Texas Tech University

Predatory Publishing Definitions

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Defining Predatory Publishing

Since the term “predatory publishing” came into the awareness of academics in the mid-2000s, the definition has evolved and fractured, with many different organizations and scholars attempting to define what it means for a journal or publisher to be “predatory.” The following definitions show a progression of definitions widely used in scholarly literature related to publishing ethics and predatory publishing, starting with the conceptualization popularized by librarian Jeffrey Beall.


2008 - 2011: The term "predatory publishing" started circulating in academic circles.

Predatory publishers are "those that unprofessionally abuse the author-pays publishing model for their own profit."

Beall, J. (2013). Medical publishing triage—Chronicling predatory open access publishers. Annals of Medicine and Surgery, 2(2), 47-49.


2012: Beall's list of predatory publishers gains recognition and mainstream journals begin publishing articles addressing the topic.

Predatory publishers “publish counterfeit journals to exploit the open-access model in which the author pays. These predatory publishers are dishonest and lack transparency. They aim to dupe researchers, especially those inexperienced in scholarly communication. They set up websites that closely resemble those of legitimate online publishers, and publish journals of questionable and downright low quality. Many purport to be headquartered in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada or Australia but really hail from Pakistan, India or Nigeria.”

Beall, J. (2012). Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature, 489(179). 10.1038/489179a


2017: Scholars in diverse academic fields began examining the issue of predatory publishing empirically, establishing more refined definitions, and honing in on the lack of peer review in many predatory publications.

Journals characterized as 'predatory' [are those] which actively solicit manuscripts and charge publication fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services.

Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., Clark, J., Galipeau, J., Roberts, J., & Shea, B. J. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: Can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine, 15(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9 


2018: Predatory publishing moves from the margins of scholarly discussions to a more central position, with scholarly communications professionals tackling the topic in a number of blog posts, intended for both academics and a wider general audience.

Frequently, authors publishing in predatory journals do not receive the services or benefit from the attributes of the journal they are seeking and believe they have paid for. Such deceptions are a hallmark of predatory journals and commonly include promising (non-existent) peer review, fake impact factors, fake editors and even misleading journal names uncannily similar to well-known, legitimate journals.

Boucherie, S. (2018, August 15). “Predatory” vs trustworthy journals: What do they mean for the integrity of science? Elsevier Connect [Blog Post]. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/predatory-vs-trustworthy-journals-what-do-they-mean-for-the-integrity-of-science


Predatory publishers are "those OA publishers who clearly and deliberately trick researchers – essentially, by failing to provide the promised (or even a meaningful) service and/or deceiving them about the nature of that service, simply in order to extract money from them.”

Poynder, R. (2018, July 20). Falling prey to a predatory OA publisher: Individual failure or community problem?. Open and Shut [Blog Post]. https://poynder.blogspot.com/2018/07/falling-prey-to-predatory-oa-publisher.html


2019: Groups of diverse stakeholders, representing the global academic community begin to form task forces and organized discussions with the goal of collaboratively combatting the issue of predatory publishing.

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.

Grudniewicz, A., Moher, D., Cobey, K. D., Bryson, G. L., Cukier, S., Allen, K., Ardern, C., Balcom, L., Barros, T., Berger, M., Ciro, J. B., Cugusi, L., Donaldson, M. R., Egger, M., Graham, I. D., Hodgkinson, M., Khan, K. M., Mabizela, M., Manca, A., . . . Lalu, M. M. (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defense. Nature, 576, 210-212. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y


Predatory publishing generally refers to the systematic for-profit publication of purportedly scholarly content (in journals and articles, monographs, books, or conference proceedings) in a deceptive or fraudulent way and without any regard for quality assurance.”

COPE (2019). COPE Council. COPE Discussion Document: Predatory Publishing. https://publicationethics.org/predatory-publishing-discussion-document.  https://doi.org/10.24318/cope.2019.3.6


2020: As more stakeholders become aware of the issue of predatory publishing, the nuances and complexities of the issue become more salient.

There is no black and white definition of predatory publishing.

Siler, K. (2020, May 13). There is no black and white definition of predatory publishing. The London School of Economics and Political Science Impact Blog. [Blog Post]. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2020/05/13/there-is-no-black-and-white-definition-of-predatory-publishing/


University Libraries Addressing Predatory Publishing

Increasingly, university libraries in Western countries are positioning themselves as valuable resources for assisting faculty and students in vetting publication outlets. To serve their audiences, many university library websites now host resource sections dedicated specifically to educating scholars on predatory publishing and assisting them to identify credible publishing sources. Additionally, many library websites have attempted to define predatory publishing for their audiences. The examples below represent a range of university descriptions of predatory publishers.

George Washington University

“Predatory journals are journals that charge publication fees to authors without providing legitimate peer review services prior to publication…”

Iowa State University

“A predatory publisher is an opportunistic publishing venue that exploits the academic need to publish but offers little reward for those using their services.”

Sam Houston State University

“The topic of predatory journals, including the definition and scope of the problem, can be controversial. The charging of an open-access author fee does NOT always make a journal predatory. Many journals may charge an author fee for open-access publication, and this practice is not automatically predatory. Predatory journals generally exist only to collect these (often exorbitant) fees, and publish articles as an afterthought, without rigorous (or any) review by editors or peers. Their sole aim is to make money, not to evaluate and disseminate high-quality research which advances scholarship in a discipline.”

Texas Tech University

“With the rise of open access publishing, some publishers now charge author fees as a way to finance the cost of publishing articles without having to charge subscription fees.  However, some publishers have begun to take advantage of the author pays model and require payment from authors without providing adequate editorial services.  The result is that articles are often solicited and accepted for publication in new journals without the customary peer review and editing that is characteristic of established journals.  These predatory journals often have scientific names and list prominent academics on their editorial boards without their permission, making them difficult to distinguish from legitimate journals and publishers.”

University of Arizona

“Predatory or deceptive publishing are terms describing publishers or entities that exploit authors by charging publication fees (commonly known as article processing charges) yet don't deliver on their promise of the editorial and publishing services (such as peer review) that are associated with legitimate publishers. Deceptive publishers typically prey on a researcher's need to publish in order to get an academic appointment, gain promotion, or achieve tenure. These publishers often engage in deceptive and unethical business practices and make false claims about a journal's impact factor, indexing, high standards, and peer review.”

University of Cambridge

“There is no one standard definition of what constitutes a predatory publisher but generally they are those publishers who charge a fee for the publication of material without providing the publication services an author would expect such as peer review and editing…”

The University of Texas at San Antonio

“There is no one agreed-upon definition of what makes a publisher predatory, but they often share certain characteristics. After collecting publishing fees (sometimes called “Article Processing Charges,” or APCs), predatory publishers often post articles on their website without any or sub-par peer review. Or, they may even never make the work available at all. They often go to great lengths to pretend that they operate a legitimate OA journal, including creating fake editorial boards and claiming to be indexed in major databases.”

University Grants Commission (Indian Higher Education Governing Body)

“Some of the typical characteristics of predatory journals are:

  • Guaranteed acceptance of manuscript upon submission
  • No peer-review process
  • Pay and publish, irrespective of quality of manuscript or relevance to journal scope
  • No journal website and/or no clarity on aims and scope of the journal
  • Use of misleading and inaccurate self-generated impact factors
  • No editorial board
  • Publication of obviously poor-quality content and/or content that is clearly outside the stated scope of the journal”