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What makes a journal ‘predatory’?

Jeffrey Beall is a librarian who until recently curated a black list of predatory journals and publishers on the Scholarly Open Access website. Beall defined a list of criteria that he used to assess journals and publishers for legitimacy, which has been criticised by some for being inconsistent and non-evidence based. A new study published in BMC Medicine compared the characteristics of journals on Beall’s list with those of legitimate open-access and subscription-based journals in order to identify key features of potential predatory journals. The authors discussed the results of this study in a recent blog.

The authors identified several important differences between predatory journals, or illegitimate entities as the authors refer to them, and those that were presumed legitimate. Specifically, illegitimate entities often had unprofessional websites that promoted fake impact factors and lacked detail on ethical policies and reporting standards. Most offered substantially cheaper author processing fees compared with credible journals, often without providing editorial services or robust peer review. Furthermore, papers published in illegitimate entities were not typically indexed in traditional databases such as Medline, although may be identified through online searches.

The authors concluded that to prevent this type of journal from prevailing, potential authors should refrain from using them as a means to get their work published quickly and cheaply. However, with the ‘publish or perish’ mantra still going strong in academia, the temptation to take this easier route to publication still appears to be too hard to resist for some.



Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

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