Predatory publishing has been on our radar for quite a while now, but mainstream media coverage and awareness is rapidly intensifying. We have perhaps finally reached a point where the damage being done to the credibility of research may be enough to move the stakeholders involved — universities, funders, and publishers, to finally take some action. Just what that action will be is unclear — like most of our lingering problems, if there was an easy solution, it would have happened long ago. In light of the increasing debate, I thought it worth revisiting some of our coverage of predatory publishing over the years.

predator monster model
A model of a Predator from the ‘Predator’ film franchise

Kent Anderson first wrote about the phenomenon back in 2012, in his post, “Predatory” Open Access Publishers — The Natural Extreme of an Author-Pays Model. It’s interesting to see that even in this early post, the focus was on the author-pays model, rather than a condemnation of open access as a whole. Also interesting to see how much unconditional support there was (particularly in the comments) for Jeffrey Beall’s list, which later fell under so much controversy.

Speaking of Beall, a trio of posts — two interviews, the first in the form of a podcast from 2013, and the second as a written interview, done after Beall had taken a public swipe at The Scholarly Kitchen. And finally, Joe Esposito’s post entitled, “Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall“, where he tried to come to grips with Beall’s increasingly problematic rhetoric.

Rick Anderson also wrote about some of the problems with Beall’s list, as well as with the poorly-defined concept of predatory publishing, suggesting instead that we focus on deceptive and bad faith practices.

Two contrasting posts, the first by guest author Phaedra Cress, discussing the plight of authors caught in a predator’s net, and one from me, suggesting that not all authors that publish in predatory journals are being fooled, and that there are some who see it as a rational response to poorly governed academic incentive structures. And Angela Cochran reminds us that there are many different types of scams going on, some less visible than the predatory journals themselves.

So how do we start to solve this problem? Three posts with suggestions:  Rick Anderson on how a blacklist could be done better than what Beall offered; Kelly Cobey and Larissa Shamseer’s list of potential solutions; and Siân Harris with an initiative to help those journals that are honestly trying to do a legitimate job improve their processes.

While sometimes it feels like this is a subject we’ve talked to death, we’re only really just finishing the first phase here — to borrow a phrase from recovery, admitting you have a problem is the first step. There’s still a ways to go, but it finally feels like there is a collective will to take action against predatory publishing.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


3 Thoughts on "Revisiting: Six Years of Predatory Publishing"

Thank you for this overview David. It feels timely to reflect on this discussion. Another action point, which it would be great if people could share far and wide, is for researchers, librarians, university research administrators and others to fill in the short Think. Check. Submit. survey – It should only take about 10 minutes and will help the Think. Check. Submit. team (I’m one of the committee) develop this education initiative in a way that is most helpful to researchers as they seek to navigate the often tricky journal landscape, librarians as they guide them, and those in universities who want to ensure that their staff – and those they want to employ or promote – are not publishing in dubious places. Thank you.

Very useful, David. As you know the topic of “fake science” has been widely discussed in the German media (and on Liblicense) over the past few weeks, but primarily with a focus on whether researchers are being duped, or whether they are “gaming the system” of tenure, promotion, etc, I’m still quite proud of the Think. Check. Submit. partnership ( although it is only intended to prevent very early career researchers from being fooled.

It’s to be emphasized that OA Journals provide good opportunities of publishing to researchers.
It must meet specific requirements, such as peer review, actual publishing, no publishing fees.
The peer review is probably the stumbling block.
The control of the publishers should take into account reports from researchers.
In order to simplify the proceedings, the indexing list could be limited to publishers instead of journals.

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