Predatory Publishing

The problem of predatory publishing, i.e. publishing without complying with the necessary standards of quality assurance, is increasingly coming into the focus of science policy, the media and the public. Science is based on the highest quality standards. This applies equally to research as well as to the publication of research results in scientific organs. In particular, the peer review process by proven, independent experts is an essential guarantee for compliance with high scientific quality standards.
In July 2018, the Alliance of German Science Organisations adopted a statement on the quality assurance of scientific publications. The Senate of the German Rectors' Conference followed on 2 October 2018 with its own statement.
Freedom of science means that researchers can decide for themselves how and where to publish their results. The University of Bayreuth therefore urges its researchers to carefully select publication organs and to examine them thoroughly, especially in the case of unknown or new publication organs. The following list of questions will help you to find your way around.

What is Predatory Publishing?

In predatory publishing quality assurance (peer review, indexing, etc.) and editorial processing of articles often do not take place or do not meet the standards of good scientific practice.
Predatory publishing can frequently be found in the field of Open Access (OA) publishing. The concept of Open Access is misused, and you are charged the usual APCs (Article Processing Charges) for OA publishing, without any corresponding services being provided: your article will not be reviewed or insufficiently reviewed, not be edited or insufficiently edited, not be indexed or insufficiently indexed in the usual subject databases, usually not be made permanently available to the public and will be lost sooner or later. Since your rights of use have often already been transferred to the predatory publisher upon payment of the APCs, sometimes even at submission stage, you can no longer publish your article elsewhere.

Why is Predatory Publishing so dangerous?

As a scientist, you are the primary victim of the Predatory Journals. Not only do you lose the money you have spent on publication, you also finance a publication format that deprives you of the chance of a clearly visible scientific publication. At the same time, your scientific reputation will be permanently damaged once your name has been associated with a Predatory Journal.
It should be noted that the scientific quality of an article does not depend on the journal in which it is published. The quality can only be assessed at the level of the individual publication. An article is therefore not automatically unscientific or "fake science" if it has appeared in a Predatory Journal.
Nevertheless, your article may not meet the necessary quality criteria for good scientific work due to insufficient or missing peer review in Predatory Journals. If the journal is not considered scientifically reliable, your contribution loses its significance, becomes irrelevant and cannot be quoted. Since articles published in Predatory Journals are not available on a long-term basis, the verifiability of your scientific work cannot be guaranteed. For young scientists in particular this traceability is of great importance for their careers. Since almost no Predatory Journal is indexed in the large citation databases such as the Web of Science or Scopus, the visibility of your research results in these journals is also severely restricted.
Finally, as an author in a Predatory Journal, you unintentionally become a supporter of these abusive business practices. Your university's reputation is also at risk, as repeated publishing in Predatory Journals by members of a university is seen as a result of a lack of research performance by its academic staff and a lack of quality assurance by the university.

How do I recognize Predatory Publishing?

The following indicators may but do not have to be signs that a journal is a Predatory Journal. If the criteria listed below occur cumulatively, you should definitely check whether you are dealing with a trustworthy publication organ.
  • Journal is not indexed in one of the known citation databases like the Web of Science or Scopus. Since Predatory Journals are hardly to be found here, this is one of the fastest ways to check the reliability of an unknown journal.
  • Aggressive marketing. An established scientific journal does not need this. Therefore be careful when receiving advertising emails from new, unknown OA magazines.
  • Sometimes Predatory Journals imitate the style and names of established journals to deceive researchers.
  • Publisher cannot be identified: the publisher's name is unknown, contact data is not available or inconsistent and contact by telephone, mail and email is not possible.
  • You are not familiar with the journal, you have never read any articles from it before. If you are a junior researcher, you should contact more experienced colleagues if in doubt.
  • Editors / members of the journal's editorial board are unknown. You may even be invited to act as an editor yourself.
  • If the names of respected scientists and scholars are listed as members of the Editorial Board, they usually have not been asked (doublecheck whether the activity for the journal is also mentioned on the person's own webpage).
  • Use of own, partly fictitious citation metrics or false information of known metrics, e.g. Journal Impact Factor seems too high.
  • The journal's online presence is diffuse: tables of contents are poor or missing, and current articles in alleged OA journals are difficult to find or to download.
  • Authors' guidelines are not defined, there is no information on the peer review.
  • There is no concrete information on costs. In the case of OA magazines, the APCs (Article Processing Charges) are mostly hidden.
  • Information on the indexing of the journal in research and citation databases is missing.
  • The journal is not indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  • The publisher is not a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
  • The publisher is not a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

The „Think Check Submit“ initiative which is supported by publishing and library associations makes similar and further helpful recommendations.


What are Predatory Conferences?

Similar precautions can be taken to avoid scam conferences. There are now a large number of providers of supposedly scientific conferences that are also aggressively marketed via spam emails.
After paying your participation fee, you will hear nothing more from the organizer or merely that the conference is taking place on a much smaller scale than announced or only virtually. Your participation fee will not be refunded. Your submission for the proceedings will be published without editorial work and has the same disadvantages as a publication in a Predatory Journal.
Therefore, please be careful when receiving invitations to conferences. You should be familiar with the conference organizers and chairs. The conference should be organized either by a professional association known to you or in close cooperation with such an association.

What does the Universität of Bayreuth do against Predatory Publishing?

Open-Access-Publication Fund

The University of Bayreuth supports the goals of OA ( Open Access Strategy of the University of Bayreuth ). As a support and incentive for authors, a publication fund is available which can pay for 100% of the APCs required for publication in an OA journal. Funding is available for publications in OA journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). In addition, funding is possible if experts from the respective scientific community recommend relevant OA journals or if the researchers have refuted the reservations of the OA commissioners of the university library with regard to journals that have not been quality-checked.

Information and advice for scientific university staff

The WiN Academy / University of Bayreuth Graduate School supports the implementation of the "Maßnahmen zur Sicherung der Standards guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis bei der Betreuung von Doktorandinnen und Doktoranden, insbesondere im Promotionsverfahren" recommended by the university administration on 12 July 2011. Avoiding Predatory Journals is part of good scientific practice. The doctoral students and junior researchers of the University of Bayreuth are sensitised to the topic within the framework of related courses of the WiN Academy, in cooperation with the University Library. The issue of predatory journals is also addressed in courses on online publishing and Open Access and illustrated with case studies.
The OA team of the University Library is available to all scientists for advice on all aspects of OA publishing and is happy to help e.g. find a suitable, valid scientific journal. If you have any questions, please contact:

Email filter

The university encourages its employees and researchers to enter the domains of apparent senders of predatory spam in the spam filter of their e-mail programs.
Please turn to us with any further questions you may have:

Clemens Engelhardt

Tel. 0921 / 55 - 3429

Dr. Ursula Higgins

Tel. 0921 / 55 - 7880
Funding and grants

Ursula.Higgins@uni-bayreuth.de