This question is in response to this very interesting question. The original post mentioned that they wish to retract their paper from a "fake" journal. I don't know what a fake journal is but better safe than sorry so I want to make sure what defines a fake journal. In the comments, other people also mentioned "shady" journals and "predatory" journals. This is the first time I encounter these descriptions so I would like to know more about what they entail. I would be interested in hearing about your experience with such journals as well, if any.


4 Answers 4


A "fake" or "shady" journal is a low-quality journal that does little or no quality control.

They are often called "predatory" because they prey on people who are under a lot of pressure to publish, charging high author fees for promises of quick publication. (Since they do little, if any, peer review, the time from submission of a paper to publication is often very quick in these journals).

They often engage in deceptive practices to make themselves appear legitimate, such as:

  • Pretending to be affiliated with a reputable professional society
  • Claiming an "impact factor" when they do not have one, or when they have an "impact factor" from some entity other than Thomson Reuters ISI
  • Listing important academics on their editorial board, when these people never agreed to serve in this capacity.

Publishing in one of these journals can be very damaging to your academic career. At best, it shows that you don't know what journals are considered reputable in your field; at worst, it makes you look like you are trying to "get" publications without doing the work required to publish in a reputable, high-quality journal.

An academic librarian named Jeffrey Beall kept a list of open-access journals and publishers that he considered to be "predatory." (The links are to archived versions of the pages). His lists were quite well-known - you may hear people refer to "Beall's List" when talking about predatory journals.

Between the growth of open-access and the Internet making it possible for literally anyone to start a "journal," these "journals" have been popping up at an alarming rate. The NY Times even ran a story about it recently.

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    @Armand I think "fake" refers to a journal "faking" its status as a reputable journal (which is also "shady" behavior). I don't consider a journal more "real" if it has an ISSN.
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 8:17
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    @Armand I do not think that there is an agreed-upon distinction between shady, fake, and predatory.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 11:16
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    In the previous post linked to in the OP's question I suggested in a comment the term "shady" in response to the proposed "fake". First let me say that "shady" is not a technical term; I used it on the fly to mean what it usually does in contemporary non-academic usage. I think the term "predatory" is more precise (while still being colorful) and should be preferred. I do think the term "fake" should be avoided because there are a smaller number of scams in which there is actually no publication involved at all! Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 16:21
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    So journals like this are analogous to how vanity presses used to be viewed? Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 5:36
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    I would lump all three into the 'Avoid when at all possible' category.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 15:39

Jeffrey Beall, who works for the University of Colorado, Denver, maintained a list of predatory journals. He also publishes his criteria for determining which journals/publishers are predatory. (both links are to archived version of the pages) The criteria are numerous (and I find many of them amusing). The main thrust of the criteria are such things as:

  1. Lack of transparency (in both business model and editorial process)
  2. Disregard for intellectual property
  3. Promise to publish anything in exchange for money
  4. Dishonesty (in business model and editorial process)
  5. Poor (or no) peer review
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    -1: without mentioning that this list is solely based on the subjective opinion of Jeffery Beall, with zero transparency (and zero explanation) for why specific journals make the list, this answer, in my opinion, misrepresents the list. In my field, there are journals on Beal's that conduct extensive peer review. For example Frontiers [which is considered as reputable as PlosOne]. They regularly reject applications to become an associate editor. They regularly reject papers. It seems like they were listed because they sent out too many emails when they first started. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 21:46
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    From Beall himself "Frontiers does not meet the criteria for inclusion as a predatory publisher ... [But I am including them anyway because] there is value in sharing others’ experiences with this publisher". This shows just how scientific this list is. It does appear that Frontiers engages in some sketchy behavior, but so do many reputable for-profit journals. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 21:58

... and a very good question indeed. The present answers do a good job, but it's worth emphasizing that there is a whole continuum between legitimate journals and what amount to conning schemes.

"Predatory" is used to describe a journal that hinges its business model on getting article processing charges from authors, whilst providing a very low quality journal. "Fake" is less defined, but it carries the connotation of a journal that pretends to carry out rigorous peer review but in fact doesn't (which is what makes it damaging on a CV: it looks like you too want to skip formal peer review but pretend you still did it).

"Shady" is a much more informal term, and denotes a journal anywhere in that continuum. I intentionally used this term in my answer to keep it broadly applicable, in terms of any journal of possibly not-so-good standing which is, after publication, thought to have a negative impact on one's CV.


There is a special class of 'fake journal'. Some long-standing real (but minor) journals, which are listed on the Web of Science, but only have print editions and haven't moved online, are having fake websites created by criminals, which are purporting to be the official website of the journal. In essence, the identity of a real journal has been 'hijacked'. Obviously, the websites charge 'article processing charges', which is why these scams exist, but the articles 'published' are NOT listed as part of the output of the journal on the Web of Science. Most of these journals have been forced to very quickly enter the internet age to try and fight this! This is surprisingly common - see the (archived) list of hijacked journals here: https://web.archive.org/web/20170111172313/https://scholarlyoa.com/other-pages/hijacked-journals/

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