Predatory journals and publishers

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An unfortunate side-effect of the growth of high-quality open access journals is the number of 'predatory' open access publishers that have also sprung up. These publishers essentially accept as many articles as possible in order to make as much money as possible. These journals provide little or no peer-review and editorial services, and as a result the quality of the articles they publish is poor. (You may like to read this Times Higher article or this article in the Economist).  So they're kind of the academic equivalent of 'fake news'. 

When you're considering where to publish or which research to cite, avoid predatory journals!

Predatory journals can sometimes be hard to spot. Their websites can look professional, while making claims that are untrue. For example, saying that they have an Impact Factor when they do not, or claiming recognised experts are on the editorial board when they are not.


How do I spot a predatory journal? 

There is a fairly long checklist (below) that you can work through or you can contact the Research Outputs Team within the Library (  However, given the number of articles you're likely to find yourself working with, this may not always be practical!  So we've offered two options -

The quick way:-

The long way:-

• If a journal offers a very fast turn-around time for publication then be suspicious.

• Check that the journal/publisher is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This website lists reputable open access journals.

• Check that the publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM).

• Check that the editorial board of the journal are recognised experts in their field. 

• Sometimes predatory journals list people as editors without their knowledge. Check that the people listed as editors are actually editors! E.g. check their profiles on their university website to ensure they mention their role as an editor, or contact them directly via their university email address and check.

• Check the journal is indexed by Web of Science and Scopus. (This may not be relevant for some subject areas, also new journals produced by reputable publishers may not be listed yet. So this is not fool-proof!)

• If the journal claims to have an Impact Factor, check that the journal is indexed in Web of Science. Some journals claim to have an Impact Factor but they do not. If a journal is not listed in Web of Science then it cannot have an Impact Factor.

• If the journal appears to have a back-catalogue of articles, make sure they are accessible.

• Look at the quality of the research published in the journal. If the quality is dubious then beware of the journal.

• If there is limited information about the costs (Article Processing Charges) of publishing on their website then beware of the journal/publisher.

• If the publisher sends spam emails to academics inviting them to submit to the journal, then beware.

• Check that the contact information for the publisher is verifiable. I.e. do they have an address and working telephone number? Be aware of publishers who only provide a web form as a means of contacting them.

In addition to working out where to avoid, you may want to also work out which journal to target.

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