How to spot predatory publishers

What is a predatory publisher?

Generally predatory publishers are those who exploit the open access model by charging a fee for the publication of material but without providing the services an author would expect such as peer review and editing. predatory publishers typically contact potential authors directly via email to offer their services and encourage publication.  many also offer academic conferences.  

 “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”

Grudniewicz, A. et al (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature, 576, 210-212.

Why are they a problem?

By not offering expected services such as peer review or editing, these publications allow poor quality research tp be put into circulation.  By appearing to be published in an academic journal which has checked its content this research masquerades as legitimate, something that can have potentially damaging consequences.  Even if the individual piece of research is sound there is little academic merit to be gained having it sit alongside work that is substandard or even wrong.  




  • Is the publisher open about its practices?
  • Do they publish on a vast range of topics?
  • Assess the quality of the invitation - does it come from a named individual and an official email address?


  • Are author fees clearly explained and easy to find?
  • Are there hidden fees you need to be aware of e.g., are you or your library expected to buy a copy of your publication?


  • Are the rights of the author after publication clearly explained and easy to find?
  • If the article is to be published open access is a creative commons license mentioned?


  • Is the review process clearly described?
  • Is the stated time for review realistic?
  • If an impact factor is given for the journal, is it correct?


  • Are the members of the board and named editor in chief listed on the website?
  • Are any of the names recognizable as experts in the field?
  • Are board members aware that they are listed?


  • Is the publisher connected to a recognized institution?
  • Are they affiliated with a recognized industry association?


  • Does the website have a professional look and feel?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?


  • Is the journal indexed by the typical databases in the field?
  • Are other journals by the same publisher indexed?


  • Are these of a high standard?
  • Are there basic spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Are there mistakes in the title or abstract that may indicate that the publisher or reviewers are not familiar with the field?


There may be valid reasons why you answer no to some of these questions.  Publication practices vary from country to county and it is important to consider cultural differences.  Be careful not to use any of these factors in isolation and always use your judgment.

(This work was licensed under a creative commons cc-by 4.0 license by the office of scholarly communications, Cambridge University Libraries)

See also Choosing your journal - be aware of predatory journals