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What is a predatory journal or publisher?

A shark attacks from the pages of a printed book
Image by Carson M LynchCreative Commons License
Predatory publishers solicit articles [...] with the intention of exploiting authors, [including those] who need to publish their research findings in order to meet promotion and tenure or grant funding requirements." They collect large fees from authors without providing the peer review services legitimate journals carry out prior to publishing papers. They rarely state their fees on initial contact, and make them hard to find on their websites. Emails from predatory journals invite you to publish, often outside your field of expertise. These emails can be identified in a variety of ways, such as:
  • Errors in the salutation; grammatical or stylistic errors; awkward phrasing; invitation to write in a field far removed from your own.

  • Excessively personalized messages from someone describing himself or herself as a physician, wanting to collaborate with you, asking you to forward their email to others at your institution, and including a link to the journal's PubMed citations. Further exploration reveals the journal was included in PubMed due to Open Access requirements.

  • Invitations to submit an article by clicking the link provided, and without stating the article processing charge (APC). Predatory journals may charge over $3,000 to publish an article, but they do not give this information in their email invitation.

  • No link to a website.

  • Incomplete contact information.

  • Your discovery that the address found in the email is for a home or some other non-office location.

After you explore the predatory journal site, you’ll find:

  • Inappropriately quick peer review turnaround time. Some journals state their peer review process takes longer than it really does, in order to make their journal sound credible.

  • Some “members” of a predatory journal’s editorial board are affiliated with prestigious institutions. However, these "members" may not even know they have been appointed or may be trying unsuccessfully to have their name removed.

  • Predatory journal articles are not indexed in any standard database. Being listed by an indexing service (CrossRef, WorldCat, Google Scholar, etc.) is no proof of worthiness. A statement by a predatory journal or predatory publisher that their articles are indexed in PubMed Central or PubMed is merely exploiting NIH-funded research requirements.

Hijacked journals were once credible, reputable journals that have been "hijacked" by predatory publishers. Features of hijacked journals can include domain name takeovers, website spoofs, and redirects. Many hijacked journals appear on Beall's List of Hijacked Journals.

Where can I find a list of predatory journals or publishers?

Many (though not all) predatory journals can be found in Original Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers. A list of new predatory publishers is available below the original ones at that site, under "Update." New predatory journals spring up frequently, so it is not possible to include every one of them. A few-once predatory journals and publishers have become legitimate.

More information about predatory publishing is available at Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library at George Washington University.

Is there a way to find out if a journal is predatory?

There is no definitive way to answer this question. However, when you search PubMed and retrieve a citation from an unfamiliar journal, there is a way to see if the journal is NOT predatory. 

If the journal's record has an Electronic Link and includes the notation "Currently indexed for MEDLINE" in the Current Indexing Status field, you can be assured it is NOT predatory. Click here for an example on how to check this from the PubMed citation.

Does this predatory journal have an impact factor?

The websites of predatory journals and predatory publishers list misleading, fraudulent, and fake metrics.

Before trusting a journal/publisher website's claim regarding its impact factor, find out for yourself from a trusted source. Journal Citation Reports is one such source you can use to obtain the impact factor for a journal. You can Ask Us! to search Journal Citation Reports for you; or, if you have Harvard access, you could also do your own search.

What can you do if you submit a paper to a journal you later realize is predatory?

COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) discusses a case where an author seeks withdrawal of an accepted manuscript from a predatory journal.

Attorney Sara F. Hawkin's blog offers advice on when and how to file a DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Takedown Notice, and also a sample DCMA Takedown Notice template.

Can I cite an article I found in a predatory journal?

It is usually best NOT to do so, since doing so only enables predatory cycle and lends legitimacy to the predatory journal. However, it is a difficult decision and one that can be made only by very close, critical reading of the article.

Authors of systematic reviews should be careful not to cite articles from predatory journals.

What is a predatory conference?

Invitations to present at predatory conferences can be identified through many of the same telltale signs as invitations to submit to predatory journals.

Names of predatory conferences may vary in only the most minute detail from legitimate conferences from those of legitimate conferences.

More information about Predatory Conferences is available.

Where can I read more about predatory journals, predatory publishers, predatory conferences, and fake metrics?

PubMed Search Results for articles on predatory publishing:

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Selected articles:

Berger M. Everything you ever wanted to know about predatory publishing but were afraid to ask. In: ACRL 2017, Baltimore, Maryland, March 22 - 25, 2017. [Conference paper]

Clemons M, de Costa E Silva M, Joy AA, Cobey KD, Mazzarello S, Stober C, Hutton B. Predatory Invitations from Journals: More than just a nuisance? Oncologist. 2017 Feb;22(2):236-240. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2016-0371. Epub 2017 Feb 10. PubMed PMID: 28188258; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5330713.

Cobey KD, de Costa E Silva M, Mazzarello S, Stober C, Hutton B, Moher D, Clemons M. Is this conference for real? Navigating presumed predatory conference invitations. J Oncol Pract. 2017 Jul;13(7):410-413. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2017.021469. Epub 2017 Jun 14. PubMed PMID: 28613970.

Cukier S, et al. Checklists to detect potential predatory biomedical journals : a systematic review. BMC Medicine. 2020 May;18(104). doi: 10.1186/s12916-020-01566-1 PubMed PMID: 32375818.

Dadkhah M, Maliszewski T, Teixeira da Silva JA. Hijacked journals, hijacked websites, journal phishing, misleading metrics, and predatory publishing: actual and potential threats to academic integrity and publishing ethics. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2016 Sep;12(3):353-62. doi: 10.1007/s12024-016-9785-x. Epub 2016 Jun 24. PubMed PMID: 27342770.

Gerberi DJ. Predatory Journals: Alerting Nurses to Potentially Unreliable Content. Am J Nurs. 2018 Jan;118(1):62-65. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000529721.75417.a4. PubMed PMID: 29280812.

Roberts J. Predatory Journals: think before you submit. Headache. 2016 Apr;56(4):618-21. doi: 10.1111/head.12818. PubMed PMID: 27092533.

Shamseer L, Moher D, Maduekwe O, Turner L, Barbour V, Burch R, Clark J, Galipeau J, Roberts J, Shea BJ. Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Med. 2017 Mar 16;15(1):28. doi: 10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9. PubMed PMID: 28298236; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5353955.

Vence T. Identifying predatory publishers: How to tell reputable journals from shady ones. Scientist. 2017 Jul-Aug. 


For help on avoiding predatory publishers, please visit our Journal Quality Indicators and Open Access pages.