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Avoiding Predatory Publishers

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What are Predatory Publishers?

There have always been unscrupulous publishers who do not follow acceptable standards of scholarly publishing, and provide little to no peer review or editorial services. With the explosion of online publishing and increasing use of pre-publication article processing charges (APCs) levied against authors, predatory publishers are becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, often targeting less established researchers.

Predatory publishers exploit the open access pay-to-publish model for profit. They may claim to have higher academic standards than they do. They may also list people on their editorial board who are not affiliated with the publisher, outline a peer review process that does not exist, or claime to be indexed in databases that they do not actually appear in.

Avoiding Predatory Publishers

If you are invited to submit to journals or to become an editorial board member, critically evaluate the publisher's legitimacy. You can contact John Dobson, Scholarly Communications Specialist, or Brianne Selman, Scholarly Communications and Copyright Librarian for advice. You can also try the following steps:

  • Check for the journal in UlrichsWeb Global Serials Directory. Ulrichs is a directory of periodicals and a good place to start when trying to determine the legitimacy of a journal. It will also identify where a journal should be indexed and available in full text.
  • Look for an ISSN. For reputable journals, this is as basic as a title.
  • Check if the publisher has a large fleet of journals that contain very little content. Be particularly wary if archived lists of back issues are not accessible (e.g. due to repeated website crashes and redirects).
  • Verify a journal's claims to be indexed by a reputable database (e.g. ones from EBSCO, ProQuest, Thompson Reuters, etc.) by checking the database.
  • Check to see that the journal displays its author fee policy on its website. Informing you of fees only after your manuscript has been accepted is a sign of a predatory publisher.
  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information on the journal site. Be cautious of publishers that only provide web contact forms.
  • Verify that the journal's peer review process is clearly described.
  • Evaluate the quality of the articles previously published.
  • Look at the members of the editorial board in terms of their affiliations, and contact one.
  • Contact an author you may know who has published in the journal to get their feedback.
  • Verify claims of membership in industry associations like the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association and the Committee on Publication Ethics
  • Use common sense: if something appears suspicious, proceed with caution.
  • Contact your department’s subject librarian to get additional guidance.

(Adapted from https://scholarlycommunication.uottawa.ca/publishing/predatory-publishers)

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