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Predatory publishers and conferences: red flags

Old red flag and blue sky, red banner waving against blue sky

Predatory journals and conferences are infiltrating the modern landscape of medical publishing, disseminating a high volume of fake or unsubstantiated data. The need for academics to gain international recognition and the current ‘publish or perish’ climate, have inadvertently led to the growth of “parasitic publishers” who exploit the publishing fee associated with the well-intended open-access model. In a recent PharmaTimes article, Dr Peter Cherry, vice president of Medmeme, equipped readers with his top tips to spot predatory journals and conferences.

Cherry notes that important differences between legitimate and predatory journals should act as red flags, such as those identified by Professor Jeffrey Beal, scholarly communications librarian and curator of Beall’s List – a blacklist of “potential, possible or probable” predatory publishers that was taken down in early 2017. Other red flags include the absence of a named editor or a claim of international scope that is contradicted by a lack of geographical diversity in the editorial board. However, the biggest red flag, according to Cherry, is a publisher’s promise to publish within a short timeframe, such as a week, an impossibly short duration in which to conduct a comprehensive peer review.

When it comes to checking conference authenticity, Cherry recommends examining the online presence of a conference; unprofessional conference websites that contain errors, have missing information or lack a footer containing legal copyright information should ring alarm bells. Assessing conference impact metrics can also indicate the legitimacy of a conference, as can reviewing the quality and history of social media posts, including whether interactions with key opinion leaders are visible, particularly if organisers claim these individuals are registered with the event.

Together, these red flags provide researchers with a toolkit to recognise predatory publishers and conferences and to evade the threat posed by their unethical practices.


Summary by Emma Prest PhD from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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