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It’s Called Predatory Publishing for a Reason!

One of the outcomes of the open access publishing phenomenon has been the proliferation of what has come to be known as predatory journals. This represents a growing number of journals provided by Internet-generated opportunists that solicit researchers to submit fee-based articles for “journals” they claim to control. The journals often have scientific sounding names, and some even purport to be affiliated with a (recently made up) professional society.

The solicitations have been effective, because some researchers, eager to get their material published, find the funds to pay the upfront fees and submit their articles. The vast majority of these opportunistic “publishers” do not subject these articles to any type of recognized peer review. The articles may or may not be published, but if they are, few of them carry any academic “weight” in the publish-or-perish crucible.

The problem is not insignificant. A review article published in BMC Medicine in 2015 estimated that there were some 420,000 articles published in predatory journals in 2014 [1], and anecdotal information indicates that the number has probably increased since then. Predatory publishing has been highlighted at both the first and second summits of the MLA InSight Initiative that took place in 2018 as a common vexing challenge facing both health sciences librarians and information providers.

In fact, in surveying attendees of InSight Summit 2 on the most intractable problems that both librarians and information providers face that were crying out for collaborative effort to address, respondents identified predatory publishers or journals the most often.

As a result, we turned to one of the panelists at the InSight Summit 1, Shalu Gillum, AHIP, a librarian from the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library, University of Central Florida–Orlando, who gave a presentation on improving health literacy of the students enrolled at UCF’s medical school. Gillum concluded her presentation with two infographics illustrating how to identify predatory publishers and predatory publishing tactics/attributes. Gillum has graciously agreed to include those slides in this blog post for wider dissemination through the MLA InSight Initiative blog. A PDF version of the slides is available on MLANET.


  1. Shen C, Bjork BC. Predatory open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Medicine 2015. 13:230.

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