Predatory Publishing

Risks associated with electronic publishing

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in reports on the topic of fake science, which has also brought the well-known problem of "predatory open access" back into focus. According to this, some dubious publishers and societies have emerged, who publish supposedly "scientific" journals, which have titles and layouts similar to well-known and established scientific journals. These so-called predatory journals are advertised with fake ISSNs or impact factors. Although these journals are pseudoscientific, they charge authors publication fees (article processing charges - APCs) for this fraudulent business practice.

The editors of these journals engage in aggressive advertising, actively writing to researchers and inviting them to publish. There are no quality assurance procedures such as peer review in these journals, even though such procedures are often mentioned on the homepages. A commentary on this development was published in the Nature journal.
In addition to the Directory of Open Access Journals, the website of the "Think Check Submit" initiative can serve as a useful tool for identifying reputable scientific journals. The initiative, which is supported by publishing and library associations, provides scientists with a checklist that can be used to verify the trustworthiness and seriousness of a scientific journal. In order to illuminate the problem of predatory journals to authors worldwide, the three-step guide "Think Check Submit" has been translated into numerous languages. (see Helmholtz Open Science newsletter 2017/11/30)

In a statement on so-called predatory publishers, adopted by the Senate of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) on October 2nd, 2018, universities acknowledge their responsibility for scientific quality assurance.

How to recognize predatory publishing – possible indications

How can you avoid falling victim to a predatory journal? The following tips provide a short overview without claiming to be complete.

  • Check whether the journal you want to publish in is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Quality Open Access Market (QOAM) is also an indicator for good quality open access journals.
  • Does the ISSN exist and is it correct?
    You can check this in the journal database.
  • Is the given ranking factor correct?
    Only journal titles that are listed in the Web of Science database have an impact factor. In Scopus, the so-called Citescore or SNIP (Source Normalized Impact Factor per Paper) is determined and listed to allow for comparison (Scimago Journal & Country Rank - SJR).
    You can check this by searching the journal title in these databases. Please note that this bibliometric value is generated only after a publication period of three years
  • Does the homepage or cover letter you received contain many spelling errors and strange grammatical phrases?
    Such anomalies are characteristic of fake journals, as the texts are often translated by automatic translation software programs before being distributed to numerous countries.
  • Do the deadlines (peer review, publication) seem strange to you? Are they conspicuously short?
    Since there are de facto no real quality review procedures, these journals can tempt you with deadlines that are unusually short for the specific scientific area.


Recently founded journals in particular are not included in the initiatives or databases (yet). Therefore, it is always useful to include several criteria.

Use checklists:

Find open access journals:

Check membership of publishers in initiatives:

Please note that black sheep do not only exist solely in open access publishing. There are also scientifically unsound or prank articles in established subscription journals from time to time, demonstrating that peer review has its limits. However, do not be deterred. If you have any questions on this topic, we are happy to help you and identify such publishers.

What can you do if there is no suitable open access journal?

  • Check self-archiving policy, e.g. with the help of
    -> Use repositories such as KLUEDO
    -> Important: Clarify rights and take embargo periods into account (tool Sherpa Romeo for journals)


Julia Heitmann-Pletsch

Central Library
Building: 32
67663 Kaiserslautern


Dr. Katharina Niederprüm

Deputy OA-Coordinator
Building: 14
67663 Kaiserslautern


Janine Reichert, Nicolas Roth, Melanie Sparre

Central Library
Building: 32
67663 Kaiserslautern