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Open Access

This guide provides an introduction to Open Access, "the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment."

Issues in Open Access: Predatory or Deceptive Journals

Predatory or Deceptive Journals

One problem associated with the "author pays" model of Open Access publishing is "predatory" or "deceptive" journals. It can be complicated to describe what makes a journal predatory, but here is one definition (from Grudniewicz et al. (2019). Predatory journals: No definition, no defence. Nature, 576(7786), 210–212.

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.

Deceptive practices take many forms, such as

  • Listing editorial board members who do not exist or who have not agreed to serve.
  • Using titles that are similar to titles of established journals.
  • Misrepresenting a journal's metrics, such as its impact factor.
  • Collecting publishing fees from authors but neglecting proper peer review and other best practices.

In addition to being unethical, these practices result in the publication of unreliable, flawed, and even fraudulent scholarship.

Identifying deceptive journals

It's important to remember that some of the characteristics associated with predatory journals, such as the lack of an address for a physical office location, or the lack of a policy on digital preservation, can also be associated with journals that conduct legitimate peer review but are under-resourced. They may be run by scholarly societies instead of established publishers, or they may be based in lower-income countries. In some cases it can be hard to say whether a journal is clearly deceptive. So how can you avoid these journals?

Use your judgement

Think. Check. Submit. logo

If a journal seems questionable, you can perform your own due diligence. A great resource to help with this is Think. Check. Submit. They provide a checklist of questions to ask about journals which can help you to make your evaluation. This can be time-consuming, but it provides a process you can use to evaluate any journal at the time you are considering it.

Refer to other resources

There is no definitive list of journals neatly separated into "legitimate" and "deceptive." But there are resources that can provide quick indications to help your evaluation.