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Writing for Publication: Predatory Publishers and Conferences

Writing is Sharing: Resources for new and seasoned authors


Learn about the problem of predatory publishing and how to protect yourself.

What Is a Predatory Publisher?

A predatory publisher charges fees to publish an article without providing the services necessary for producing high quality scholarly journals.  It is not always simple to tease out the goals of a publisher.     


How did predatory journals become such a problem?

Bowman explains "Open-access is a model for publishing scholarly, peer-reviewed journals on the Internet that relies on sources of funding other than subscription fees."     

Both well-established and emerging publishers have developed various models for open-access publishing.  All such models require ongoing support to be sustainable.  Legitimate publishers may choose to have authors, their institutions or grant funding pay a fee to have an article freely available worldwide.  The amount of the fee varies greatly.  Some journals contain a mix of open-access and subscribed content, and others are entirely open-access.

Critics have noted that some authors are too easily tempted by the promise quick turnaround.  Others fault repositories such as PubMed Central for failure to apply stringent acceptance criteria.   On the other hand, small publishers may have totally ethical intentions but inadequate financial means to provide services at the level expected of established scholarly journals.   

Open-access publishing models developed in response to several concurrent trends: 

  • Researchers' frustration at submitting articles without compensation while their institutions subscribe to that same content at increasing cost
  • Researchers' desire to share their work without economic barriers for readers worldwide
  • Readers' preference for online access
  • Everyone's desire to preserve natural resources
  • Publishers' need for make a profit  and sustain high quality services (peer-review, editing, production, and relationship with indexers) maintain digital archives, and seek readership.  Academic publishers, whether as well-established and emerging publishers must find a sustainable ways of doing this.  

Bowman JD. Predatory publishing, questionable peer review, and fraudulent conferences. Am J Pharm Educ. 2014 Dec 15;78(10):176. doi: 10.5688/ajpe7810176. PubMed PMID: 25657363; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4315198.

Protect Yourself with Knowledge

Understand the process

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) explains the process well in  its Recommendations for Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals.

How can an author differentiate legitimate open access journals from predatory ones?

Laine C, Winker MA. Identifying predatory or pseudo-journals. World Association of Medical Editors. February 15, 2017. .

Laine C, Winker MA. Identifying predatory or pseudo-journals. Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2017 Jun 15;27(2):285-291. doi: 10.11613/BM.2017.031. Review. PubMed PMID: 28694720; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5493175.

This excellent article provides both background reading and tools for discerning which journals are from predatory publishers.  This article appeared in a legitimate Open Access journal available via the PubMed Central (PMC) repository.  It has been indexed in Medline since 2011.

Laine and Winkler provide tables summarizing well-known efforts to answer this question.  Reviewing the tables in reverse order is one way to progressively apply criteria until reaching a conclusion.

  • Table 4 -  "Warning Sign" features
  • Table 3 -  Checklist from "Think. Check. Submit" Initiative
  • Table 2 -  Criteria for Receipt of the DOAJ Seal (Directory of Open Access Journals)
  • Table 1 -  Beall's Criteria for Identification of Predatory Journals and Publishers (often seen as casting too wide a net)


Infographic from 

Clarifying questions to ask when looking at the 10 points.

Checklist for identifying predatory publishers with brief questions to ask while considering each point.

In summary, the 10 points to consider are:

  • contact information
  • scope of the journal
  • editorial board
  • author fee poilicy
  • quality of articles
  • peer review process
  • indexing information
  • retraction policy
  • pitch for authors
  • email invitation

Infographic CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 Editage Insights
Accessed December 30, 2018. Available from:


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