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Recognizing Predatory Journals and Conferences

A guide to educate JWU faculty, students and staff about journals and conferences that employ deceptive practices for unmerited financial or reputational gain. Originally created by Pieta Eklund, and reproduced / edited with permission

Call for papers

Invitations & Calls for Papers

Calls for papers seem to arrive daily in your inbox, leaving it up to you to decide whether they are from a reliable or a predatory journal. It’s often pretty clear that the invitations are from predatory journals: they invite you to journals outside of your field, use ridiculously supercilious language, and send their messages from free email providers like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail.

Invitations to publish can come from journals of varying quality. You may receive targeted mail that references your previous publications. This is something that both legitimate and predatory journal publishers do, which can make it difficult to tell one from the other. Even though it can be flattering to hear that you have been chosen, and that "your research is exactly what the journal is looking to publish," you should be wary of such overstatements. 

Questions to consider when receiving a call for papers

  • Have you gotten the same e-mail multiple times? Predatory publishers like to spam you, hoping to make you give in and submit your manuscript.
  • Do they charge authors a fee to publish? A prime tipoff
  • Does the journal's name make sense? Predator journals often have very broad names to cover as many areas of research as possible, whereas legitimate journals tend to be very specific. International Journal of Advanced Research and International Journal of Development Research are two examples of predatory journal titles.
  • Does the journal's scope seem like a good fit for your research? Spam from predatory publishers often invite you to publish outside of your field of expertise. A typical sign that you have received spam from a predatory publisher is that your colleagues receive the same invitation as you do, even though you are active in different fields. 
  • Language generic or overly familiar? If a call for papers is written in a very generic way it can be a sign that it is spam from a predatory journal. On the other hand, predatory journals can go to extremes in the other direction, and send you emails written in such familiar language that it feels very unprofessional. 
  • Poorly written invitation?
    If the email you get is poorly written, with typos or grammatical errors you can be fairly certain it doesn't come from a legitimate journal. 
  • Does the invitation reference an impact factor? If so, try and find out if Clarivate has assigned it a Journal Impact Factor (JJIP) Predatory publishers like to use nonsense indicators like "Science Central Score" and "SJIFfactor". Read more about impact factors and predatory publishers here.
  • Is the e-mail signed by a named person? If the call for papers is unsigned, or signed by "The Editor," that may suggest that the journal is not legitimate. There are also examples of spam from predatory publishers in which the signature appears in very different colors and styles from the body of the message.
  • Are there clear contact details? Make sure that the sender address matches the e-mail given in the contact information. If they are different it could be a sign that something isn't right. The same principle applies to calls for papers sent from generic e-mail providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. Legitimate journals have their own e-mail domains, or editors that use their university-affiliated addresses when contacting authors

what to do

I have sent a manuscript to a predatory journal!

Contact the journal and withdraw your manuscript! The faster you do this the better, it is easier to withdraw the manuscript before it has been accepted. You don't need to state any reason, however, if you want to, you can say that you found errors in the manuscript.