Anneliese Taylor
Anneliese Taylor
Anneliese is the Head of Scholarly Communication. Contact Anneliese for help evaluating journals and publishers, assessing research impact, and for scholarly publishing resources.

Predatory Publishing: Dealing With Publishers Acting Unethically

“Predatory publishing” describes publishers that produce scholarly journals and conferences with questionable peer review and business practices. These publishers are also known for not adhering to ethical publishing and research practices. Despite the controversy and bias that is often associated with the name, a group of biomedical science stakeholders formed a consensus definition of predatory publishing in 2019. They decided to stick with “predatory” due to the term’s pervasiveness:

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.

Agnes Grudniewicz et al. Nature 576, 210-212 (2019)

Predatory, or deceptive, publishing has grown over the years. One study estimated that in 2014, 420,000 articles were published in deceptive journals. Citations to scholarly articles by NIH-funded researchers are included in PubMed, regardless of the journals they are published in, and publications from deceptive journals may be included in the database. In 2017 the NIH issued a 2017 notice to alert awardees and recommend resources for identifying credible journals.

Avoiding deceptive publishers

There are several things prospective authors can evaluate about a new or unfamiliar journal or book publisher before submitting their manuscript for publication. The non-profit group, Think.Check.Submit. offers criteria checklists for journal article publishing and book and chapter publishing.

We recommend researchers focus on these key areas when evaluating a journal:

  • Aims and scope (or About) statement for its clarity and transparency
  • Caliber of articles published in the journal
  • Instructions for authors for their rigor and comprehensiveness
  • Which literature databases the journal is indexed in

See our Evaluating Journals and Conferences & Avoiding Deceptive Publishers guide for more information, including links to free and subscription resources that vet journals for quality.

What to do when a publisher behaves unethically

Though it happens infrequently, you may find yourself facing unethical behavior by a predatory publisher. For example:

  • You inadvertently submitted your work to the wrong journal, or realized after submission that the journal is not trustworthy. However, the journal demands payment or won’t allow you to withdraw your manuscript.
  • A journal lists you as a member of their editorial board without your permission and ignores your requests to be removed.
  • Another author has plagiarized your work and the journal ignores your claim or refuses to take down the plagiarized work. 

See our recommended steps for how to handle a publisher acting unethically. Katie Fortney outlines these steps in more detail on the UC Office of Scholarly Communication blog.

Contact the Library for help or to request a presentation on this topic to your group.

Photo courtesy of Mikhail Nilov via Pexels.