Centre for Journalology

Predatory Journals

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.

What is a Predatory Journal?

“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.

Have you heard of Beall's Lists?

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 For this reason, and the fact that his lists are no longer updated, we recommend against using them.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. 

1False of misleading informationFake 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
2Deviation from best editorial/publication practicesBehaviours 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
3Lack of transparencyLack of information on contact details, editorial board, or on article processing charges.
4Use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practicesUse of persuasive language, excessive flattery, repeated and persistent e-mails, journal claims specialty area disconnected from the authors expertise

How do predatory journals fit into the open access model?

What is open access?

Open access (OA) publishing refers to the process of making research outputs freely available online without any barriers to access. It includes sharing outputs in a way that removes, or greatly reduces, barriers to reuse, such as through open copyright licensing. Traditionally, many research articles were only available via a subscription of fee based service. Open access creates greater equity in access to information. 

Article processing charges

Many open access journals change an article processing charge for accepted articles. This is money paid by the author (often through grants or funds from their institution) to contribute to costs of running the journal and producing and publishing the article. In this way, many predatory journals have used the OA model to take advantage of APCs, preying on authors who work within the "publish or perish" ecosystem. Predatory journals are profiteering from this ecosystem, in which authors feel they need to resort to predatory journals in order to reach their publication quotas. Some authors end up publishing in predatory journals in error, while others have stated that they have published in predatory journals intentionally, to build their CVs (Predatory journals: no definition, no defence; Grudniewicz et al., 2019), it is common for predatory journals to use the OA model; however, it is not only OA journals that can be predatory.

Here are some examples of the tactics of predatory journals corresponding with the characteristics of predatory journals named above

How do you detect a potential predatory journal?

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. 

2- Is the journal a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? If yes, the journal is likely not predatory because of the membership requirements of COPE (journal published for at least one year and journal practices follow the COPE principles of publication ethics outlined in the COPE Core Practices).

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.

You have submitted to a predatory journal. Now what?

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. 

what now predatory

How to deal with suspected predatory journals in a systematic review

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.

ChallengeSuggested Solution
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).