Predatory journals

Predatory journals

A consensus definition of a predatory journal was formed in 2019:

"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."

Essentially predatory journals ask authors to publish for a fee (in the same way as open access journals) but do not follow high academic standards of peer review or editing. It is estimated that there are over 11,000 predatory journals in existence.2

How to identify a predatory journal
  1. Check the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ only indexes reputable open access journals so if the journal is not listed in DOAJ it may be a predatory journal.
  2. Check the journal website thoroughly. Check that the journal is clear about their peer review process, that you can easily contact the publisher and that publication fees are clearly stated. Most reputable journals do not charge a fee to submit an article. Also look out for spelling and grammar errors as poor use of language can often highlight low professional standards.
  3. Research the editorial board. Boards are often comprised of international scholars so editorial boards where all members are based in a single country could be a cause for concern. Predatory journals may also list researchers without their permission. Cross-check the professional online profiles of these researchers – if there is no mention of their involvement with the journal then this could be a cause for concern.
  4. Check past issues of the journal. Are published articles of the standard you would expect from a professional publication? Are all the articles related to the subject area of the journal? Predatory journals will often publish all submitted articles so if a nursing journal is publishing articles unrelated to nursing it could be a sign of low editorial standards. Finally do past issues and articles actually exist? Can they be downloaded from the website? Predatory journals will often have issues listed as "coming soon" or articles with no full text available.
  5. Search for the journal and publisher on the web, alongside the word "predatory". Often this will reveal news articles or webpages which may cast doubt on the professional standards of the journal or publisher.
  6. Contact the library to ask for a second opinion. The research team can help you identify a potential predatory journal and highlight reputable journals in your field and publishing agreements which could reduce or remove the cost of open access publication.

You can also use the journal evaluation rubric developed by Loyola Marymount University in the US. The rubric guides you to consider specific criteria and give each a score. This allows you to assess the professional standards and credibility of a journal and provides a useful set of standards by which to compare different journals.

References

1. Grudniewicz, A, et al. Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature 576, 7786 (2019): 210-212. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y

2. Shen, C., Björk, B.C. 'Predatory' open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Med 13, 230 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-015-0469-2