difficult to identify. They pose as high quality Open Access journals but fail to deliver meaningful editorial and peer review. 

How to Spot a Predatory Journal

Predatory journals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to identify. They can have ISSNs, assign DOIs, and have slick, professional-looking websites. This page links to several checklists and tools to help authors think critically about places they might submit their work. Beyond these, critical things to consider when evaluating a journal include:

Look for lies:

  • Are there errors or inconsistencies on the journal's website? This requires a careful look - if they've invested in a professional-looking website, such errors may be relatively few and not glaringly obvious.
  • Academic research databases have carefully curated content selected for quality and appropriateness to theme. Does a journal claim to appear in the database/s you usually use for your research? If so, check by searching for the title in the database yourself. Lying about indexing is common among predatory journals. 

Look for "fluff":

  • Does the journal claim to be "indexed" in places that are not academic research databases and/or places you're not familiar with? Predatory journals often attempt to shock and awe authors with lengthy lists of placed where they are "indexed." Many of these are databases that strive to include every possible Open Access journal without any criteria for assessing quality. Others are legitimate tools of another sort that have little or nothing to do with assessing quality or legitimacy. Examples include:
    • Google Scholar - this is a specialized search engine that mainly gathers academic literature from the internet at large - not a curated database. It provides no quality control for the results it finds.
    • Ulrich's Web - this is a legitimate library tool that provides bibliographic information on publications such as journals, magazine, newspapers, etc. It is not a research database and the data it provides about whether a journal has a peer review process comes from the journals themselves.
    • Mendeley - is a reference manager and academic social network. It provides a search feature that allows users to find content that other users have uploaded into their accounts. It is not a research database and provides no oversight over the quality of content included by users. 
  • Simply claiming to be "indexed" in sites such as these is misleading. 

Look at publications:

  • Look at multiple articles from several issues of a journal. Is the quality of the content and quality of the images, layout, and copyediting consistently high?

Journal or Publisher Allow lists, Block list

Here are two "allow lists" of journals/publishers considered legitimate and one "block list" of journals/publishers to avoid. The methods of composing these lists are not perfect and inclusion or absence is not a guarantee. For more information, consult: Strinzel, M., Severin, A., Milzow, K., & Egger, M. (2019). Blacklists and whitelists to tackle predatory publishing: A cross-sectional comparison and thematic analysis. MBio10(3), e00411-19.