14 November 2016 | Category: Open Access, Publication strategy

Watch out for predatory publishers!

By Ellen Fest

library information specialist | citation analysis | research data management | altmetrics | SciVal |impact of science | bibliographic networks

The dark side of the transitions towards an open access publishing system is that some publishers only try to make a profit out of this and just publish everything that is submitted without any peer review. When I recently checked a publication list of one our institutes I came across a publication in a so called predatory journal. This inspired me to write this blog post and not only to warn you, but also to give you some tips and tricks to identify potential questionable journals.

Why not publish in “Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology”?

Is you don’t look critical you would think this is the journal “Plant Physiology and Biochemistry” published by Elsevier, and having an impact factor of 2.928 in 2015. But the truth is that the journal I was looking at, is published by a publisher called OMICS International.

This journal does not have an impact factor and thus staff who are in Tenure Track won’t get any credits for it. And because there’s hardly any peer review on papers in this journal, the articles won’t be registered as a peer reviewed publication in our research information system, Pure. And maybe most importantly, these publications are hard to discover for your peers. These journals are not indexed in the major bibliographic databases, like Web of Science and Scopus. I think publishing in these kind of journals is a waste of money and your results might not be publishable elsewhere.



How to find such a wolf in sheep’s clothes?

  1. Check Mr. Beall’s list. Jeffrey Beall writes a critical blog about scholarly open access publishing and maintains a list of questionable journals and publishers. Read the posts of Mr. Beall and decide yourself if you still trust the journal/publisher. There’s also some criticism about this list, because Mr. Beall very critical about any digression from the traditional peer review system and this influences his blog. Genuine publishers who experiment with innovations in the area of peer review may find themselves on the list (e.g. Frontiers and MDPI). Still it is a very useful resource to check the credibility of a journal. Tip: do not only check the journal title, but also check the publisher!

19-4-2017: Jeffrey Beall stopped with his blog in January this year. You can still access his list at the Internet Archive, but it is not updated anymore.

  1. Do some further investigation with the Directory of Open Access Journals. The green ticks next to title names indicate that they meet DOAJ’s new 2014 standards.
  1. Check what they claim. Predatory journals often show on their websites that they are indexed in the major databases, but they aren’t. Check if the journal is indexed in the major bibliographic databases like Web of Science, Scopus, Pubmed etc. These databases have extensive procedures (e.g. check the peer review system) to accept the application of journals. Note that Google Scholar does not have a procedure for this. To identify journals indexed in Web of Science and Scopus you can use respectively the Journal Citation Reports or the Journal Metrics.
    Often they also claim that the have an impact factor. Again the JCR is the best place to check this. E.g. the journal “Plant Biochemistry & Physiology” claims to have an Impact Factor of 3.21. If you read further on their site you will see that they have calculated the IF themselves by using Google Scholar Citations. So, they try to make it look that they have an IF, but at least they are honest about the source of the data.
  1. Check the submission and acceptance dates on the papers. In this example form “Plant Biochemistry & Physiology” no serious peer review could have been taken place. See this screenshot from a publication from the Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology.
  1. If they spam you a lot, do not trust them.
  1. Pay only after acceptance of your work. However, I read somewhere that some highly esteemed medical journals use a submission fee instead of Article Processing Charges (APC’s) and you should pay upon submission not knowing whether your work will be accepted.
  1. Go to Think.Check.Submit which provides a checklist of questions to help researchers identify trusted journals.If you still have doubts about the credibility of a journal you want to submit your article to, ask the library.


I dedicate this blog post to Wouter Gerritsma, who was first of all a blogger from the first hour and also an advocate of Open Access publishing. And for me, he is a great inspirator.

By Ellen Fest

library information specialist | citation analysis | research data management | altmetrics | SciVal |impact of science | bibliographic networks

There are 5 comments.

  1. By: Maurice Franssen · 18-04-2017 at 3:06 pm

    Jeffrey Beall has been forced to remove his list of predatory publishers from the internet. However it is still available from internet archives: https://web.archive.org/web/20170112125427/https://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/

    1. Thank you Maurice. I’m planning to write a new post on identifying predatory publishers because of the termination of Beall’s list. I included the link in the blog-post to redirect the readers to the archived version.

  2. […] WUR Library has put together an information sheet with a thorough overview of ways to recognise predatory publishers/journals. See also the WUR blog by Ellen Fest ‘Watch out for predatory publishers!’. […]

  3. By: Gerrit Polder · 30-06-2022 at 9:09 am

    Next to the real predatory journals, there seems to be a big grey area of publishers with high pressure on researchers, to submit, review and edit articles, propose special issues, research topics and so on.

    1. The library is aware of this phenomenon. But because it is such a grey area, it is more difficult to take position.

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