Predatory publishers are a relatively new but quickly growing problem in academic publishing, particularly in the sciences. These unethical groups exploit researchers’ need to publish and the Open Access (OA) publishing model in order to make a profit, without providing the necessary peer-review and editorial processes of a legitimate journal.
There is no one agreed-upon definition of what makes a publisher predatory, but they often share certain characteristics. After collecting publishing fees (sometimes called “Article Processing Charges,” or APCs), predatory publishers often post articles on their website without any or sub-par peer review. Or, they may even never make the work available at all. They often go to great lengths to pretend that they operate a legitimate OA journal, including creating fake editorial boards and claiming to be indexed in major databases.
Once a predatory journal has put your work online, authors often have no recourse to remove their work from the journal’s website. That’s why it’s important to learn the warning signs and always investigate the legitimacy of a journal you suspect might be predatory.
Similar to predatory journal publishing, predatory monograph publishers charge authors exorbitant fees to publish their manuscript. These publishers target authors of masters and doctoral theses and sell copies of their works without an editorial process. Often, they do not pay any royalties and require authors sign away their copyright. Again, once your thesis or dissertation has been published by one of these predatory groups, it’s nearly impossible to get back and you are unable to publish that work anywhere else.
Predatory book publishing can be hard to identify. Use this checklist from Think. Check. Submit. to check if your publisher is a trusted one.
Predatory conferences are meetings that are set up to appear like legitimate academic conferences, but may be poorly planned or lack editorial control over accepted presentations. They may advertise speakers and events that don’t exist, or may inform paying registrants that the conference has been cancelled and never refund their money.
There is currently less research available on predatory conferences than predatory publishers. Utilize resources such as the Think. Check. Attend. website to evaluate a suspected predatory conference.
Many thanks to Ruth Bueter at George Washington University's Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library, and UNTHSC Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library, whose guides on predatory publishing provided a starting point for this guide.