OA in Action: The plague of predatory publishers

Today’s Open Access Week 2016 blogpost is by Professor Roger Watson (@rwatson1955 on Twitter). Roger has written about the phenomenon of predatory journals extensively and discusses a typical experience below.


The plague of predatory publishers

‘Greetings Esteemed Professor, your paper has already been accepted for the 23rd Quadrennial International Conference on Microfluidics in The International Hilton Towers Conference Centre, Dubai. Your paper is also guaranteed publication after peer review in a special issue of the prestigious International General Journal of Scientific Modern Microfluidics (Impact Factor 25) and will be published open access online within one week of submission’


Sounds too good to be true… it certainly is. These emails are the work of predatory publishers who run bogus journals and bogus conferences. Clearly, in the above case they missed their mark by a long way but sometimes an email comes which is in your own field. The fact that some of my colleagues and students ask me if it is worth submitting to these shows that not everyone understands the dangers. These predators work exclusively in the online open access environment and have ridden on the back of the legitimate open access publishing industry.


What do the predators want?

They want your money. The above conference invitation (factional) will have a hyperlink at the foot ‘Registration’ where you can part with the money required to attend, be accommodated and have your paper published. All you have to do is book the airfare. The problem is that when you arrive at your destination, all you may find are a few other bewildered academics who have been similarly conned – you will have no hotel booking and the conference will not exist. You, or your university have lost money and if the paper is published you have lost copyright and no other publisher will accept your work. You have wasted a publication which will not be returnable in REF and which will not enhance your CV.


What were the signs you should have spotted? Almost any email beginning with ‘greetings’ and ‘esteemed’ is predatory. If ‘guaranteed publication’ and ‘peer review’ appear in the same sentence, avoid at all costs; this is definitely predatory. Otherwise, bona fide conferences tend not tout for business and there are a limited number of prestigious conferences in any field. Check the email and links carefully. Often hyperlinks to the ‘Prestigious Scientific Committee’ and the ‘Prestigious Editorial Committee’ lead to nothing. If they do lead to a list of names – do you know any of them? If you do, then email them. These predators are not beyond using names without permission.



Clearly you must avoid sending your work to predatory publishers and sending money to predatory publisher conferences. There are common sense ways to do this by running some of the checks I outline above. With journals, you can easily check that the publisher is reputable. If an impact factor is claimed, check via Thomson Reuters or Web of Science. There is a very sensitive, possibly over-inclusive, list of predatory publishers and predatory journals known as Beall’s list. A complementary way to check journals is the Directory of Open Access Journals. You can also listen to my podcast on the topic of predatory publishers and journal hi-jackers.



Roger Watson PhD RN FRCP Edin FRCN FAAN

Professor of Nursing, University of Hull, UK

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Advanced Nursing

Editor, Nursing Open


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