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Avoiding Predatory Journal Publications

This guide will help faculty understand and avoid predatory journal publications.

What are Open Access journals?

The key difference between the traditional publishing model and and the open access (OA) publishing model is that the traditional model requires an institutional or personal subscription to access the research, whereas open access research can be accessed without subscription or fee. Instead, many open access publishers charge a publishing fee called an article processing fee (APC) for each article published. Some journals are completely OA, while others use a hybrid model that includes both APCs and a subscription to access content. 

If you received funding to support your research, it is very likely you will be subject to an open access or public access requirement. Many funding agencies have policies that require recipients publicly share the results of their research (the resulting publications and/or the underlying data).

Unsure if you’re required to share your publications?

(link is external)

Reputable scholarly OA journals can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and many of their publishers are also members of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics). 

Characteristics of predatory OA journals

Predatory open-access publishing is an exploitative OA publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals (open access or not). The idea that they are "predatory" is based on the view that academics are tricked into publishing with them, though some authors may be aware that the journal is poor quality or even fraudulent.

Complaints that are associated with predatory open-access publishing include:

  • Accepting articles quickly with little or no peer review or quality control,[27] including hoax and nonsensical papers.[15][28][29]
  • Notifying academics of article fees only after papers are accepted.[27]
  • Aggressively campaigning for academics to submit articles or serve on editorial boards.[30]
  • Listing academics as members of editorial boards without their permission,[4][31] and not allowing academics to resign from editorial boards.[4][32]
  • Appointing fake academics to editorial boards.[33]
  • Mimicking the name or web site style of more established journals.[32]
  • Making misleading claims about the publishing operation, such as a false location.[4]
  • Using ISSNs[4] improperly.
  • Citing fake[34][35] or non-existent impact factors.

[This material was adapted from Wikipedia. Licensed under CC Share-AlikePredatory open access publishing (2018). Retrieved from]

Avoiding Predatory OA Publishers

Avoiding Predatory Publishers

While open access has allowed more transparent access to research, it has also spawned a cottage industry of fake journals who exist for the purpose of generating revenue rather than further scholarship. There are a few simple steps you can take to avoid being fooled by a "predatory publisher."

  • Be exceedingly wary of unsolicited calls for proposals sent to you via email. Reputable journals and conferences don’t make cold calls.
  • Do not agree to submit manuscripts to, review submissions for, or join the editorial board of a journal you are not intimately familiar with. Speak to editors, other authors, and staff to determine if a journal or conference is legitimate. If questions about peer review or selection criteria, fees, business models, or organizational affiliation cannot be answered, consider the entity suspect.
  • Fact check any claims made by the publisher or conference organizer. If they list someone as a member of their editorial board, confirm that with the person in question. If they claim an impact factor or inclusion in a disciplinary index, independently confirm those details.
  • Make sure your own professional online presence is accurate and up to date. Having correct information about yourself on a departmental, institutional, or personal website is the best way to combat having your name appear on disreputable journal editorial  boards or conference sites. Make it easier for others to perform the kind of due diligence described above.
  • Practice “herd immunity.” Talk to your colleagues about how to avoid being duped by predatory publishers, as these publishers typically trick unsuspecting academics—sometimes even respected, senior scholars—into recruiting colleagues for suspect editorial boards or soliciting their own networks for article submissions.
  • When in doubt about the authenticity of a journal or conference, talk to a librarian. Academic librarians are experts at finding and evaluating information. Liaison librarians in your subject area combine this knowledge with expertise in an academic discipline, which gives them even greater insight into the problem of sorting legitimate from illegitimate publication venues.

The best defense against being duped by a predatory publisher is a strong understanding of the publishing landscape in your own field. To learn more about where and how scholars in your discipline share their work, contact your subject librarian. 

[This material was adapted from Meredith Kahn, "Sharing your scholarship while avoiding the predators: Guidelines for medical physicists interested in open access publishing," Medical Physics 41, no. 7 (July 2014), is external). Licensed under CC BY 3.0(link is external).]

Open Michigan

For more information and resources around OA publishing at the University of Michigan, please visit the Open Michigan site. 

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