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Predatory Publishing Defined!

Until recently, there was no generally agreed-upon definition of predatory publishing. In April of 2019, a group of 43 participants from 10 countries met to create a definition of predatory publishing. Participants included publishing society members, research funders, policymakers, academic institutions, libraries, patients, and caregivers who engage in research.

"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."

Grudniewicz, A., Moher, D., Cobey, K. D., Bryson, G. L., Cukier, S., Allen, K., ... & Ciro, J. B. (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Science (576)7786. 210-212.

What is Predatory Publishing?

Predatory publishers use the open access publishing model for their own profit.

“Predatory” publishers solicit articles from faculty and researchers with the intention of exploiting authors who need to publish their research findings in order to meet promotion and tenure or grant funding requirements. These publishers collect extravagant fees from authors without providing the peer review services that legitimate journals provide prior to publishing papers.

Predatory publishers share common characteristics:

  • Ultimate goal is to make money - not to publish scholarly research
  • Use deception to appear legitimate
  • Make false claims about services offered (peer review)
  • Unethical business practices
  • Exploit the need for academics to publish
  • No concern for the quality of work published
  • Do not follow accepted scholarly publishing best practices

How Predatory Publishing Works

Since the open access publishing model covers publishing costs by collecting fees from authors (rather than from readers or subscribers), predatory publishers pretend to operate legitimate open access journals and convince authors to submit manuscripts for publication with the promise of speedy peer-review. In most cases, no peer-review process actually exists. Some predatory publishers often target novice faculty members who face pressure to publish and are less familiar with traditional publishing business practices.

Predatory publishers may also promise low article processing fees. However, once an article is "published," the publisher will invoice the author a much larger price than originally quoted. Once an article is published, authors have very little recourse.

Common Tactics of Predatory Publishers

  • Establishing an online presence with web pages filled with bogus journals. On the surface, many of these websites appear to be legitimate. However, closer scrutiny reveals the articles to be plagiarized, completely fake, or promoting unsound science that would not have been published in more mainstream journals.
  • Advertising a bogus impact factor on their website and in emails to prospective authors. They can also list editors for their journals who either did not agree to be an editor or use fake names to populate the editorial board.
  • Advertising expedited peer review to get your article published quicker.
  • Soliciting you to edit a special theme issue in your area of research. They use this as a way to convince you to recruit your colleagues.
  • Engaging in questionable business practices such as charging exorbitant author publishing fees or failing to disclose the cost of publication fees to potential authors.  

Why Predatory Publishing is Harmful

When you decide to publish your article with a legitimate publisher, they will provide services such as peer-review, archiving, and discovery services that enable others to find your work easily, and copyright protection. Predatory journals do not provide such services.

The dangers of publishing in a predatory journal can include:

  • Lack of Peer-Review: Predatory publishers often make promises of a rigorous, yet speedy peer-review process. Rigorous peer review is a time-consuming process. It cannot be completed in the short time promised by most predatory journals. The peer-review process:
    • establishes the validity of the research
    • prevents falsified work from being accepted and published
    • allows authors to revise and improve papers before publication

Predatory publishers often publish papers that have not gone through any peer-review process.

  • ‚ÄčYour Work Could Disappear: Legitimate publishers are committed to preserving your published work. Predatory publishers are focused on making money, and do not care about preserving the articles they "publish." Papers published in predatory journals could disappear from the journal's website at any time. This makes it difficult to prove that your paper was ever published in a said journal when applying for promotion or tenure.
  • Your Work Will be Difficult to Find: Predatory publishers often claim to be indexed in popular databases such as Scopus, PubMed, or Web of Science when they are not indexed in these resources. Fortunately, it is easy to double-check this claim by doing a simple search for the journal in these databases. You can also check UlrichsWeb for indexing information.
  • Harmful to Reputation: Publishing in a predatory journal can hurt your reputation and the reputation of your institution. Publishing in predatory journals can also be harmful to your career advancement.


Library Liaison

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Ruth Bueter
Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library
2300 Eye Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Predatory Publishing Check-Up Service

If you've been approached by a publisher as an author or editor and are concerned it may be predatory, email Ruth Bueter, Associate Director of Library Operations (

Priority is given to requests submitted by members of the GW community.

Use of this Guide

This guide is intended to provide information about predatory publishing and is intended as a guide only. Deciding where to publish is solely the responsibility of individual authors. 

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