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Publishing Strategies

Scholarly Communication: Publishing Strategies

Predatory Journals

Predatory or Vanity Publishers

So-called predatory publishers are those that lack discernible scholarship, academic rigour or credibility. They use aggressive practices to recruit authors and editors. Predatory publishers’ opaque operations and editorial processed are suggestive of an intention to deceive both authors and readers (Butler, 2013).

Predatory Publisher Red Flags

  • No indexing or very limited indexing in major periodical indexes – Ulrich’s, etc. 
  • One or two people being editor in chief for tons of journals
  • Tiny editorial board or a massive one, where it seems possible people may have been added to it without their consent 
  • Editors that never write anything in the editorial comment or letters to the editor segments – and may not even know they were “added” to the board
  • Editors whose subject areas do not match with the journal
  • A publisher that looks iffy – possibly a vanity press
  • A publisher that has only been in business for a year or two and doesn’t seem to have any roots or history – they may be new, or maybe they are fly-by-night
  • Bad comments on faculty discussion boards like the Chronicle’s or others – or no comments at all, maybe indicating no one knows about the publisher
  • Demands for payment up front before publication – not always inappropriate, but if you have other red flags, worry about it
  • Promises to publish, guarantees you’ll get through peer review, etc. 
  • Suspicious peer review processes
  • No citations in JCR, Web of Science, or Scopus
  • Having very few library holdings for a journal or a publisher in WorldCat – and it’s also worth checking who bought a book or a subscription – if only a few libraries in the world bought something, why?
  • Strangely overpriced article processing charges (APCs), journal subscriptions, or books that seem unusual compared to their competition – trying to make a quick fortune
  • Poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation in solicitations or things that are odd such as being asked to do things way outside of your area of expertise



  1. Predatory publishing practices can be found in conferences and conference proceedings. Be wary of open calls for submissions and selection panels of renowned experts when combined with no evidence of scholarly standards.
  2. It is important to remember that predatory, or vanity, publishers have been around long before the Open Access movement, or before anything was even published online (e.g. ‘vanity’ book presses) meaning there is no direct correlation between Open Access and these publishers; the Open Access movement is simply another, current platform for these publishers to gain a foothold.
  3. Defining what makes a high quality scholarly journal is much easier than defining what makes a predatory or vanity journal, therefore, a recent trend has been to focus on ‘whitelisting’ and not ‘blacklisting’.

How to Spot a Predatory Publisher

The Mitochondria vs. The Midi-chlorians


Be wary of lists of predatory publishers, as all publishers on the list may not, in fact, be predatory. For example, sometimes publishers from developing or non-North American countries are labeled as predatory unfairly simply due to less-than-perfect English or lack of Westernized names on the review board. Even major publishers have accidentally published ‘fake’ journals and published articles that went through ‘fake peer review’ (Grant, 2009, Oransky, 2015).