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Publication strategies & Open Access: Watch out for predatory journals and publishers

Watch out for predatory journals and publishers

Received an email lately encouraging you to publish with a new exciting sounding journal?
Before you send your manuscript, take a few minutes to check up on that journal. It might be an invitation from a 'predatory journal'.

"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” (Grudniewicz et al., 2019). They abuse the gold open access author-pays model for their own profit, without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals (open access or not). This growing industry can cause problems for academics.

To check up the journal go to the Think.Check.Submit website which provides a checklist of questions to help you identify trusted journals and watch their video Think. Check. Submit (1:44). If you still have doubts about the credibility of a journal you want to submit your article to, ask the library!

Under the header Suggested in the column at the right of screen you find links to a number of journal finders - they can help you find a suitable scholarly  journal to publish your article in. Keep in mind that the editorial policy of a journal can change over time.

Some tips to identify (potential predatory) journals and publishers

When you want to check up on a journal - is it a predatory journal or not? -, take some time to look at its features.

  • Check if the journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. This is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. Only journals complying with the DOAJ criteria are listed. There are technical criteria (or example one unique URL per article), but DOAJ also looks at the editor(s) and editorial board, the quality control, the open access statement and the article processing charges. 
  • Check the claims of the journal. Predatory journals often show on their websites that they are indexed in the major academic databases like Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed, PsycINFO, etc. These databases have extensive procedures (e.g. they check the peer review system) to accept new journals. Note that Google Scholar does not have a procedure for this. To identify journals indexed in Web of Science and Scopus you can use respectively the Journal Master List or the Scopus Sources. Being indexed in major academic databases means that your peers can more easily find your article.
  • Often these journals also claim that they have an impact factor. The Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is the best place to check if the journal has a Journal Impact Factor (JIF). 
  • Check if the publisher is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) or the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). The goal of COPE is to promote integrity in research publication. COPE members are journal editors and publishers. The OASPA has a rigorous application review process for organizations wishing to join.
  • Check the submission and acceptance dates on the papers published in the journal. Is there enough time for serious peer review?
  • Check some of the articles published in the journal - what do you think of the quality of these articles?
  • If a journal spams you a lot, do not trust them!
  • Librarian Jeffrey Beall wrote a critical blog about scholarly OA publishing and maintained a "list of predatory journals and publishers" and criteria for determining predatory Open-Access publishers. An archived version is being updated. There’s also some criticism about this list, because Mr. Beall was very critical about any digression from the traditional peer review system and this influenced his blog. Genuine publishers who experiment with innovations in the area of peer review may find themselves on the list (e.g. Frontiers and MDPI). Still it is a very useful resource to check the credibility of a journal.

Tips to identify an Open Access option for your article

  • If you want to publish your article in Open Access, check the Erasmus Journal Browser. This tool presents the most important journals and their Open Access opportunities, including OA deals the VSNU (the Association of Universities in the Netherlands) has made with major publishers. In these deals the cost of publishing in Open Access are collectively bought of by the universities, in exchange for an increase in subscription prices.
  • In the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) you can browse by subject to find suitable Open Access journals in your discipline.



Tools to find relevant journals to publish in

Reading tips