Searching for scientific, evidence-based information, presents certain challenges. One of these is to flush out predatory journals (or predatory journals). 

It happens that articles published in these journals with dubious ethics slip into the search or monitoring results. Results from reputable databases like Pubmed are not immune. Are these all bad articles? Maybe not. 

Despite the legitimacy of some of the authors and articles published in these journals, it is better to take a close look, as the guarantee of quality is not there. The dissemination of these predatory journal articles has harmful consequences for everyone and for science. 

What is a predatory journal? 

In 2019, Agence Science-Presse presented a definition reaching consensus among several researchers and librarians across 10 countries: 

Predatory newspapers and publishers are entities that prioritize their personal interest over academia and are characterized by false or misleading information, shy away from best editorial and publishing practices, a lack of transparency and / or use of indiscriminate and aggressive canvassing practices. [translation by the author] 1

 How to recognize these predatory journals? 

Here are some characteristics of predatory journals or publishers:

  • Editors send out solicitation emails (of poor grammatical quality) for article submission
  • The email addresses used are not professional (corresponding to the journal)
  • Fees are charged for submitting an article (even if there has been a solicitation)
  • The editorial board is fictitious (or nonexistent) 

Shamseer et al. also mention several other characteristics including grammatical errors on the site, unclear description of the manuscript management process, lack of a retraction policy, etc.2 

It is also important to note that to give some semblance of credibility to their reviews and sites, some of the predatory publishers create dummy metrics. 

Why is it important to pay attention to this situation? 

  • As the predatory journals are numerous, it is impossible to recognize them easily and to clean the research results, it is necessary to develop support tools
  • The quality of the information presented may be lower since, among other things, peer review does not exist for these articles.
  • There are no quality checks for plagiarism or ethical approval
  • There is a risk of damaging your reputation as a researcher or librarian 

Possible solutions 

Here are three tools for reporting predatory editors or journals: 

A predatory journal does not follow standard publishing practices and aims to deceive authors for its own financial gain. Whether you are a researcher, a doctor or an information professional, we are all concerned. Like fake news, bad science not only has financial repercussions, but it also undermines public confidence. 

1 Revues prédatrices: une définition. Agence Science-Presse. Friday December 20, 2019. Available at: https://www.sciencepresse.qc.ca/actualite/2019/12/20/revues-predatrices-definition 

2 Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. Shamseer L. BMC Medicine. March 16, 2017. Available at: https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9