Predatory publishing

Predatory publishing
How “predatory” publishers act
Predatory journals: how to recognize them
Hijacked journals
Predatory publishing – Books
Some tools for publishing safely
Predatory conferences
Courses on predatory publishing organized by the University

Predatory publishing

Predatory publishing exploits the logic of Open Access, in the sense that it does not charge costs to the reader but to the author (or his or her institution), luring him or her with the promise of fast-track publication, aimed at obtaining the requirements necessary to reach specific numerical targets. The main victims of predatory publishing are young researchers, who have fewer publications behind them and a greater need to publish quickly.

Peer-review is a time-consuming process, if done thoroughly, and is used to ensure the validity of scientific research. Predatory publishing promises quick publication times because of a fast peer-review process that is in fact done superficially or not at all.

It may also happen that the contents of published articles are produced by artificial intelligence systems or are plagiarized

The lack of a review process results in the invalidity of papers published in predatory journals. In addition, these publishers do not have archiving policies that guarantee the preservation of published works, precisely because their only interest is profit.

It can also happen that the sites on which your articles were published disappear from one moment to the next leaving no trace.

How predatory publishers act

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It is not immediate to recognize predatory publishers, because they create websites containing electronic journals that are entirely bogus. They may also declare Impact Factors (or indicators that bear a resemblance to IF) that later turn out to be bogus or falsely claim to be indexed in recognized databases, such as Scopus, Web of Science, Pubmed.

Often the members of the editorial or scientific boards are not professionals and the published articles are outright plagiarism. Typically, predatory publishers send e-mails to scholars inviting them in flattering tones to publish in their journals, which are described enthusiastically and unprofessionally. Publication costs are unclear and often increase once the article is published. It also happens that if a researcher realizes before publication that he or she has fallen into the “trap,” it is impossible for him or her to withdraw his or her work and the publisher will still publish the work even without the author’s consent.

Predatory journals: how to recognize them

We list below some points to pay attention to when deciding which journal to send your article to:

  • Invitation email: is the invitation email to publish written in correct English or does it have typos and grammatical errors? Does it use unprofessional language? Is it from an institutional or generic contact (such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)?
  • Journal title: does it resemble the title of a well-known journal in the field? Predatory journals often use titles very similar to those of prestigious, internationally recognized journals.
  • Geographic information in the title: a title might suggest that the journal is based in the United States or the United Kingdom, when in fact it is based elsewhere.
  • “About” section: is the information provided accurate? Is the scope of research specific and detailed, or does it include topics that are too broad to be reliable? Predatory journals often indicate broad research areas to attract more submissions.
  • Contact information: is it complete with physical address, phone numbers, and institutional and non-generic email addresses (such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)?
  • Editorial board: are the members contactable? Are they unknown or well-known professionals in the research field? Care must be taken in both cases, because predatory journals often indicate known professionals as scientific committee members without their knowledge. You can contact the supposed member of the editoria board directly to clear any doubts.
  • plagiarism, or unscientific contributions; sometimes they are completely lacking in content.
  • False indexing: predatory journals often claim to be indexed in known databases, such as Web of Science, Scopus, Pubmed, DOAJ. You can verify their presence by querying the relevant databases MIAR Matriu d’Informació per a l’Anàlisi de Revistes.
  • Impact Factor: Predatory journals often indicate that they have an impact factor that turns out to be bogus. You can check this on Journal Citation Reports.
  • Made-up metrics: predatory journals often state metrics that turn out to be nonexistent. It is important to check if they are used by other journals.
  • Author costs: are the costs owed by the author (APC article processing charges, article submission charges) clearly stated? Are they comparable to other open access journals in the same field? Are the payment timelines clear?
  • Instructions for authors: are there instructions for submissions? Is the workflow of the submitted manuscripts once they have been submitted described?
  • Peer-review: is the type of peer-review indicated? Beware of journals that promise quick peer-review: it indicates that there will be no peer-review or that it will be done hastily, invalidating the validity of the publication.
  • Digital archiving: is digital archiving information present? Predatory journals do not provide archiving guarantees.
  • Copyright: is the copyright information clear?
  • ISSN: la ridoes the journal have an ISSN? It is possible to check its validity on the ISSN portal.

Hijacked journals

A specific type of predatory journals is Hijacked Journals. These are journals created for fraudulent purposes, characterized by the fact that they reproduce the appearance and content of existing, authoritative journals, whose title, logo, ISSN code, and sometimes scientific committee members and articles they copy, thus attracting the attention of researchers to whom they promise fast publication times.
Keeping track of these journals is critical to reducing fraud.

To this end, Retraction Watch has developed a continuously updated list of fraudulent titles: Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker

Rene Magritte, La reproduction interdite, 1937
Rene Magritte, La reproduction interdite, 1937

Predatory publishing – Books

The phenomenon of predatory publishing can also affect books or book chapters.

The following are some aspects to be aware of when a book or chapter is to be published:   

  • Publisher: is the publisher well-known? Is it easy to contact by phone or email?
  • Searchability: is it easy to locate the latest books published by the publisher?
  • Editor: are the editors recognized people? Is it easy to contact them by phone or email?
  • Peer-review: is the type of peer-review adopted clearly indicated?
  • Indexing: are books already published indexed in known databases?
  • Archiving: does the publisher guarantee long-term preservation?
  • Costs for authors: are costs for authors indicated?
  • Guidelines for authors: are guidelines for authors published?
  • Licenses: does the publisher adopt a clear license for Open Access books and indicate whether exceptions are allowed based on the author’s needs?
  • Copyright: are authors’ reuse rights clearly expressed? For example, is it possible to publish the electronic version of a book or chapter in an open access site, such as an institutional repository?
  • Recognized organizations: Is the publisher a member of a recognized organization? For example, does it adopt the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines, or are books already published, if they are open access, listed in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)?

Some tools for publishing safely

Think Check Submit: find out how to publish in safety and quality

Compass To Publish test to recognize a predatory publisher, developed by the University of Liege

Predatory publishing slide What it is and how to recognize it by the Performance, Quality Assurance, Evaluation and Open Science Policy Unit of the University of Milan

Predatory conferences

Alongside the phenomenon of predatory journals, the phenomenon of predatory conferences has also been spreading for the past few years.

These are invitations to seemingly authoritative conferences that are intended to attract speakers or members of the organizing committee who are willing to pay to attend.

The scam may take the form that the conference has not been organized at all, and the speakers realize that the venue does not exist only once they arrive on site; or the conference is really held but no scientific quality is guaranteed: for example, speakers or organizers who do not appear to be truly involved are listed in the advertisement.

Organizers of predatory conferences are often publishers of predatory journals.

Think Check Attend provides a guide to understanding whether the conference to which you have been invited is reliable

More info:

Cappelletti P, Bizzaro N, Dorizzi RM. Congressi predatori. Rivista Italiana della Medicina di Laboratorio, 2021;17:67-71. DOI: 10.23736/S1825-859X.21.00106-7

Courses on predatory publishing organized by the University

Check out the courses organized by the Performance, Quality Assurance, Evaluation and Open Science Policy Unit

For consultation and screening on predatory publishing, write to: