Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Information on Publishing in scientific journals - the problem of predatory publishing

What is predatory publishing?

To publish Open Access, the cost for the production and review of an article has to be paid by the author. "Predatory Publishers" try to get the Article Processing Charges (APCs) from the authors, without providing the publishing services, especially the Peer Review, with the required care. The business model of predatory publishing has no interest in building scientific renown through the publisher. The quality assurance trough Peer Review is essential for serious publishers.

Causes and Effects of predatory publishing

The complex landscape of scientific journals constantly creates new journals via the Open Access movement, while established journals may change their offers and publication models. In this complex market, publishers may create journals with unscientific practices, earning publication fees without providing professional Peer Review, which guarantee scientific qualitiy. Often, these predatory publishers are advertising very aggressively to authors (e.g. via e-mails or at conferences). The author is promised a quick publication process. By imitating the layout of websites from serious publishers or similar names to them, scientific quality is suggested. They often advertise having a high Journal Impact Factor or name renowned scientists in their editorial board, even though these have never been asked, damaging their reputation as well.

The pressure of "publish or perish" increases this problem, because the number of publications and their journal impact factors form the relevant basis for the grant of funds and jobs and drive researchers to a more careless approach to publication. The publication of articles not reviewed thoroughly enough can undermine the reputation of science as a whole. Regarding some discplines, such as medicine, they might even pose a serious threat. Furthermore, articles from predatory publishers are mostly not easy to find and the publisher takes no measures to keep them available in the long term.

How do I notice a predatory journal?

The following criteria (oriented at the Library of Maastrict University) are supposed to help you evaluate Open Access journals, if you are looking for suitable places to publish or are invited as a reviwer. Please note that there are no single, certain criteria to evaluate the seriosity of a journal.

  • Is the ISSN of the journal correct?
  • Is the journal harvested by the databases it says it is?
  • Are the timeframes for the peer review process unrealistic? Serious journals usually need weeks, sometimes months. Very short timeframes might suggest an insufficient or non-existent review.
  • Publication Fees are only applicable after the acceptance of an article, the sum is clearly written on the homepage.
  • Be careful for offers to publish a conference paper (but it can be a serious offer, so check thoroughly)
  • unethical publishers often address the authors themselves
  • Has any library subscribed to this journal? You can find the e-journals the USL Saxony-Anhalt is subscribed to    here.

If you plan to use lesser-known journals for your publication, a thorough check is required before submitting an article. You can use the following information platforms:

In case of doubt, you can always contact the Open Science Team of the USL Saxony-Anhalt ()

The library's measures against predatory publishing

The University and State Library Saxony-Anhalt supports Open Access publications of its researchers through a publication fund, paying for the Article Processing Charges (APC) for publishing in real Open Access journals. Before the fund can be used, the criteria have to be met.

„Fake Science“

The media has used the term "Fake Science" in the context of the predatory publishing problem. It must be recalled, that most of the researchers publishing their article in a predatory journal do so after researching their work to the best of their ability and are not always aware of the problematic publication. Which is why "predatory" is a very precise term, because the authors have become victims themselves. It can be assumed that the number of actual dubious articles is very low. Combined with the relatively low number of predatory journals in the landscape of scientific journals, the share of possibly fake research results is very low. The term "Fake Science" is only correct for a small number of publications, but discredits science as a whole. The problem of predatory publishing has been known for some time and is taken seriously. The most effective way of prevention is information and clarification for scientific authors.

Further Information

Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing (OASPA)   

Predatory Publishing - Herausforderung für WissenschaftlerInnen und Bibliotheken   

‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics (2015) in BMC Medicine von Cenyu Shen* und Bo-Christer Björk   

Journal Evaluation Tool (2017) in LMU Librarian Publications & Presentations von Shilpa Rele, Marie Kennedy und Nataly Blas