What is a predatory journal?
Most open access (OA) journals abide by some set of rigorous criteria, such as the membership criteria set forth by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). However, there are other OA journals and that do not publish reputable work and are considered “predatory,” meaning they only exist to exploit researchers and collect author fees.*
Predatory journals can often be difficult to distinguish from reputable OA journals, and some bogus publishers have been getting increasingly sophisticated. There are some red flags to look out for, however.
*Note that an author fee alone is not an indication that a journal is predatory. Because OA journals are not typically funded by the standard publishing model of subscription sales and/or advertisements, they are often reliant upon author fees (after peer review and/or acceptance) to cover publication costs. This has become a widely accepted publishing model in the past decade or so.
Signs a journal may be predatory 
- Author or editorial board member solicitation via email (sometimes spam, sometimes personalized)
- Expedited “peer review” process/rapid publication promised
- Bogus impact factor
- Author fee expected before peer review or acceptance
- Odd capitalization and punctuation; misspellings and poor grammar; and generally unprofessional web/email design
- Images are distorted and/or fuzzy
- Title that is suspiciously similar to well-known journal’s title (i.e. Journal of Communication in Healthcare [legitimate] vs. Journal of Healthcare Communications [predatory])
- Manuscript submission is via email
- No retraction policy
- No mention of copyright/author retaining copyright despite being open access
- Communication with publisher is only available via web contact form and/or personal email account(s)
Think Check Submit is an excellent resource for determining whether or not you should publish in a journal or participate in a conference.
Predatory…or just fledgling?
Sometimes, even after looking for red flags, it’s still difficult to tell whether a journal is legitimate or not. For instance, new journals (especially from developing countries) can be mistakenly labeled as predatory.
If you are having difficulty determining a journal’s legitimacy, simply let us know. We have a few additional tricks up our sleeve that can help vet a source and determine reliability, and we’re happy to help.
AVSL’s trusted journals list
This is AVSL’s vetted list of trusted vision science publications, reviewed and identified by a group of AVSL reviewers.
Other open access trusted journal lists
While it can be challenging to distinguish legitimate from fake when it comes to open access, there are some lists of trustworthy OA journals and publishers available.
Strange-but-true tales of predatory publishing
(Guide originally published by the New England College of Optometry Library in September 2017)