In recent years, the ethics of science have been undermined by publishers of low-quality journals (or organisers of fictitious or pseudoscientific conferences) whose aim is to generate profits by collecting publication/conference fees without adhering to established standards of scientific communication and publishing ethics.

Predators base their strategy on the ever-increasing pressure to publish academic work in order to succeed in an academic career (“Publish or perish”). They exploit this situation by offering almost immediate publication of a submitted article or thesis with the promise of a prompt review process. Your article is thus published in a journal of no professional quality under the guise of inadequate or completely non-existent peer review. In some cases, they will ask you to pay after the article is published, and if you don’t pay and ask for the article to be removed from their website, they will do so only under penalty of a fine. In short, avoid predatory journals; as an author, you cannot gain anything of value by publishing in them.

Because of the different practices of predatory publishers, it is not always possible to determine conclusively whether a predator is indeed a predator. Below is a summary of the most common methods to help you spot them.


Identifying a predator

Predatory publishers often send unsolicited email invitations for submissions. For example, if you have received an email offering to publish your thesis, but the content is not to your liking (for example, it is in an impersonal form or contains phrases like “we read some of your articles with interest”), always investigate the publisher and the periodical thoroughly.

Characteristics of a Predator:

  • The words “Global,” “World,” or “International” appear in the title of the periodical, and the contact address of the headquarters may be untraceable.
  • The editorial board is non-public or comprises experts who either do not exist or exist but are listed without their knowledge.
  • The periodical has a stolen or erroneous ISSN, impact factor, and indexing in many databases (including Web of Science, SCOPUS, etc.).
  • The periodical has a visually unbalanced appearance or is close to the formation of another periodical.
  • The publisher does not specify the amount of the publication fee. Often, the publisher charges the fee after the publication of the article and demands a penalty fee when requesting the deletion of the article from the periodical.
  • The publisher does not specify the peer review process or, on the contrary, offers an express peer review process in days or weeks. However, the peer review process for real journals rarely takes less than ten weeks and can take more than a year.
  • Periodical contains large amounts of plagiarism.

Detecting a predator

If a publisher is communicating with you in an unusual way, there are several ways to find out about their unfair practices:

  • Check if the periodical is listed on or J. Beall’s list of predatory publishers. [archived version valid as of 30 December 2016]
  • If the periodical lists an impact factor, verify it by searching the Journal Citation Reports page for JCR Science Edition and JCR Social Sciences Edition. (Some predators have an actual impact factor and thus have made it into the Web of Science or SCOPUS databases.)
  • If the periodical lists indexing in the Web of Science, SCOPUS, or ERIH databases, check whether it is actually in those databases.

Detecting predatory journals is becoming increasingly difficult as they continually improve their websites and communication styles. It is most likely a predator if you detect any of these points.

Useful Resources

  • If you are still determining the quality or reputation of a journal you might publish in, Think.Check.Submit is a handy guide that can help. [WWW]  

Need clarification or want advice on this topic?