Predatory Publishing

Predatory publishing means the dubious business practices of publishers, journals, or events that charge money (APCs, subscription fees) for services they do not provide or provide only in poor quality. Examples are, for example, missing editorial processes, layout, marketing or no quality control through selection mechanisms (peer review). However, a journal is not fundamentally “predatory” because it is open access or because the quality of the articles is poor.

How to recognize predatory publishers

The mentioned features are only a selection and this list does not claim to be complete.

  • Aggressive and offensive advertising behaviour via e-mail
  • Unrealistic information or promises regarding the time line of the Peer Review
  • Imitation of the design or similarity of names to renowned scientific journals
  • Many typos and misprints in the e-mail and on the homepage
  • Advertising with a false impact factor
  • Advertising with renowned scientists on the Editorial Board who have never been asked to work with this journal
How can you check the reliability of a journal?

In order to assess the reliability of a journal, it can be checked whether the journal can be found in a subject database (e.g. Web of Science) or in a library catalogue. In the case of an Open Access journal, the reference can also be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
Further criteria are provided by the University Library of Maastricht.

  1. Is the journal's ISSN correct?
  2. Is the journal evaluated in known databases?
  3. Is the publisher a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) or the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)?
  4. Is the journal evaluated in the “Journal Citation Reports“ or in other established metrics? It should also be noted in this context that journals can only receive a “Journal Impact Factor“ in the third year after publication.
  5. What is the status of the editor? Does the editor appear in several journals from different fields etc.?
  6. Is the provider's internet presence/platform consistent (or does it contain errors, standard phrases, etc.)?
  7. Are unrealistic statements or promises being made regarding the time line of the peer review? Very short deadlines indicate that the peer review is inadequate or does not take place at all.
  8. Are the contractual agreements serious? When publishing in OA journals, authors should retain their right of use, pay article fees only after their publication has been accepted or published, and find clear information about the costs (APCs) on the website.
Fake conferences

In addition to fake journals and predatory publishers, there are also other phenomena such as so-called fake conferences or Predatory Conferences. Characteristics of these conferences can be, among others, the following:

  • The organizers are individuals or companies instead of universities or scientific societies.
  • The contact details are not official e-mail addresses of universities/scientific societies but of private providers e.g. Gmail.
  • Unusually high registration fees
  • Conference takes place only online, despite being announced differently.
  • Website advertises with a nice conference venue, but with little information about the programme.
  • Deadlines for Call for Papers, submission and programme announcement are far too short.

The initiative Think. Check. Attend. provides researchers with a checklist and an online tool to check conferences.

If you have any questions on the subject of predatory publishers or if you are unsure whether a journal you do not know meets the scientific standards, please feel free to contact us.

Further information

FAQs on Predatory Publishing by the Helmholtz Open Science Office