Medicine: Postgraduate Medical Education

What is predatory publishing?

Predatory publishing (also write-only publishing or deceptive publishing) is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not (Wikipedia, 2021).

You can find more information on choosing a journal at the University of Ottawa's Scholarly Communication website - Deceptive publishers.

Evaluating journals for potential predatory behaviours

If you are invited to submit to journals or conferences, or to become an editorial board member, critically evaluate the publisher's legitimacy:

  • Look at the journal's scope to determine if it is overly broad and vague, or includes completely unrelated fields of research.
  • Check the journal archives for highly irregular publication cycles, e.g. 1 issue in one year, 6 in another. Be particularly wary if archives are inaccessible due to repeated website crashes and redirect loops.
  • Check if the publisher has a large fleet of journals that contain very little content.
  • Verify that the journal's peer-review and manuscript handling process is clearly described. If the promised turnaround time for peer-review is very short and features prominently this is usually a sign of a deceptive publisher.
  • Evaluate the professionalism of the website.
  • If it claims to be indexed by a reputable database (e.g. ones from EBSCO, ProQuest, Thompson Reuters, etc.), verify this by checking the database. A librarian can help you with this.
  • Look out for fake indexes like the Index Copernicus or fake impact factors like the Universal Impact Factor (UIF), Global Impact Factor (GIF)
  • Verify that the journal displays its author fee policy. Be wary of invitations to publish that do not inform you of publication fees or ones that only inform you of publication fees after acceptance. 
  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information on the journal site. Be cautious of publishers that provide contact email addresses that are non-professional or not affiliated with the journal.
  • Reputable publishers can become members of an industry association that vets its members like the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association and the Committee on Publication Ethics, verify their membership if they claim to be associated.
  • Check Ulrich'sWeb Global Serials Directory for the journal. If it is not listed, be wary.
  • Finally, use common sense: if something appears suspicious, proceed with caution. Consult with colleagues or contact the Scholarly Communication Librarian.

Evaluation tools

Think. Check. Submit.
Think. Check. Submit. helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications. You can check out this short video on the checklist.  

World Association of Medical Editors (WAME)
WAME has created a document aims to provide guidance to help editors, researchers, funders, academic institutions and other stakeholders distinguish predatory journals from legitimate journals.

Primary goal: to make money
Reputation: questionable
Emails: flattering, persuasive, and repetitive
Databases: none of them included the title
Author is targeted by website, not the reader
Title: suggests a vague or broad scope
Open Access, but publisher retains copyright
Revision: not required, instant publication guaranteed
Yes, it’s predatory!