The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

Authors : Stefan Eriksson, Gert Helgesson

This paper describes and discusses the phenomenon ‘predatory publishing’, in relation to both academic journals and books, and suggests a list of characteristics by which to identify predatory journals. It also raises the question whether traditional publishing houses have accompanied rogue publishers upon this path.

It is noted that bioethics as a discipline does not stand unaffected by this trend. Towards the end of the paper it is discussed what can and should be done to eliminate or reduce the effects of this development.

The paper concludes that predatory publishing is a growing phenomenon that has the potential to greatly affect both bioethics and science at large.

Publishing papers and books for profit, without any genuine concern for content, but with the pretence of applying authentic academic procedures of critical scrutiny, brings about a worrying erosion of trust in scientific publishing.

URL : The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

DOI :10.1007/s11019-016-9740-3

Open Access Temptations: Buyer Beware

Backlash against « megapublishers” which began in mathematics a decade ago has led to an exponential growth in open access journals. Their increasing numbers and popularity notwithstanding, there is evidence that not all open access journals are legitimate.

The nature of the « gold open access » business model and increasing prevalence of « publish or perish » culture in academia has given rise to a dark underbelly in the world of scientific publishing which feeds off academics’ professional needs.

Many such « predatory publishers » and journals not only seem to originate out of India but also seem to have been patronized by academics in the country. This article is a cautionary note to early-career academics and administrators in India to be wary of this « wild west » of the internet and exercise due discretion when considering/ evaluating open-access journals for scholarly contributions.


‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics


A negative consequence of the rapid growth of scholarly open access publishing funded by article processing charges is the emergence of publishers and journals with highly questionable marketing and peer review practices. These so-called predatory publishers are causing unfounded negative publicity for open access publishing in general. Reports about this branch of e-business have so far mainly concentrated on exposing lacking peer review and scandals involving publishers and journals. There is a lack of comprehensive studies about several aspects of this phenomenon, including extent and regional distribution.


After an initial scan of all predatory publishers and journals included in the so-called Beall’s list, a sample of 613 journals was constructed using a stratified sampling method from the total of over 11,000 journals identified. Information about the subject field, country of publisher, article processing charge and article volumes published between 2010 and 2014 were manually collected from the journal websites. For a subset of journals, individual articles were sampled in order to study the country affiliation of authors and the publication delays.


Over the studied period, predatory journals have rapidly increased their publication volumes from 53,000 in 2010 to an estimated 420,000 articles in 2014, published by around 8,000 active journals. Early on, publishers with more than 100 journals dominated the market, but since 2012 publishers in the 10–99 journal size category have captured the largest market share. The regional distribution of both the publisher’s country and authorship is highly skewed, in particular Asia and Africa contributed three quarters of authors. Authors paid an average article processing charge of 178 USD per article for articles typically published within 2 to 3 months of submission.


Despite a total number of journals and publishing volumes comparable to respectable (indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals) open access journals, the problem of predatory open access seems highly contained to just a few countries, where the academic evaluation practices strongly favor international publication, but without further quality checks.

URL : ‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics

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Publishing Ethics and Predatory Practices: A Dilemma for All Stakeholders of Science Communication

Publishing scholarly articles in traditional and newly-launched journals is a responsible task, requiring diligence from authors, reviewers, editors, and publishers. The current generation of scientific authors has ample opportunities for publicizing their research. However, they have to selectively target journals and publish in compliance with the established norms of publishing ethics. Over the past few years, numerous illegitimate or predatory journals have emerged in most fields of science. By exploiting gold Open Access publishing, these journals paved the way for low-quality articles that threatened to change the landscape of evidence-based science.

Authors, reviewers, editors, established publishers, and learned associations should be informed about predatory publishing practices and contribute to the trustworthiness of scholarly publications. In line with this, there have been several attempts to distinguish legitimate and illegitimate journals by blacklisting unethical journals (the Jeffrey Beall’s list), issuing a statement on transparency and best publishing practices (the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association’s and other global organizations’ draft document), and tightening the indexing criteria by the Directory of Open Access Journals. None of these measures alone turned to be sufficient. All stakeholders of science communication should be aware of multiple facets of unethical practices and publish well-checked and evidence-based articles.

Exposing the predators. Methods to stop predatory journals

« The internet is greatly improving the impact of scholarly journals, but also poses new threats to their quality. Publishers have arisen that abuse the Gold Open Access model, in which the author pays a fee to get his article published, to make money with so-called predatory journals. These publishers falsely claim to conduct peer review, which makes them more prone to publish fraudulent and plagiarised research. This thesis looks at three possible methods to stop predatory journals: black- and white-lists, open peer review systems and new metrics. Black- and whitelists have set up rules and regulations that credible publishers and journals should follow. Open peer review systems should make it harder for predatory publishers to make false claims about their peer review process. Metrics should measure more aspects of research impact and become less liable to gaming. The question is, which of these three methods is the best candidate to stop predatory journals. As all three methods have their drawbacks, especially for new but high quality journals, none of them stop predatory journals on its own can. Rather, we need a system in which researchers, publishers and reviewers communicate more openly about the research they create, disseminate and read. But above all, we need to find a way to take away incentives for researchers and publishers to engage in fraudulent practices. »