The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article March 4, 2012 titled “‘Predatory’ Online Journals Lure Scholars Who Are Eager to Publish” describing the hidden danger of open access. Many new publishers and journals have been established during the past 5-10 years to take advantage of scholars who need to publish their work for advancement. Some of these “predatory” publishers have set up journals to earn money rather than advance scholarship.
Calls for papers or invitations to serve on editorial boards from unfamiliar sources and unknown journals need to be evaluated. Images included in the information below were taken from actual calls for papers from predatory journals and publishers. They are included to provide examples of items that might be a cause for concern.
The table below contains criteria that can be checked to help authors identify a reputable journal and how to check those criteria. The third column, Items of Concern, contains examples that might indicate that a journal or journal publisher is less-than reputable. Items in Bold are explained or linked below the table. Suggestion: Open this page in another window to use the resources mentioned in the table.
|Criteria to Check||How to Check||Items of Concern|
|The call for papers is in your field.||
Knowledge of subject.
The call for papers is not in your subject area (e.g. a science librarian being asked to submit a paper to a business journal).
The call for papers comes from a free e-mail service (yahoo or gmail).
The call for papers is marked as SPAM by your e-mail system.
|The journal website is well written and designed and provides information on the journal's scope and purpose, the types of articles they publish and the peer review process.||
Evaluate the website, its design and language usage.
Look for information on the journal's scope and purpose.
The website is poorly written (grammar and language [Call for Paper vs. Call for Papers]).
Journals on the publisher's website lack content.
Images are distorted or sourced from other Internet sites.
|The journal website provides information on author and other fees up front.||Check to see if the journal website provides information on publishing costs, if any.||The journal does not provide any information on author fees.|
|Information about author rights and copyright and re-use is available on the journal's website.||Look for information about copyright and author rights on the publisher or journal website.||
The journal says it is open access but claims copyright to articles.
The website does not give information about author rights or copyright.
|The journal is included in the reference list of an article that you are writing or have written.||Check your reference list.||The journal is not in your reference list.|
|The journal is highly regarded by peers (colleagues, co-workers, advisors or co-authors). The journal's publisher exhibits at conferences in the field.||
Ask peers in your department or field about the journal or its publisher.
Check the list of exhibitors from a conference in your field to see if the publisher exhibits there.
Your colleagues have never heard about the journal or its publisher.
The journal's publisher does not exhibit at conferences.
|The journal is included on discipline ranking lists or listed as a priority journal in a subject index in that field.||
Check Discipline Ranking Lists.
Search a topic in a subject index to find journals that publish in a field (and their rankings). See explanation below.
The journal is not on any list of journals in the discipline or a field.
The journal is not indexed by a subject index or does not appear in the list of publications when a topic is searched.
|Journal is published by a reputable scholarly organization or publisher.||
Knowledge of subject.
Search a subject index for articles from the journal.
Check the Scholarly Societies Project.
Check the list of Predatory Publishers and Predatory Journals.
Check the URL ownership.
Information on the journal publisher cannot be found.
The journal is not indexed in a subject index.
The publisher claims it is a scholarly organization but is not listed in the Scholarly Societies Project.
The journal title or publisher is included on the list of predatory journals or publishers.
URL ownership is private (no owner is listed on the ownership record).
|The journal website states it is indexed (CHECK ALL CLAIMS).||Check to see if the journal is indexed in a subject index (See link to Index & Database Title Lists below).||
The journal website uses icons of database vendors, but does give the title of an index available from that vendor.
The journal claims to be indexed by directories (Ulrich’s, Cabells) which provide contact and descriptive information about journals.
|The journal website states that it has an impact factor.||Search the title in the Web of Science Master Journal List.||If the title is not in the Master Journal List, it does not have an impact factor.|
|The articles in the journal are sound (methods are correct, conclusions are valid).||Read some of the articles to see if the articles make sense and the methods and conclusions are correct.||The articles do not make sense.|
|The journal is owned by a number of libraries.||Search the journal's title in WorldCat to see how many libraries own the journal (see note of caution to the right).||
If few libraries own the journal, then it could be suspect.
CAUTION! Some libraries added all of the titles in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to their catalog. Some of those journals turned out to be less than reputable and are no longer included in DOAJ.
|The editor(s) and editorial board are experts in the journal's subject or field.||
Search for publications by the editor or people on the journal editorial board.
Search WorldCat for books they have written.
Search WorldCat Dissertations for their dissertation or thesis.
Publications by the journal editors and editorial board cannot be found in a subject index, WorldCat or Dissertation & Theses.
The editors & editorial board members have not published in the journal.
The journal provides metrics on how often an article has been downloaded or cited.
|Look to see if there are any statistics showing how often a journal article has been read or downloaded.||The journal does not provide any data on article downloads.|
|The journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).||If it is an open access journal, check to see if it is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).||If the journal is open access and not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, it could be on the list of Titles Removed from DOAJ (see link below).|
|The journal publishes articles by a number of different authors.||Check the articles to see who has published in the journal.||Many of the articles are written by a single author and they do not make sense.|
|The journal uses persistent identifiers for articles (DOI [digital object identifier] or handle) that are permanently associated with articles. If the journal’s URL changes, the link to the article does not.||Check to see if articles published in the journal have a DOI or handle.||The publisher does not provide persistent identifiers for articles (making it difficult to link to them).|
|Evaluate the journal titles on the publisher's website.||Compare it to a list of well-known journals in the field, such as those available from subject indexes.||
The journal title is similar to that of a major journal in the field.
Are they broad? (Example: Accounting & Marketing; Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology; Humanities & Technology).
The publisher has several journals with similar titles (Example: International Journal of Research in Commerce & Management; International Journal of Research in Computer Application & Management; International Journal of Research in Commerce, Economics & Management; International Journal of Research in Commerce, IT & Management).
|The journal provides access to supporting data.||Check the articles in the online journal to see if they provide a link to the data that was used in the research described in the article.||There are no links to supporting data in any articles.|
|Information about the publisher can be easily found (URL ownership given; street address is listed).||
Search for the URL ownership.
Check the street address in Google Maps.
Search the organization or company in NexisUni.
Search for URL ownership (GoDaddy or some other site). Is URL ownership private?
The street address maps to a house, apartment complex, mailbox store or a strip mall.
Information about the company or organization cannot be found in NexisUni.
|The journal publisher’s website provides information about the publisher and their mission.||Check for information about the publisher or organization, its mission and their other publications.||The publisher's website provides little or no information about the journal's publisher, mission and other publishing activities.|
|The publisher's financial information can be viewed to determine whether they have resources available to provide long-term support for a journal.||
Check for financial information on the publisher’s website or in NexisUni.
Check the publisher’s website for information about their mission.
The publisher or organization cannot be found in NexisUni.
The publisher or organization's website does not give financial information or a mission statement.
|The journal publisher is a 501(c)(3) organization.||
Check IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check to see if the journal publisher is listed.
If not in the IRS database, check for state exemption in the State Charitable Organizations database list..
|The journal publisher claims it is tax exempt but cannot be found in IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check or their state’s list of tax-exempt entities. (Federal Tax Exempt is preferable!)|
|The publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).||Check the membership lists of COPE and OASPA.||The publisher is not a member of any publishing organization, such as COPE or OASPA.|
The journal or publisher provides information on how content will be preserved if it ceases.
|Does the journal participate in LOCKSS or CLOCKSS? Check the list of participating journals and publishers.||
There is no information on how the journal content will be preserved if it ceases to exist.
|The journal publisher also organizes conferences.||
Check to see that the publisher is a recognized scholarly organization.
Is the organization on the Scholarly Socieites Project list for that subject?
|Scholarly conferences are normally organized by professional organizations, universities or companies that are leaders in a field. If the journal publisher is not an organization or university, then be skeptical about the publisher's journal (and its conferences).|
|Check for hijacked journals.||
Search the title in WorldCat to find the name of the publisher or sponsoring organization. Find that organization's website to learn more about the journal.
The journal is on the list of hijacked journals.
The URL for the journal is not the same as the one in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory or WorldCat.
If you find the same or similar titles with two different URLs or publishers, check both publishers. Many legitimate publishers have warnings about the fake counterpart on their websites.
Searching for URL Ownership
Information on URL ownership can be found using a site like GoDaddy's "Who Is" service or WhoIs.net. Do an Internet search for the words "Who Owns URL." A list of sites that supply ownership information can be found. Search the root URL (e.g. www.rooturl.com, without the http:// and ending characters). You may be asked to confirm that you are not a robot by checking a box or some other scheme. The URL ownership that is given should include the name of an organization or the person responsible for the site, and their address. Sites that say that the domain ownership is private, or that are registered by a domain privacy service should be considered suspect.