Identifying deceptive publishers: A checklist

Deceptive publishers (also commonly referred to as “predatory journals”) are for-profit entities that purport to publish high quality academic research, but who do not follow accepted scholarly publishing best practices. Their ultimate goal is to make money, not publish quality research. A deceptive publisher may acquire the copyright to your research but never publish. A deceptive publisher may publish your work, but then disappear, resulting in there being no public record of your published article.

The aim of this checklist is to assist you in avoiding publishing your work in a low-quality deceptive publication. Being associated with a deceptive publisher can lead to financial loss as a result of inappropriate fees, or be harmful to your reputation and that of your institution, even possibly impeding promotion and tenure.

If any of the following statements are true, do not submit your work. These are tactics commonly used by deceptive publishers:

Common Practices of Deceptive Publishers

While there is no single criterion that points to whether or not a publication is legitimate, the following are some of the typical practices used by deceptive publishers. An accumulation of negative indicators can point to a deceptive publisher.

Process and timeline

Much of this information can be found in author guidelines or instructions. This information should be clearly presented and address quality control processes, style/formatting, copyright, and other journal policies (such as corrections and retractions).

Article processing charges (APCs)

Many open access journals ask for Article Processing Charges (APCs), and this is an acceptable practice. Legitimate journals will always ask for payment after acceptance, and their fees are clear and easily available.

Website and contact information

Scope and subject matter

Indexing, impact factor and archiving

Affiliation/publication ethics and policies

Editorial board

Please note it can be very difficult to verify who is on an editorial board, so it is good to cross-check to ensure the information is accurate.

Do not confuse journals from the global south with deceptive journals

When deciding whether to publish in a journal, please remember that some of the same criteria used to disqualify deceptive publishers can also disqualify journals from the global south.Footnote 1

In low- and middle-income countries, journal publishers may not have access to the resources to create impressive websites, register an ISSN, or maintain their own email server. A lack of resources should not disqualify these journals from your consideration if they are publishing high-quality research. A careful review of the journal’s articles and a discussion of the journal with your colleagues or supervisor will always be your best guide.

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