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Predatory Journals and Conferences...Beware

Selecting reputable publications and conferences for dissemination of your research findings has become more complicated with the advent of predatory journals and conferences.

What is Meant by Predatory?

The term predatory has been adopted to mean journals and conferences that employ deceptive practices used to trick researchers to publish and/or present at conferences in exchange for money.  Many of the predatory journals are open access; however, many trustworthy journals may also offer that option or embrace that practice.

A group of stakeholders (publishers, funders, researchers, policymakers, academic institutions, patients, and caregivers) published the following consensus definition:

“Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize
self-interest at the expense of scholarship
and are characterized by false or misleading information,
deviation from best editorial and publication practices,
a lack of transparency,
and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate practices.” (Grudniewicz et al., 2019)

Predatory Journals

A librarian from the University of Colorado, Jeffery Beall, had kept a list of predatory journals. However, due to legal issues, Beall has stopped maintaining the list.  Some say that an anonymous person has been maintaining; however, it cannot be looked at an authoritative source: https://beallslist.net

10 Tips for Ensuring a Journal is Trustworthy

Predatory journals masquerade as trustworthy ones. There are some steps you can take to help ensure a journal is reliable.  Before you submit, take time to investigate:

  1. Did you receive an unsolicited email to publish? Predatory journals aggressively solicit articles by sending blast emails to academics. The emails may have misinformation, for example, assume someone has a PhD who does not. Also, spelling errors, poor grammar, and odd language are characteristic of these solicitations.
  2. Is the journal published in a well-known database? If you dig around and cannot find past issues of a journal, it may be a sign that it is predatory. Check databases such as Web of Science, Scopus, or MEDLINE for past articles. (FYI: Make sure you are searching MEDLINE and not PubMedCentral (PMC). PMC allows publishers to freely add articles and so, some predatory journal articles are included in PMC.)
  3. Is the journal listed in Scimago? If no, beware. If yes, this free online database provides more details to help you assess if the journal is legit.
  4. Is this publisher affiliated with other scholarly publishers? Look for the journal on sites such as the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE), International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM), and Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
  5. Does the journal adhere to industry standards? Check to see if the journal is ISSN registered and the journal articles have Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).
  6. Does the publication demonstrate that it follows quality editorial standards? Predatory publications do not spend the money to ensure thorough editing. Misspellings, typos, and other grammatical errors are common in the articles they publish.
  7. Is the peer review process genuine? Predatory journals often falsely claim that they employ a full peer review process. However, they typically streamline the process and offer to move manuscripts through review in very quickly. Bottom line, a promise to fast track your article is often a sign that the journal is predatory.
  8. Is information about the author’s rights/publication agreements posted? If not, beware!
  9. Does the website contain misleading information? Predatory journal sites may misrepresent their editorial boards to appear more credible. Check to see if those listed include the journal on their CVs. Instead of an impact factor, they may use the abbreviation Scientific Journal Impact Factor (SJIF) or similar misleading language.
  10. Does the journal have a published code of conduct? Good quality journals adhere to the code of conduct from publishing organizations such as those from the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association, and the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers. Make sure the journal website states that they comply with a code of conduct from one of these publisher associations and are listed on the association’s website among their list of members.

Predatory Conferences

Predatory conferences claim to be scholarly but are organized by an entity focused on financial gain rather than quality scholarship. The goal is to put together an agenda on a specific topic.  The quality of the research is not vetted; rather speakers are selected based on their willingness to pay for their own registration fees and travel expenses. In other words, speakers who are willing to pay for the opportunity, are added to n the agenda.


Predatory conference planners blanket potential speakers with speaking opportunities. Check the affiliations of unsolicited invitations to speak:

  1. Does the program description appear legit?
  2. Is the conference planning group affiliated with a legitimate organization or educational entity?
  3. Did the invitation include keynote speakers that are known experts?
  4. Are invited speakers charged unreasonably high fees?
  5. Is the vetting process for presentations and posters described? Is it reasonable?
  6. Will conference abstracts or proceedings be published? Are you able to locate abstracts or proceedings from previous years?
  7. Are continuing education credits offered? If yes, are they certified by an entity recognized in your field? And, has that entity actually agreed to provide the continuing education credits?
  8. Does the target audience seem appropriate for the conference aim and scope?
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To Learn More About Predatory Practices

Bohannon, J. (2013). Who’s afraid of peer review? A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals. Science. 342 (6154), 60-65. 

Chambers, A.H. (2019). How I became easy prey to a predatory publisher. Science. 364 (6440), 602.

Grudniewicz, A., Moher, D., Cobey, K.D., Bryson, G.L., Cukier, S., Allen, K., et. al. (2019). Predatory journals; no definition, no defence. Nature. 576, 201-212.

Website content above adapted from: Sewell K., Firnhaber G, Kolasa K. Predatory Publishers and Conference Organizers: Just Say No!  February 2020. 

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