Open Access: Predatory Publishers

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Predatory Publishing

This page will provide you with an understanding of predatory publishing and a set of guidelines (checklist) to help you avoid them.

Open Access v Predatory Publishers

Getting published is critical to academics and researchers. But you need to be aware that there are unscrupulous predatory publishers out there who are exploiting the widespread move to publishing in open access journals. The phenomenon of predatory publishing is an issue all researchers and academics need to be aware of and there are steps you can take to identify suspect publishers. It is also important to understand your options regarding getting published in open access journals and how to identify quality publishing outlets.

What is predatory publishing?

Predatory journals and vanity publishers have the following characteristics:

  • They provide false or misleading information
  • They don’t provide quality editorial services (i.e. Print on demand)
  • They either don’t peer review manuscripts or the peer review they do provide does not meet industry standards
  • They lack of transparency
  • They use of aggressive and indiscriminate methods to attract submissions from authors

However, there can be shades of grey when identifying predatory publishers. At one end of the spectrum they are exploiting the open access model by charging authors to publish papers that haven't gone through the normal scholarly process such as peer review through to spamming researchers with requests to submit a manuscript.

Predatory Journal Publisher Definition

Some indicators that a journal may be from a predatory publisher:

  • Spamming authors and editorial board members via email
  • Make false claims that a journal is listed or indexed by reputable services such as: DOAJ, Scopus or Web of Science
  • Poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation on website and/or in emails
  • Journal titles or journal impact factors that are similar to well-known reputable journals
  • Fail to meet established peer review standards and promising unrealistically quick peer review turnaround times (i.e. one week)
  • Lack of information about author fees, editorial policies, peer-review etc.
  • No verifiable contact information provided, including mailing address

Predatory Journal Checklist

Predatory Journal checklist (Based on Think Check Submit):

Do you or your colleagues know the journal?

  • Have you read any articles in the journal before?
  • Is it easy to discover the latest papers in the journal?
  • Read several articles from the journal and assess the quality.
  • Is the journals scope clearly defined on their webpage? The scope of predatory journals is often very broad and includes multiple and unrelated fields.

Can you easily identify and contact the publisher?

  • Is the publisher name clearly displayed on the journal website?
  • Can you contact the publisher by telephone, email, and post?

Is the journal clear about the type of peer review it uses?

  • Does the journal have an independent and genuine peer review process?
  • Is the journal listed on Publons?

Is the journal on a predatory journal list?

  • Check the Predatory Journal List (Not Currently Available)

Is the journal listed in reputable citation indexes or ranking lists?

  • Check that the journal is listed in Scimago. Check it's ranking (Q1, Q2, Q3 & Q4) and make sure the ranking is stable and on an upwards trajectory.

  • Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory Ulrichs
    Search for journals, check if they are peer reviewed - available from the Library databases page

Do you recognise the editorial board?

  • Have you heard of the editorial board members?
  • Do the editorial board mention the journal on their own websites?

Submission Process

  • Does the publisher website clearly state what the submission process entails? Can authors track the progress of their manuscript in an electronic submission system?

  • Predatory journals often ask you to send your submissions to an email address.

Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?

  • Another reputable industry association

Is the journal open access?

  • Do they make it clear if there is any charges to publish (this is usually in the author guidelines)?

  • Does the journal site explain what these fees are for, and when they will be charged?

Is the journal listed by on any of these webpages?

Is the publisher a member of:

Check if VU will cover any article processing charges (APCs)

The Journal Selection Checklist (see below) is based on James Cook University's Journal Selection Matrix.

This is a summarised version of the checklist above that will help you easily assess several journals and make a comparison.

Vanity book publishing and print-on-demand (POD) 

Vanity publishers and print on demand services provide little or no editorial support or marketing and do not meet the definition of a commercial publisher under ERA specifications.

What is Vanity publishing?

Vanity publishers actively solicit authors to publish their work as a book. For instance, they will send emails to higher degree research students suggesting they publish their thesis as a book. They generate income by either charging up-front publishing fees, or by the sale of copies to the author.

The steps set out below will help you avoid:

  • Loss of copyright to your work.
  • Producing a poor quality publication that doesn’t meet the requirements of MORA or other research processes
  • Damage to your academic reputation (many of the vanity publishers are well known – LAP Lambert is a good example)

It is always recommended that you carefully research and evaluate the credibility of a publisher before accepting an offer to publish your thesis.

What is Print-on-demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) publishers will print copies of a publication for a fee upon request.

Vanity Publishing Checklist

The vanity publisher checklist is based on Think Check Submit guidelines

What do you know about the publisher?

  • Have you or your colleagues heard of the publisher? Does anyone you know publish with them (ask about their experience)?
  • Did the publisher contact you? Quality publishers are unlikely to approach you directly.
  • Have you read any books or chapters from this publisher before? If so what was the quality like?
  • Have any books published by the publisher been nominated or won awards? This would provide a clear indication that it's a legitimate publisher with genuine editorial support.
  • Is it easy to discover the latest books distributed by this publisher?
  • Are the books indexed in services that you use?
  • Is it clear how they distribute the books?
  • Do they provide contact details such as a telephone number, email address, or postal address? If you check the address is it a commercial or residential address?

What do you know about their publishing process

  • Carefully review the instructions/guidelines they provide for prospective authors.
  • Does the publisher clearly specify their quality control process on their webpage e.g. the type of peer review or editorial support they offer?
  • Is the publisher offering a review by an expert editorial board or by researchers in your subject area? Do you recognise the names of any of the editors?
  • Is the publisher clear about services offered to authors, such as copy-editing and marketing and supporting rights management?
  • Does the publisher have a clear policy regarding potential conflicts of interest for authors, editors and reviewers?

Are guidelines provided for authors on the publisher website?

  • Does the publisher have a clear license policy for open access books, including any preferred licenses and whether exceptions are permitted depending on the needs of the author? Will your book be available as open access immediately when published?
  • Is the publisher clear about contracts and royalty agreements, where applicable?
  • Does the publisher have a clear policy regarding potential conflicts of interest for authors, editors and reviewers?
  • Is the publisher clear about contracts and royalty agreements, where applicable?
  • Does the publisher have a clear policy regarding potential conflicts of interest for authors, editors and reviewers?

Does the publisher support open access?

Checking whether a book publisher is part of an Open Access initiative gives you another option for checking the validity of a publisher as well as seeing whether it would be possible for an open access version of your book to be made available. Making it OA will also give you extra MORA points.

  • Does the publisher allow you to retain copyright of your work? Does the publisher allow you to share an electronic version of your book or chapter via, for example, an institutional repository, and under what terms?

Is the publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)

STM Association

Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP)

Book Industry Study Group

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)

Publishers Association


VU Research list of pre-eminent and renowned publishers - comprised of the consolidated SENSE (Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment, Netherlands) and City University of Hong Kong academic publisher ranking lists.

10 point guide to dodging publishing pitfalls (from Times Higher Education)

How to Publish an Academic Book – Why Choosing a Publisher is Important and How to Choose One

What Do Publishers Do?

Open monograph business models

Open Book Publishers are an open access publisher of peer reviewed books

Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN): List of compliant book publishers


What can you do?

Follow the steps available on the Think Check Submit webpage

There are various black lists or white lists available online but caution should be exercise when using these. They will never be comprehensive and it's important to use your judgment when deciding on where to publish because it's a critical decision. Publishing with a predatory publisher can damage your research career!

Think Check Submit


"Think. Check. Submit. helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications." (