Update: A Journal Hijacking

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted in August, 2021.


As members of our journal evaluation team work their way around the universe of academic and medical publications, one of the more brazen and egregious predatory publishing scams they encounter is the hijacked, or cloned, journal.  One recent case of this scheme uncovered by our team, while frustrating in its flagrance, also offered some levity by way of its ineptitude. But make no mistake, hijacked journals are one of the more nefarious and injurious operations carried out by predatory publishers. They cause extensive damage not just to the legitimate journal that has had its name and brand stolen, but to medical and academic research at large, their respective communities of researchers and funders, and, ultimately, society.

There are a few different variations on the hijacked journal, but all include a counterfeit operation stealing the title, branding, ISSN, and/or domain name of a legitimate journal to create a duplicate, fraudulent version of the same. They do this to lure unsuspecting (or not) researchers into submitting their manuscripts (on any topic, not just those covered by the original, legitimate publication) for promises of rapid publication for a fee.

A recent case of journal hijacking investigated by our team involved the legitimate journal, Tierärztliche Praxis, a veterinary journal out of Germany with two series, one for small and one for large animal practitioners:

The legitimate website for Tierärztliche Praxis

by this counterfeit operation, using the same name:

The website for the hijacked version of Tierärztliche Praxis

One of the more immediate problems caused by cloned journals is how difficult they make it for scholars to discover and engage with the legitimate journal, as shown in the image below of Google search results for “Tierärztliche Praxis.” The first several search results refer to the fake journal, including the top result which links to the fake journal homepage:

“Tierärztliche praxis” translates to “veterinary practice” in English, and the legitimate journal is of course aimed at veterinary practitioners. Not so for the fake Tierärztliche Praxis “journal” (whose “publishers” didn’t bother/don’t care to find out what “tierärztliche” translates to) which claims to be a multidisciplinary journal covering all subjects and will accept articles on anything by anyone willing to pay to be published:

Aside from a few of the more obvious signs of deception found with the cloned journal: a poor website with duplicate text and poor grammar, an overly simple submission process, no consideration of the range of topics covered, to name a few, this journal’s “archive” of (stolen) articles takes things to a new level:

Above: the original article, stolen from Tuexenia vs. the hijacked version

A few things to note:

  • The stolen article shown in the pictures above is not even from the original journal that is being hijacked, but from a completely different journal, Tuexenia.
  • The white rectangle near the top left of the page to cover the original journal’s title and the poorly superimposed hijacked journal title and ISSN at the header of the pages, and the volume information and page number in the footer (without bothering to redact the original article page numbers).
  • The FINGER at the bottom left of just about every other page of this stolen article.
Predatory Reports listing for the hijacked version of Tierärztliche Praxis

Sadly, not all hijacked or otherwise predatory journals are this easy to spot. Medical and academic researchers must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to selecting a publication to which they submit their work. Refer to Cabells Predatory Reports criteria to become familiar with the tactics used by predatory publishers. Look at journal websites with a critical eye and be mindful of some of the more obvious red flags such as promises of fast publication, no information on the peer review process, dead links or poor grammar on the website, or pictures (with or without fingers) of obviously altered articles in the journal archives.

Can Research Lost to Predatory Journals Be Saved?

At the launch event last month for the InterAcademy Partnership’s (IAP) recently released report on combatting predatory academic journals and conferences, an all too familiar question was posted to the virtual session’s chat by an attendee:

… I made this mistake once and I published a paper in one of these journals … now it does not appear online on searching … how can I withdraw this paper and republish it in a trusted journal??

This is a variation of a question we at Cabells are asked and consider frequently, and one that perfectly encapsulates the scholarly publishing-esque three-act drama that unfolds when a researcher is entangled with a deceptive publishing operation:

Act I: Setup

‘… I made this mistake once and I published a paper in one of these journals …’

The ‘mistake’ made (or in our drama, the ‘inciting incident’) was unknowingly submitting work to and publishing it in a predatory journal. This can and does happen innocently and somewhat easily to unsuspecting researchers, most often students and early career researchers.

Act II: Confrontation

‘…now it does not appear online on searching…’

The stakes are raised as the ramifications of the inciting incident from Act I are realized. One of the damaging results of having research published in a predatory journal is that it won’t be easily (if at all) discoverable. Some predatory journals advertise that they are included in well-known databases like Web of Science, Scopus, or Cabells, when they are not. These operations devote no time or resources to developing SEO or facilitating inclusion in research databases, so published articles will be difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Act III: Resolution

‘…How can I withdraw this paper and republish it in a trusted journal??’

The short answer, as provided in the launch event chat by Susan Veldsman, one of the authors of the IAP report, was succinct and unfortunately accurate:

‘Authors have reported that it is very difficult to retract these articles, actually no chance, as publishers just ignore requests and pleas from authors.’

This is the sad truth. Once an article is submitted to a predatory journal there is little to no hope of successfully withdrawing the article. These requests by authors are either ignored or not acted upon. Once published by the predatory journal, which often occurs without notice, researchers risk running afoul of publication ethics concerning duplicate publication if they submit the article to a second publication, whether or not copyright has been transferred. But should this be the case?

One alternative for dealing with research that has essentially been ‘lost’ to predatory operations, and so dismissed or ignored, was put forth by Jeanette Hatherill, Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of Ottawa. Hatherill proposes that an author be able to “… retract or withdraw the article, acknowledge its ‘prior publication’ and submit it to a preprint server to make it available for open peer review.” While most preprint servers, including bioRxiv, require that articles be submitted prior to being accepted by (and of course, published in) a journal, Hatherill points out that these policies are set by the preprint servers and can be examined and revised.

As for the question of copyright, Hatherill notes that ‘even deceptive publishers’ such as OMICS, the predatory publishing giant recently on the losing end of a $50 million dollar judgment due to their predatory publishing practices, ‘state that all articles are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.’ Publishing an article open access under Creative Commons licenses leaves the copyright with the author, meaning from a copyright standpoint it should be permissible to post on a preprint server as long as the place of first ‘publication’ is cited.

This solution doesn’t address the harmful effects of duplicate publication, like skewed citation metrics or flawed research due to redundant results from multiple publications, but the risk is minimal as papers published in predatory journals attract little attention and citations from scientists, especially when compared to those published in reputable publications.

Until a more comprehensive, structured, and widely applicable solution to the dilemma of how to salvage legitimate and potentially valuable research that has been unknowingly published in a predatory journal is found, creative solutions such as posting to a preprint server with an acknowledgment of prior publication and might be the most effective and efficient way to proceed.

IAP Report Sets Out Plan of Action for Fighting Predatory Academic Practices

Stemming the tide of predatory publishing operations is a challenging endeavor. Cabells has witnessed this firsthand through the rapid growth of our Predatory Reports database, which now lists over 16,000 deceptive publications. Advancements in digital publishing have made it easier than ever to launch and operate academic journals and have done much to democratize and globalize research. However, these same advancements have also made it easier than ever to create fake publishing operations that are focused solely on profit, with no regard for scholarship.

Recently, we discussed the importance of ‘researching your research’ and how one researcher’s persistence in vetting a suspect speaking opportunity at a conference traced back to a predatory publisher, Knowledge Enterprises Inc. (KEI), who happened to have six journals included in Predatory Reports). Predatory publishing outfits such as KEI were the focus of the recently released report from the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), the global network of over 140 science, engineering, and medical academies. The report, “Combating Predatory Academic Journals and Conferences,” was the result of a two-year study to determine what constitutes predatory practices, pinpoint their root causes and drivers, and provide recommendations and guidance on how they can be identified and avoided.

We previously covered the initial findings from the survey of over 1,800 academics on 112 countries, which found that:

  • nearly a quarter of the academics had either published in a predatory journal, participated in a predatory conference, or didn’t know if they had
  • over 80% thought predatory practices were on the rise or a serious problem in their country of work
  • over 80% thought these practices fueled misinformation in public policy.

The study shows that researchers in all countries, at all stages of their career, and in any discipline can be vulnerable to predatory practices, and as a result, raising awareness is now a vital mission for IAP.

The authors identified three main drivers of predatory practices: the increasing monetization and commercialization of the scholarly enterprise, the predominance of quantity-over-quality research evaluation systems, and serious challenges and weaknesses in the peer-review system. To make a lasting and measurable impact on the pervasiveness of predatory journal and conference practices, these root causes, and the unintended consequences that spring from them, require urgent action.

The final section of the report examines the conclusions of the study, including the need for an evolved definition of predatory academic journals and conferences and an increase in the awareness and understanding of predatory behaviors. The study also concludes that predatory operations are on the rise and undermine public trust in research, waste resources, and exploit weaknesses in the peer review system.

Most importantly, the authors set out recommendations for a course of action to combat these harmful and pervasive outfits. Cabells takes seriously the fact that our resources, in particular Predatory Reports, are recommended as trustworthy and effective tools to identify and avoid predatory operations.

Ultimately, the report stresses the need for urgent and collective action among all stakeholders as predatory practices continue to rise at an alarming rate. Training is imperative as is the need for cooperation from all players in taking action on the report’s recommendations. The authors assert that efforts to identify, understand, and expose predatory academic operations must continue, and the root causes of predatory practices need to be addressed if interventions are to have any lasting impact.

BOOK REVIEW: Predatory Publishing, by Jingfeng Xia (Routledge)

During 2021 while Simon Linacre was researching and writing what he thought was the first book on predatory journals, he discovered… someone had got there first. Putting rivalry to one side he reviews the recently published book, which offers in-depth research into a phenomenon which is now stepping out of the shadows.


It is a curious feeling reading a book on a topic that you yourself have written about. During 2021 when I was writing a short ebook on predatory journals (to be published later this year), I heard that Jingfeng Xia – a former academic based in the US – had written a book on predatory publishing that was due out at the end of the year. It was, therefore, with a mix of trepidation and intrigue that I ordered the book as soon as it was released to see what another author had made about the phenomenon. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Predatory Publishing (Xia, 2021) presents an overview of not just predatory publishing practices, but also predatory conferences, journal hijackings and other related deceptive activities. The stated aim of the book is to provide a reference point for researchers, authors and other stakeholders in scholarly communications, and its comprehensive academic research builds a solid base to achieve this. After introducing the topic and giving some necessary background, the meat of the book goes into some detail on predatory journals and predatory publishers, and the market dynamics that have enabled them to develop and prosper.

As you would expect, a good deal of the book focuses on Jeffrey Beall and Beall’s Lists, which are explained and discussed objectively, as are some examples of predatory journal behaviors. Xia also discusses Cabells’ Predatory Reports and other “blacklists”, and the use of this term to describe lists of predatory journals does sit rather uneasily as Cabells and many other organizations have moved away from employing it. Nevertheless, the author looks at this and other lists of recommended journals and does a good job of highlighting how they work and the value they can offer researchers if used wisely. Of particular good use are the inclusion of numerous screenshots and tables of information to fulfil the intention of providing a useful reference for authors, including Cabells’ list of criteria for including titles in its Predatory Reports database.

In terms of publishers, Xia has decided to use several examples of predatory and non-predatory behaviour based on some publishers that were included in Beall’s List. This is particularly instructive as it highlights both accepted predatory publishers and why they were included in Beall’s List (in this case OMICS), but also publishers that were included at one stage but then removed as they were able to show their activities were legitimate (in this case MDPI). By highlighting real examples of publishing behaviours – both deceptive and legitimate – those people hitherto ignorant of predatory publishing practices will be much enlightened.

The rest of the book includes an excellent short chapter on the role journal stakeholders play in predatory publishing, including editors and reviewers who have worked (or have been purported to work) on predatory journals, although of course one of the main traits of such journals is they don’t have any such stakeholders on board. But as Xia notes, “it takes a village to build the predatory publishing market”, and stakeholders other than predatory publishers themselves have been complicit in growing the phenomenon, such as those authors who knowingly publish in the journals to satisfy some requirement or other. Further chapters on predatory conferences, hijacked journals and in particular fake indices are also instructive, and Xia’s dissection of the latter is particularly welcome. Its explanation and presentation of a long list of such indices is perhaps unique in the literature on predatory publishing, and extremely valuable to researchers taken in by data points made to look like Clarivate Analytics’ Journal Impact Factor.

One unfortunate manifestation of reading a book on a topic you are so familiar with is that it is all too easy to spot errors. One such error is in relation to a common myth that Cabells’ Predatory Reports database and Beall’s Lists are in some way linked – they are not. Xia quotes one academic article saying “they [Cabells] do take many articles from Beall’s archive”, and says elsewhere that “unlike Beall’s journal blacklist, which has been taken over by Cabells…”. Both these statements are untrue – Cabells developed its database independently, and while it spoke to Beall as an expert in the area during development, it verified each journal as per its criteria. If there is one criticism for what is an otherwise excellent book, it is that it is rather a cold and dispassionate investigation into the subject that relies a little too much on academic research at the expense of a little journalistic endeavour. Conducting interviews and speaking to stakeholders might have brought the topic more alive, and achieve the author’s aim to provide a much-needed point of clarity on what has always been an all-too-murky subject area.

Xia, J. (2022). Predatory Publishing. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Predatory-Publishing/Xia/p/book/9780367465322

Academic Sleuthing

With plenty of advice and guidance on the internet on how to identify and avoid predatory journals, many argue the game is up. However, Simon Linacre argues that while so many authors and journals slip through the net, numerous skills are required to avoid the pitfalls, not the least of which is, as one case study shows, being an amateur sleuth….


Back in the day when I used to lecture researchers on optimizing their publishing strategy, I always used to use the refrain ‘Research your research’ to underline the importance of utilizing the investigative skills of academic research for the purpose of understanding scholarly communications. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and knowing how the medium of academic publishing works can enable effective and robust decision-making, especially in academia where those decisions can have a long-term bearing on careers. Knowing the best journals to publish in can prove to be a huge benefit to any given academic.

Turns out knowing where NOT to publish can also have the same benefits.

This notion was underlined to Cabells this month when an academic publications advisor highlighted a case they had been involved in at their university. The advisor – whose identity and that of the institution has been anonymized at their request – was based at a research institute and among other duties advised its researchers about submissions to academic journals, including such things as copyediting, publishing licenses, and open access payments.

Recently, one of the institute’s academics had been invited to present at a conference in 2022, but the invitation was brought to the advisor’s attention as it was a little outside their normal sphere of activity. The advisor thought the invite and presentation were a bit unprofessional and advised against accepting the invitation. Upon further investigation, they found the conference was linked to a suspected predatory publisher, which had been highlighted online in several different sources.

However, the advisor was still not satisfied as while there were suggested links and implications, there was also some evidence of legitimate activities and details. It was only when the advisor scrutinized some of the journals’ articles that she found further evidence of fake journals and scientific anomalies and requested confirmation of their suspicions. We were glad to confirm that the publisher in question – Knowledge Enterprises Inc. (KEI) – indeed looked suspicious and had six journals included in our Predatory Reports database [see image below for example].

Predatory Reports entry for Journal of Economics and Banking from KEI Journals

The moral of this story is not just that ‘researching your research’ can help identify bad actors. It also shows that persistence with an investigation and a wide range of inputs from different sources are required to support ethical publication practices. In some cases, nothing less will do.

No Hiding from Predatory Menace

If you thought predatory publishing had had its day and things were improving, there is bad news. As Simon Linacre reports, there is even more bad news and surely worse behavior to follow in the coming weeks and months. However, the InterAcademy Partnership’s ongoing project studying predatory journals and conferences aims to educate researchers on how to identify and avoid these dangers.


As we wind down to the end of what has been yet another tumultuous year and some of us look forward to the various holidays and celebrations that lie ahead, it is common for us to reflect on what has gone before and look forward to what a new year may bring. Particularly against the backdrop of the global pandemic and dangers of climate change, it would be comforting to look at some issues that may be close to being resolved or at least lessened in their negative impact.

Just don’t look to the fight against predatory publishing activities for any relief.

In a year that has seen Cabells’ Predatory Reports database pass 15,000 journals, a major study has started to release its findings from its global investigation into predatory journals and conferences. The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) is an international network of scientific academies collaborating on issues to provide trustworthy advice and guidance. In the last 18 months it has tackled predatory activities as one of its projects, releasing some initial findings earlier this year. These showed that from a survey of over 1,800 academics on 112 countries:

  • nearly a quarter had either published in a predatory journal, participated in a predatory conference, or didn’t know if they had
  • over 80% thought predatory practices were on the rise or a serious problem in their country of work
  • over half thought that such practices widened the research gap between high income and low income countries.

The full report is currently at the peer review stage and due for release early in 2022, with a research article also in the works. IAP believe that one of the main things it has learned from the study is that researchers in all countries, at all stages of their career and in any discipline can be vulnerable to predatory practices, and as a result raising awareness is now a vital mission for IAP.  In this vein, it has announced it is running four regional webinars through its IAP Regional Networks and one global webinar with The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), both with the Global Young Academy, focused mainly on the research community.  

Tickets for the free webinars are now available and open to everyone. If we can’t end the year on a high note with respect to predatory journals, at least we can try and ensure ourselves and our networks are as aware as possible of this dark phenomenon.

Mountain to climb

As the return to university beckons for many of us, we are unfortunately reminded that many of the challenges facing scholarly communications persist. Simon Linacre assesses wider issues impacting on publication ethics as Cabells’ Predatory Reports database hits the 15,000 journal mark.


Last month saw two landmarks in my working life of the sort that makes you sit back and reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The first was my three-year anniversary of starting work at Cabells, which have been three of the most rewarding years I have spent in my career in scholarly publishing. The second was Cabells’ Predatory Reports database reaching a total of 15,000 journals – 15,059 at the time of this post to be precise – pushed to that level by a recent surge in positive identifications of predatory journals.

What links these two milestones personally, is that the Predatory Reports database hit the 10,000 journal mark just after I started work for Cabells, and one of my first tasks in my new role was to write a press release detailing the news for interested parties (a press release for the new milestone can be accessed here). At the time, it was mind-boggling for me to think that the problem had grown so big, and I wondered how many more journals would be discovered. Would the database reach 11,000 or 12,000 journals? Would the rate of increase level off or decline? In fact, the rate of increase has been maintained, with around 150 titles being added on average by Cabells’ journal audit team every month.

While the rate of increase has been steady, it has been interspersed with sharp gains when a new publisher is uncovered and its numerous cut-and-paste journals included. As we saw in this blog post in July where almost a third of the journals added were from a single publisher, new entrants to the market (or existing operators with new identities), are still driving up numbers and as a result making it harder for researchers to find legitimate outlets for their papers to be published.

One look at some recent stories in the higher education press point to a wider malaise for academics when it comes to publication ethics more generally. There has been a spate of stories where publishers have had to retract articles from their journals because of evidence they were from paper mills, increased scrutiny of data manipulation, and concerns over gift, ghost and fake authorship.

Luckily for authors, if the threats over publication ethics have never been greater, the solutions to this problem also seem to be proliferating. In addition to databases of information such as Cabells’ Predatory Reports that can aid decision-making for academics, there are many online courses now available, as wells as new studies into how to train academics effectively in publication ethics issues. So while the numbers of predatory journals and size of the publication ethics problem seems to be increasing, the tools to deal with these challenges at least seem to be keeping pace – which is the good news we need as we head back to school.

There was an attempt to hijack a journal…

As our journal investigation team members work their way around the expanding universe of scholarly publications, one of the more brazen and egregious predatory publishing scams they encounter is the hijacked, or cloned, journal.  One recent case of this scheme uncovered by our team, while frustrating in its flagrance, also offered some levity by way of its ineptness. But make no mistake, hijacked journals are one of the more nefarious and injurious operations carried out by predatory publishers. They cause extensive damage not just to the legitimate journal that has had its name and brand stolen, but to research and society as a whole, as noted recently in this piece from Retraction Watch on the hundreds of papers from hijacked journals found in the WHO COVID-19 library.

There are a few different variations on the hijacked journal, but all include a counterfeit operation stealing the title, ISSN and/or domain name of a legitimate journal to create a duplicate, fraudulent version of the same. They do this to lure unsuspecting (or not) researchers into submitting their manuscripts (on any topic, not just those covered by the original, legitimate publication) for promises of rapid publication for a fee.

The most recent case of journal hijacking investigated by our team involved the hijacking of this legitimate journal, Tierärztliche Praxis, a veterinary journal out of Germany with two series, one for small and one for large animal practitioners:

The website for the legitimate journal, Tierärztliche Praxis

by this counterfeit operation, using the same name:

The website for the hijacked version of Tierärztliche Praxis

One of the more immediate problems caused by cloned journals is how difficult they make it for scholars to discover and engage with the legitimate journal, as shown in the image below of Google search results for “Tierärztliche Praxis.” The first several search results refer to the fake journal, including the top result which links to the fake journal homepage.

“Tierärztliche praxis” translates to “veterinary practice” in English, and the original journal is of course aimed at veterinary practitioners. Not so for the fake Tierärztliche Praxis “journal” which is aimed (sloppily) at anyone writing about anything who is willing to pay to have their article published:

The hijacked journal’s aim & scope: to sum up – they’ll accept any paper, on any topic

Aside from a few of the more obvious signs of deception found with the cloned journal: a poor website with duplicate text and poor grammar, an overly simple submission process, an incredibly wide range of topics covered, to name a few, this journal’s “archive” of (stolen) articles takes things to a new level.

The original article, stolen from Tuexenia vs. the hijacked version

A few things to note:

  • The stolen article shown in the pictures above is not even from the original journal that is being hijacked, but from a completely different journal, Tuexenia.
  • The white rectangle near the top left of the page to cover the original journal’s title and the poorly superimposed hijacked journal title and ISSN at the header of the pages, and the volume information and page number in the footer (without even bothering to redact the original article page numbers).
  • The FINGER at the bottom left of just about every other page of this stolen article.

Sadly, not all hijacked or otherwise predatory journals are this easy to spot. Scholars must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to selecting a publication to which they submit their work. Refer to Cabells Predatory Reports criteria to become familiar with the tactics used by predatory publishers. Look at journal websites with a critical eye and be mindful of some of the more obvious red flags such as promises of fast publication, no information on the peer review process, dead links or poor grammar on the website, or pictures (with or without fingers) of obviously altered articles in the journal archives.

Predatory Reports listing for the hijacked version of Tierärztliche Praxis

What lies beneath

The first set of data from Cabells’ collaboration with Inera’s Edifix shows that nearly 300 article checks included references to predatory journals. Simon Linacre looks behind the data to share more details about ‘citation contamination.’


A few months ago, Cabells announced a trial partnership with the Edifix service, an article checking tool from Wiley’s Inera division (watch the free webinar discussing the collaboration from SSP’s OnDemand Library). Subscribers to Edifix can check their article’s references against Cabells’ Predatory Reports database for free during an open beta phase, and the first results of this offer have been announced by Edifix on their latest blog. The results show that:

  • A total of 295 jobs have had at least one reference flagged as having been included in a journal that is currently listed by Cabells’ Predatory Reports since May 2021
  • When you look at all 295 of those jobs, there were 66 (22%) that also included multiple references from predatory journals
  • Over the same period, Edifix processed a total of 7102 jobs (containing 104,140 submitted references, of which Edifix was able to fully process 89,180), so overall around 4% of all live jobs included at least one reference flagged by Cabells’ Predatory Reports database.

To recap, it is in the interests of all stakeholders in scholarly communications – authors, universities, societies, funders, and society as a whole – that research is not lost to predatory publishing activities. The Edifix and Cabells collaboration is designed not only to offer access to a database such as Predatory Reports to help all these stakeholders, but to augment their capabilities to produce the best research.

In addition, the collaboration represents a step forward in preventing ‘citation contamination’, where articles published in predatory journals find their way into legitimate journals by being referenced by them directly. The new service allows users to vet references for citations to predatory journals, as identified by Predatory Reports, and reduce the contamination of the scholarly record.

It is important to underline that while checking references won’t remove the predatory journal publications in the first place, it will ensure that those articles are cited less, and also that the research they include is checked. Authors cite articles assuming what is included in them has been peer reviewed, which is the very thing that is most unlikely to happen with a predatory journal. If an author understands the work they are citing may not have had any peer review – or a sub-standard or superficial one – they can find other literature to support their case. The analogy of contamination is a strong one as not only does it conjure up the stench many feel predatory publishing practices represents, it also describes how the problem can ‘cross-contaminate’ other journals and research projects. By empowering authors to clean up their research, and highlighting the problem of contamination more widely, it is hoped that this early experiment can lead to more steps forward in the fight against predatory publishing.

No signs of slowing

Cabells adds journals to its Predatory Reports database continuously, with over 10,000 added to the original 4,000 it launched with in 2017. But can we learn anything from the journals that have been added recently? To find out, Simon Linacre takes a look at the predatory journals listed throughout June 2021.


Fancy reading up on some research to learn about COVID-19? A lot of people will have been doing the same thing over the last 18 months as they try and figure out for themselves what on earth has been happening. They will do some Google searches and read articles published in journals like the British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine and the Open Journal of Epidemiology. Sure, the third one doesn’t sound quite as prestigious as the other two, but it has a bunch of articles on epidemics, and it’s all free to read – so that’s good, right?

Sadly, it’s not so good. The Open Journal of Epidemiology is one of 99 journals that Cabells listed in its Predatory Reports database last month, and is published by a well-known predatory publisher known as SCIRP (Scientific Research Publishing) based in China. The journal – not to be confused with the British Open Journal of Epidemiology or the American Open Epidemiology Journal, both in Predatory Reports as well – has dubious publication practices such as falsely claiming indexation in well-known databases, promising unusually quick peer review and publishing authors several times in the same journal and/or issue.

The journal’s search function points a handful articles relating to ‘COVID’, including one on ex-patients and their recovery which has been downloaded 200 times and viewed nearly 600 times according to the website. But we know that this journal was unlikely to have been given a full peer review, if any at all, and the data on the website is difficult to trust – the Open Journal of Epidemiology was just one of 26 journals from the same publisher which Cabells listed last month.

In total there were eight publishers who had journals listed in June, with the biggest being Bilingual Published Co. based in Singapore, with 30 journals in total. Other publishers had fewer journals listed and were based in several different countries – India, Hong Kong, Kenya and even Belgium – and it is worth pointing out that Cabells reviews each journal independently rather than the publisher as a whole.

What else can we glean from this selection of predatory titles? Just 11 out of 99 had no ISSN, further underlining the folly of using the existence of an ISSN as evidence of legitimacy. On average the journals were four-to-five years old, so reasonably well established, and predominantly based in STEM research areas. Of the 99 journals listed, just 13 were in non-STEM areas such as Education and Management. The most common subject was Medicine with no fewer than 38 journals represented. However, it is worth pointing out that many predatory publishers are either hopelessly generic, or will publish anything even if the article has nothing to do with the core topics of the journal.

Cabells is being kept rather busy by reviewing all these journals, but if you do spot a suspicious journal or receive those annoying spam emails, do let us know at journals@cabells.com and we can perform a review so that others won’t be deceived or fall into the numerous traps being laid for them.