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Predatory Publishing

Statement on Article Publication Resulting from NIH Funded Research

The below information was provided from the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Scholarly Communications. 

Information on Predatory Publishing and Open Access Journals

What is a predatory publisher/journal?
Predatory publishers are essentially a byproduct of the open-access movement. In an effort to provide free access to readers, some journals have passed costs onto authors themselves. The journals charge processing fees that can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Predatory publishers exploit this open-access business model for profit by charging authors the processing fees but failing to provide the editorial rigor required of legitimate academic publications.

Predatory publishers can be deceptive in various ways. They may misrepresent their location, stating, for example, that they’re located in the United States when they are actually based in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, or some other country. They may also claim submissions go through a rigorous peer review process when no such process exists. Some predatory journals have even listed prominent academics as members of editorial boards without their knowledge.

Some predatory publishers also spam researchers. They solicit manuscript submissions without mentioning the publication fees. After a paper is accepted and published, they send invoices to the author(s).

Does this mean that all open access publishing is a scam?
No, open access publishing is not always a scam, but it is prudent to vet any journal prior to submitting an article or assuming an editorial position.

How can you tell whether an open access publication/journal is predatory?
The Emory University Office of Scholarly Communications has developed criteria that can be used to evaluate open access publications. These criteria are set forth below. The Office is also available to provide assistance to scholars. 

Is any action being taken against predatory publishers?
Yes, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken action against a large academic journal publisher and alleged that it was “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.” More information

Criteria for Evaluating the Quality of Open Access Journals

What does it mean for a journal to be open access?
Open access is frequently defined as literature that is online, free to readers, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. With subscription barriers removed, publishing your article open access can reach readers from across the globe. However, while open access journals are free to read, they are not free to produce.

Some publishers have article processing charges (APCs) which are billed to the author as a way to fund the production of the journal. This new business model, and the relatively low bar of entry to publish online, has encouraged some unscrupulous publishers to create new open access journals which do not follow accepted scholarly publishing practices, including editorial selection and peer review.

How do I evaluate an open access journal?
The same indicators of quality for subscription journals are applicable to open access journals. If you are invited to publish in an open access journal, you will want to visit the journal’s website and do some searching on the web to determine: 

  • Whether fees are charged, and if so, clear information on those fees.
  • Whether the journal is clear about the type of peer review used.
  • Whether you recognize the editorial board members. If so, do the web pages of the editorial board members list their affiliation with the journal?
  • Whether the journal is included in indexes you frequently use.
  • Whether the publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or the OpenAccess Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA).

Are there tools or guides to assist with an evaluation of open access journals?
Yes, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) includes only open access journals which have applied  to DOAJ and demonstrated that they conform to DOAJ’s Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. There are over 9,000 journals currently included in DOAJ. 

The tool Think Check Submit will walk you through the process of evaluating whether the journal is right for your research.

Is there someone at Emory who can assist me?
If you would like assistance evaluating a journal, please feel free to contact the Scholarly Communications Office at, your subject librarian in Woodruff Library, or your informationist in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library. 

Also, you can apply to the Emory Open Access Publishing Fund for assistance with article processing charges if no alternative funding is available to you. This is a fund of last resort, and limited funding is available. All applications are evaluated on the quality criteria outlined above.

Printable version (PDF)

February 2017

"How to spot" a predatory or vanity conference

  • No address or phone number is a bad sign, as legitimate conferences always have full contact information.

  • If a contact name or address is available, a quick search online will likely reveal if the name is disreputable or that the address is an unidentified house or unsigned office.

  • If parts of the email or website don’t make sense or contain spelling and grammar mistakes, then avoid the conference. For example, a recent “Microbial Ecology Conference” promised “indigenous knowledge which is the result of datum and experience collection of local individuals.” Sometimes, however, the mistakes are subtler. One conference email promised: “Your papers will go through double-bind reviewing process.”

  • Keynote speakers and conference organizers shouldn’t pay huge fees for a conference.

  • Peer reviews take time, so if a conference submission gets accepted quickly, then you know something is wrong.

  • Another hint: multiple fields and disciplines are covered at the same venue, same dates or same conference – or the conference scope is too broad.

Read more in the article, "Poor-quality, predatory conferences prey on academics"