Predatory publishing from A to Z

During 2019, Cabells published on its Twitter feed (@CabellsPublish) at least one of its 70+ criteria for including a journal on the Cabells Journal Blacklist, generating great interest among its followers. For 2020, Simon Linacre highlights a new initiative below where Cabells will publish its A-Z of predatory publishing each week to help authors identify and police predatory publishing behavior.

This week a professor I know well approached me for some advice. He had been approached by a conference to present a plenary address on his research area but had been asked to pay the delegate fee. Something didn’t seem quite right, so knowing I had some knowledge in this area he asked me for some guidance. Having spent considerable time looking at predatory journals, it did not take long to notice signs of predatory activity: direct commissioning strategy from unknown source; website covering hundreds of conferences; conferences covering very wide subject areas; unfamiliar conference organizers; guaranteed publication in unknown journal; evidence online of other researchers questioning the conference and its organizers’ legitimacy.

Welcome to ‘C for Conference’ in Cabells’ A-Z of predatory publishing.

From Monday 17 February, Cabells will be publishing some quick hints and tips to help authors, researchers and information professionals find their way through the morass of misinformation produced by predatory publishers and conference providers. This will include links to helpful advice, as well as the established criteria Cabells uses to judge if a journal should be included in its Journal Blacklist. In addition, we will be including examples of predatory behavior from the 12,000+ journals currently listed on our database so that authors can see what predatory behavior looks like.

So, here is a sneak preview of the first entry: ‘A is for American’. The USA is a highly likely source of predatory journal activity, as the country lends credence to any claim of legitimacy a journal may adopt to hoodwink authors into submitting articles to them. In the Cabells Journal Blacklist there are over 1,900 journals that include the name ‘American’ in their titles or publisher name. In comparison, just 308 Scopus-indexed journals start with the word ‘American’. So for example, the American Journal of Social Issues and Humanities purports to be published from the USA, but this cannot be verified, and it has 11 violations of Journal Blacklist criteria, including the use of a fake ISSN number and complete lack of any editor or editorial board member listed on the journal’s website (see image).

‘A’ also stands for ‘Avoid at all costs’.

Please keep an eye out for the tweets and other blog posts related to this series, which we will use from time to time to dig deeper into understanding more about predatory journal and conference behavior.

Beware of publishers bearing gifts

In the penultimate post of 2019, Simon Linacre looks at the recent publication of a new definition of predatory publishing and challenges whether such a definition is fit for purpose for those who really need it – authors

In this season of glad tidings and good cheer, it is worth reflecting that not everyone who approaches academic researchers bearing gifts are necessarily Father Christmas. Indeed, the seasonal messages popping into their inboxes at this time of year may offer opportunities to publish that seem too good to miss, but in reality, they could easily be a nightmare before Christmas.
Predatory publishers are the very opposite of Santa Claus. They will come into your house, eat your mince pies, but rather than leave you presents they will steal your most precious possession – your intellectual property. Publishing an article in a predatory journal could ruin an academic’s career, and it is very hard to undo once it has been done. Interestingly, one of the most popular case studies this year on COPE’s website is on what to do if you are unable to retract an article from a predatory journal in order to publish it in a legitimate one. 
Cabells has added over two thousand journals to its Journals Blacklist in 2019 and will reach 13,000 in total in the New Year. Identifying a predatory journal can be tricky, which is why they are often so successful in duping authors; yet defining exactly what a predatory journal is can be fraught with difficulty. In addition, some commentators do not like the term – from an academic perspective ‘predatory’ is hard to define, while others think it is too narrow. ‘Deceptive publishing’ has been put forward, but this, in turn, could be seen as too broad.
Cabells uses over 70 criteria to identify titles for inclusion in its Journals Blacklist and widens the net to encompass deceptive, fraudulent and/or predatory journals. Defining what characterizes these journals in just a sentence or two is hard, but this is what a group of academics has done following a meeting in Ottowa, Canada earlier in 2019 on the topic of predatory publishing. The output of this meeting was the following definition:
Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.” (Grudniewicz et al, 2019)
The definition is presented as part of a comment piece published in Nature last week and came from a consensus reached at the Ottowa meeting. It is a pity that Cabells was not invited to the event and given the opportunity to contribute. As it is, the definition and accompanying explanation has been met with puzzlement in the Twittersphere, with a number of eminent Open Access advocates saying it allows almost any publisher to be described as predatory. For it to be relevant, it will need to be adopted and used by researchers globally as a test for any journal they are thinking of submitting to. Only time will tell if this will be the case.

From all of us at Cabells, we wish everyone a joyous holiday season and a healthy New Year. Our next blog will be published on January 15, 2020.

Cabell’s Blacklist Criteria v 1.0


This post serves as an archive location for the Cabells Journal Blacklist evaluation criteria v.1.0. In this version, the criteria were grouped by subject matter. In later versions, criteria is grouped according to relative severity and subject matter. Journals most recently evaluated under this version will display a link to this post.


This policy establishes the criteria for identifying deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory journals for inclusion in Cabell’s Blacklist. Cabell’s Blacklist Review Board uses the following criteria to evaluate all journals suspected of deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory practices.


The following criteria are considered when evaluating a suspected journal:


  • The same article appears in more than one journal.
  • Hijacked journal (defined as a fraudulent website designed to look like a different specific established academic journal for the purpose of leveraging that journal’s brand to solicit publications).
  • Information provided to auditors from the journal does not match information on the journal’s website.
  • The journal or publisher is claimed to be a non-profit when it is actually a for-profit company.
  • The journals’ publisher hides or obscures relationships with for-profit partner companies.
  • The owner/editors of the journal falsely claims academic positions or qualifications.
  • The journal is associated with a conference that exhibits predatory behaviors.
  • The journal displays or reports having an ISSN that has not been issued to it.
  • Insufficient resources are used to prevent or eliminate author misconduct (resulting in repeated cases of plagiarism, self plagiarism, image manipulation, etc.).
  • The title of the journal references a country or demographic that does not substantially relate to the content or origin of the journal.
  • The journal uses language to suggest that it is industry leading, but is, in fact, a newly created journal.
  • The title of the journal is copied or so similar to that of an established journal so as to cause confusion between the two.

Peer Review

  • No editor or editorial board is listed on the journal’s website.
  • Listed editors do not actually exist or are deceased.
  • The journal lists individuals on an editorial board without their knowledge or permission.
  • The founder of the journal’s publishing company is the editor of all of the journals published by the company.
  • There exists evidence showing that the editors/review board members lack sufficient academic expertise to reasonably qualify them to be publication gatekeepers in the journal’s field.
  • The journal enlists board members who are established researchers but are exempt from any contribution to the journal except for the use of their names and/or photographs.
  • Gender bias on the journal’s editorial board.
  • For a journal that claims to be ‘international,’ little geographical diversity of board members.
  • Inadequate peer review practices (i.e., a single reader reviews submissions, peer reviewers evaluate papers outside of their field of study, etc.).
  • The journal’s website does not display a clearly stated peer review policy.


  • The journal’s or its publisher’s website does not identify a physical address for the publisher or gives a fake address.
  • The journal or its publisher uses a virtual office or other proxy business as its physical address.
  • The journal’s website does not identify physical editorial address for the journal.
  • Dead links on the journal’s website.
  • Poor grammar and/or spelling throughout the website.
  • There is no way provided to contact the journal’s editors or only has a web-form.

Publication Practices

  • The journal publishes papers that are not academic at all, e.g., essays by laypeople or obvious pseudo-science.
  • No articles are actually published or the archives are missing issues and/or articles.
  • Falsely claims indexing in well-known databases (SCOPUS, DOAJ, JCR, Cabells, etc.).
  • Falsely claims universities or other organizations as partners or sponsors.
  • Accepts machine-generated or other “sting” abstracts or papers.
  • No copyediting.
  • The publisher displays prominent statements that promise rapid publication and/or unusually quick peer review (less than 4 weeks).
  • Little geographical diversity of authors and the journal claims to be international.
  • Similarly titled articles published by same author in more than one journal.
  • The editor of a journal publishes research in her own journal.
  • Authors are published several times in the same journal and/or issue.
  • The journal purposefully publishes controversial articles in the interest of boosting citation count.
  • The journal publishes papers presented at conferences without additional peer review.
  • The name of the journal’s publisher suggests that it is a society, academy, etc. when it is only a publisher and offers no real benefits to members.
  • The name of the journal’s publisher suggests that it is a society, academy, etc. when it is only a solitary proprietary operation and does not meet the definition of the term used or implied non-profit mission.

Indexing & Metrics

  • The journal uses misleading metrics (i.e., metrics with the words “impact factor” that are not the Clarivate Impact Factor).
  • The journal or its publisher is not listed in standard periodical directories or is not widely catalogued in library databases.


  • The journal’s or its publisher’s website seems too focused on the payment of fees.
  • The journal offers options for researchers to prepay APCs for future articles.
  • The journal states there is an APC or other fee but does not give information on the amount.
  • The journal or publisher offers membership to receive discounts on APCs but does not give information on how to become a member and/or on the membership fees.
  • The author must pay APC or publication fee before submitting the article (specifically calls the fee a publication fee, not a submission fee).
  • The journal does not indicate that there are any fees associated with publication, review, submission, etc. but the author is charged a fee after submitting a manuscript.

Access & Copyright

  • States the journal is completely open access but not all articles are openly available.
  • There is no way to access articles (no information on open access or how to subscribe).
  • No policies for digital preservation.
  • The journal has a poorly written copyright policy and/or transfer form that does not actually transfer copyright.
  • The journal publishes not in accordance with their copyright or does not operate under a copyright license.

Business Practices

  • Emails from journals received by researchers who are clearly not in the field the journal covers.
  • Multiple emails received from a journal in a short amount of time.
  • Emails received from a journal do not include the option to unsubscribe to future emails.
  • The journal has been asked to quit sending emails and has not stopped.
  • No subscribers / nobody uses the journal.
  • The journal or publisher operates in a Western country chiefly for the purpose of functioning as a vanity press for scholars in a developing country.
  • The journal’s website does not allow web crawlers.
  • The journal copyproofs and locks PDFs.

Cabell’s Blacklist Criteria v 1.0


This policy establishes the criteria for identifying deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory journals for inclusion in Cabell’s Blacklist. Cabell’s Blacklist Review Board uses the following criteria to evaluate all journals suspected of deceptive, fraudulent, and/or predatory practices.

The following criteria are considered when evaluating a suspected journal: