Monday, 7 February 2022

Predatory journals - any old tosh for money

Predatory journals have been defined by The Economist as those "which make use of the popular “open-access” model—charging fees to authors, rather than to readers—to publish any old tosh for money" (2020); a definition which I find particularly illuminating!

We often think we should be great at identifying predatory journals, but a colleague of mine was caught a while ago. Publishing in dodgy places certainly does nothing for our reputations, and hangs around like a bad smell in a confined space. Predatory journal numbers are exploding: from 1,000 English language journals in 2010 to over 13,000 now (The Economist, 2020). What is more, we can compare the number of sound journals in specific nations: India, 300 reliable journals compared to 4,400 dodgy ones; in Nigeria, a handful of reliable journals to 1,100 dodgy (The Economist, 2020).  Ouch.

However, there are some academics who have volunteered their time to create sites with lists of dodgy journals, which - although often dated due to the academics being prosecuted, harassed, and over-burdened - do provide us with some double-checks, so we don't mistakenly publish somewhere we shouldn't:

  1. Beall's List (2021): this is the most famous list, run by Jeffrey Beall, tenured associate professor of library science of the University of Colorado. Jeff hunted down journals with 'fake' peer review processes: basically publishing anything with a paid 'open access' fee. Running very helpfully from 2008 to 2017. Jeff and UC were threatened with defamation lawsuits and the grief just got too much for Jeff, hence the close. It seems that his Uni may not have stood beside him (Blasken, 2017). 
  2. Stop Predatory Journals (2021): the kernel of SPJ's list was taken from the last published list of Jeff Beall's work. Again focusing on those publications which don't complete a 'proper' peer review and charge publication fees. A SPJ says, these "journals and publishers cheapen intellectual work by misleading scholars, preying particularly early career researchers trying to gain an edge. The credibility of scholars duped into publishing in these journals can be seriously damaged by doing so. It is important that as a scholarly community we help to protect each other from being taken advantage of" (Stop Predatory Journals, 2021).
  3. Brezgov (2019): This article was written and published for the site, Scholarly Open Access, in 2019, also based on Beall's list. It said that  "This list will be updated throughout the year at the blog Scholarly Open Access,". However, I have not been able to find an updated list anywhere on SOA site, and have a request in to SOA to find out where that link is.
  4. HED Journal Recognition System (2021): A new kid on the block, based in Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how this system shakes out over time. Worth a look though

While we will need to check all four lists to be sure that our intended journal is not on the list, at least we have the four to trawl. Thanks to the diligence and perseverance of these academics, it helps us to be more careful out there.



  • Beall's List. (2021). Beall's List: of Potential Predatory Journals and Publishers. 
  • Blasken, P. (22 September 2017). Why Beall’s blacklist of predatory journals died.
  • Brezgov, S. (27 May 2019). List of Predatory Publishers 2014.
  • HEC Journal Recognition System. (2021).  Journal Search.
  • Stop Predatory Journals. (2021). List of Predatory Journals.
  • The Economist. (30 May 2020). How to spot dodgy academic journals.

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