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Understanding Predatory Publishing

This guide is designed to increase awareness of Predatory Publishing practices, guidelines on how to avoid, and how to seek assistance from information experts.

An overview

What is predatory publishing?

There are many ways to describe predatory publishing. The most recent definition of predatory journals and publishers can be found in the December 2019 issue of Nature where the consensus definition was: “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 solicitation practices.”

Why does predatory publishing exist?

It is widely recognized that the phenomenon of predatory publishing grew with the emergence of online publishing, especially open access (OA). In the OA publishing business model, authors are charged fees for publication. This business model is not the problem. Many legitimate and prestigious publishers/journals run the business model successfully.  What is problematic is that the predatory journals or publishers exist solely for collecting the funds (Article Publication Charges-APCs) without any commitment to publication ethics or integrity.

What harm would predatory publishing do to academia and/or the individual?

"Predatory publishing harms the integrity of the scientific record and the reputation of scholarly publishing. Predatory journals provide readers with content that has not been properly vetted and is often of poor quality. Citations to articles from predatory journals, which occur with some regularity in legitimate journals, risk providing misinformation to readers. Predatory publishing also harms individuals. Predatory journals take advantage of unsuspecting authors. Predatory journals’ deceptive names mimic the titles of legitimate journals, which can cause people to confuse a predatory journal with a similarly‚Äźnamed legitimate journal. Authors who publish their work in predatory journals will not have it indexed in bibliographic databases, such as MEDLINE and CINAHL. Articles in predatory journals may be difficult to locate because of the poor quality of these journals' websites. Authors may even have their articles disappear entirely if a journal ceases publication because predatory publishers rarely have appropriate archiving. People may find themselves listed as editorial board members for predatory journals, with or without their knowledge. Ultimately, involvement with predatory publishing may damage individuals’ work and reputations."  (from Predatory Publishing: The Threat Continues; https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.13056)

In addition, for individuals, falling into the trap of predatory publishing could hinder future publishing opportunities for their research. According to the experience of victims, it is usually very difficult to withdraw a submitted paper from a predatory publisher. Sometimes, predatory publishers will publish a manuscript without the author's permission, making it unlikely be to publishable anywhere else. 

Where can I get help in determining if a journal is predatory?

The easiest way is to start with your subject librarian. The Scholarly Communications Office is also a source of help and can be reached at sco@princeton.edu. Please also see the Evaluation Tools tab of this guide.