Predatory journals cause issues for researchers, funders, patients and more. Stay in the know about predatory journals and how they are adapting over time in order to avoid these outlets.
“Predatory journals and publishers prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial/publication practices, lack of transparency, and/or use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices”.
This definition was developed as part of a consensus process that brought together international experts in the field (Grudniewicz et al., 2020).
Although this definition currently describes predatory journals, knowledge in this area changes rapidly. The practices of predatory journals also change rapidly as they adapt to changes in the scholarly landscape. As such, the current definition will need monitoring and updating.
You can think of predatory journals as ‘fake journals’, or journals that fail to meet expected best practices. Predatory journals sow confusion and create research waste.
If researchers or patients do find and interpret predatory work as genuine, there are potential harms.
It’s hard to talk about predatory journals without mentioning Jeffrey Beall. Jeffrey Beall was the Scholarly Initiatives Librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. In 2012, Beall published the first edition of his criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers. From that criteria, Beall later published his Lists of Predatory Journals and Publishers, naming journals and publishers. In January 2017 he took down the lists and left his position at the University of Colorado Denver.
The archived lists live on.
Beall played a significant role in recognizing the issue of predatory journals and publishers, and in popularizing their growth. However, Beall’s lists were not curated systematically, and his criteria for finding and listing journals was not transparent. For this reason, and the fact that his lists are no longer updated, we recommend against using them.
Other lists of predatory journals exist. One such list is produced by the company Cabells. A challenge of of using Cabells is that it is not publicly available and researchers or their institutions need to pay to access the content. It is also unclear how Cabells selects their criteria for determining what a predatory journal is. Recent research has highlighted limitations Highlighted limitations of both Beall’s lists and Cabells lists.
|1||False of misleading information||Fake impact factors, incorrect location of publisher, misrepresentation of the editorial board, false indexing claims, false membership claims (E.g., to COPE), misleading claims about peer-review practices|
|2||Deviation from best editorial/publication practices||Behaviours that are not in keeping with the standards set in the Statement on Principles of Transparency in Scholarly Publishing, no retraction policy, no mention of creative commons licence but claims to be open access, requests copyright transfer but claims to be open access, unprofessional look/feel of website, not being listed in the DOAJ but claiming to be an open access journal that has published for more than 1 year|
|3||Lack of transparency||Lack of information on contact details, editorial board, or on article processing charges.|
|4||Use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices||Use of persuasive language, excessive flattery, repeated and persistent e-mails, journal claims specialty area disconnected from the authors expertise|
There are numerous lists which provide guidance on how to detect a predatory journals. A systematic review search conducted in November 2018 at our Centre found 93 unique checklists to support researchers in detecting a predatory journal. The continued development of such checklists may be confusing and of limited benefit.
We suggest that researchers consider the following suggestions to make an overall assessment of a journal:
1- If the journal is open access, is it listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? If yes, the journal is likely not predatory because of the vetting done by DOAJ. However, a journal has to have been in operation for one year to be listed.
3- Does the journal present false information? It may promote a fake impact factor on its website, e.g. Index Copernicus Value (ICV) or false indexing. If yes, the journal is likely predatory and you should consider avoiding this journal.
4- Have you been invited to submit to the journal via e-mail? If so, do you know the journal already from your reading or previous publishing experience? Do you know the editor directly? Do your colleagues know the journal? If not, this may not be a good outlet to choose – if you and your peers aren’t reading the journal, even if it is not predatory, it may not be the best choice.
Journals that are new, or that are published in low-income economies with fewer resources may meet some of the criteria listed above, however, it is important not to confuse new or under-resourced journals with predatory journals.
We know that even senior scientists fall victim to predatory journals. If you have submitted to a journal and have subsequently encountered irregularities (E.g., no or limited peer review) that lead you to question the journal, there is still time to retract your submission or publication. Check out our handout pictured to the right for some suggestions for navigating this situation.
Systematic reviews form the basis for clinical practice guidelines. As such, we may not want unvetted work included, especially if it presents itself as having been vetted.
|How to identify journals as predatory?||Use the three evidence-based tools listed above. Establish your methods for assessing the legitimacy of included articles journals when writing your protocol.|
|How to deal with articles you have established to be ‘predatory’?||Conduct a subgroup analysis with and without the identified predatory article(s).|