Predatory publishing

The next online COPE Forum, Monday 5 November 2018, 4pm-5.30pm (GMT), follows the usual format where members' cases are presented for discussion and advice from all those participating in the Forum. Register for the Forum (COPE members only)

The Forum discussion topic this month is around Predatory Publishing. Add your comments to the discussion below (non-members also welcome to comment):

What are the issues?

  • Predatory publishing is generally defined as for-profit open access journal publication of scholarly articles without the benefit of peer review by experts in the field or the usual editorial oversight of the journals in question. The journals have no standards and no quality control and frequently publish within a very brief period of time while claiming that articles are peer-reviewed. Those who publish in these journals are frequently invited to serve on editorial boards or become editors with no reference to relevant experience to assume such roles
  • Confusion between some legitimate open-access peer review journals and predatory open-access journals
  • Predatory journals sometimes include legitimate scholars on their editorial masthead without the permission or knowledge of those individuals
  • The Name Game – Predatory publishers frequently choose names that are very similar to the names of legitimate peer-reviewed journals
  • Problem with the title ‘predatory publishing’ as treating authors, who knowingly publish in predatory journals, as innocent victims
  • Who publishes in predatory journals? Many junior faculty and faculty from developing world and countries where English is a second language
  • The related problem of predatory conferences and predatory proceeding publications
  • Public loses faith in scholarly research and public government grants are questioned in terms of legitimacy of products of research
  • Role of global university research rankings in adding to the pressure of publish or perish

Recent discussion

On prevalence

August 10, 2018, The Guardian stated that “more than 175,000 scientific articles have been provided by five of the largest ‘predatory open-access publishers’, including India-based Omics Publishing group and the Turkish World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, or Waset”.

On the label predatory publishing

July 10, 2018, The Economist, “…the ‘predatory’ label has proven broadly misleading. Authors typically know what’s up, or at least should when visiting journal websites rife with glaring errors of language and wild claims, such as rigorous peer reviews that can be completed in a jiffy.” [Further, there appears to be]…apparent collusions or at least the turning of a conveniently blind eye, appears most common in poorer countries.”
October 30, 2017, The New York Times, Gina Kolata notes “…its increasingly clear that many academics know exactly what they’re getting into, which explains why these journals have proliferated despite wide criticism.”

Questions and possible solutions

  • Whose problem is it?
  • What do we have within our power that we can do?
  • Is general advice at all useful, like Think.Check.Submit?
  • Might preprints solve the problem anyway?
  • How are publication ethics enforced globally? Is this even realistically possible?
  • Approaches to address the problem of poor countries where scholars are trying to publish in  English which is not their first language
  • Help with publish or perish pressures, especially among junior scholars
  • Mitigation of global rankings (or not)
  • Other…..

This will be discussed at the start of the next COPE Forum on Monday 5 November. Please do leave any comments below, whether or not you are planning on joining the meeting

Comments are reviewed and, on approval, added below.

Please login as a member or register as a non-member to post comments


  • Posted by R BARIK, 19/10/2018 8.27am

I am invited for reviewing manuscripts for various journals in the field of cardiovascular science especially clinical and intervention cardiology. I have few publications as first author. I am also editorial board member of a few journals.What I found on the journey is as follows:

1. Frequently I found the co-authors are not aware that there is submission including them.
2. Many submissions do not have have standard checklists attached [consent form, ethical approval, copyright form really signed by all the authors and plagiarism statement].
3. Many a times, a single paper is published in several journals just modifying the content or title.
4. For most submissions where publication fully depends upon payment of the author(s), the quality of paper is bad/duplicate/does not add anything to existing literature.
5. I come from a developing country where, to some extent, the research is supported by grants but there is no financial support for publication as an open access article in high impact journal.
6. Is it always necessary that the author must take ethical committee approval for publishing an article irrespective of type of article?

  • Posted by Emilie Wang, 25/10/2018 5.12am

Thanks for this opportunity. I would like to ask 2 questions.
1. Is there a website to list out all the predatory journals/publishers?
2. Will COPE work with individual countries, especially developing countries with English as a second language, to prevent publishing at these predatory journals?
Thank you!

  • Posted by Amitabh Prakash, 30/10/2018 11.59pm

Wile the established publishing houses have 'standard operating procedures' for launching new titles, I suspect that genuine new publishers do not have easy access to guidance on the ethical steps to launch a new journal. Perhaps COPE might consider preparing such a guide/check-list, i.e., what should be kept in mind when thinking of launching a new title, when and where to register the new title, how to recruit an Editor in Chief and establish a genuine Editorial Board, what systems are available for online manuscript management, standard peer review methods and time lines, various open access and subscription models, when and where to apply for indexing, essential information that should be freely available on the journal home page, etc.

  • Posted by Jessica Polka, 31/10/2018 12.28am

In response the question, "What do we have within our power that we can do?":

If all journals published the content of their peer reviews (anonymously or not), authors and other stakeholders could directly assess the quality of the review process at any journal. Journal editors and publishers can make their own process more transparent while calling for others to do the same. Specifically, over 300 journals have now signed a letter committing to (or affirming that they already do) offer the option to publish peer review reports (, and additional signatories are always welcome.

  • Posted by Mark Hager, 31/10/2018 5.29pm

I dedicated my summer 2017 editorial to this topic. My advice to authors was to be aware of questionable outlets and resist the pull to submit to them. I also describe (in the editorial) my own 'secret shopping' with a predatory journal so that I could report on the communication and timeline. If you're interested in seeing the editorial, it's at

  • Posted by Mohamad Mostafa, 4/11/2018 11.02am

Very important and hot topic. I would also like to draw attention to the predatory conferences/meetings problem. These questionable conferences are only seeking the registration fees and are offering presentation opportunities for the researchers.

These conferences usually mention fake indexing claims about the conference proceedings just to attract as much researchers as possible.

Looking forward to atteding the forum!

With best wishes,
Mohamad Mostafa
Publishing Editor & Crossref Amabsssador

  • Posted by Phaedra Cress, 7/11/2018 8.53pm


Your comment prompted mine. I hope the link is useful to you.


  • Posted by Trevor Lane, 5/11/2018 11.41am

For journals to check their editorial office procedures against the 10 COPE Core Practices, COPE has guidance in the form of this infographic:

Unethical journals lie on a spectrum, with legitimate but poorly managed or low-quality journals (which may or may not charge authors for open-access publishing) on one end, and scam/predatory journals that cheat authors on the other. The latter often use mimicry (similar name and website design to those of a reputable journal, or impressive-sounding editorial board, indexes, metrics) and may use an active-search strategy to target people with spam, or a sit-and-wait ambush strategy as authors come across their website in a search-engine search.

For some authors, there is symbiosis or mutualism rather than a predator-prey relationship, because those authors knowingly use a journal's service as a vanity press/publisher. There are also sham journals, which may not be predatory per se and are transparent about fees but operate as a vanity publisher.

Although there are safelist and watchlist approaches, ultimately, it’s a case of caveat emptor (buyer beware). Think Check Submit has the basics at and mentions checking journal membership of COPE, DOAJ, and OASPA. Those groups use the 16 Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing as part of their entry criteria. can be used to check journal websites and sample articles.

Apart from authors, there are others who need to take heed; perhaps Think Check Submit can also be Think Check Read/Cite, Think Check Hire/Promote/Award.

There is also Think Check Attend (for conferences) at .

Trevor Lane (COPE Council Member)

  • Posted by Phaedra Cress, 7/11/2018 8.53pm

Predatory Conferences were mentioned on this webinar and in the above comments. For anyone interested in learning more, I wrote about this last year and the article is free and open for all here:

  • Posted by Gearóid Ó Faoleán, 13/11/2018 8.41am

In the introductory notes to the discussion on 'predatory publishing', it was concerning to see the focus almost solely on open-access publishing. The idea that the practise is synonymous with this one publishing model is erroneous. Traits associated with 'predatory publishing' are apparent in journals and publishers of all business and publishing models (Smith, 2017).

Thankfully, the forum discussion covered a broader range of issues.

I think overall, it would benefit the forum to consider the practises by which journals or publishers are labelled 'predatory' and how we all have a responsibility to address these practises to ensure transparent scholarly publishing models and quality peer review.


Smith, K. L. (2017). Examining publishing practices: moving beyond the idea of predatory open access. Insights, 30(3), 4–10. DOI: