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A curiosity inspired by this answer by user Allure, on a previous question I had regarding how to recognize predatory or otherwise disreputable journals.

In the answer, it is noted that journals publishing subscription content are generally trustworthy, which seems quite reasonable, since nobody wants to pay to read (presumably) rubbish papers. Indeed, in my experience predatory publishers also tend to be Open Access, although of course the converse isn't true. My question, however, is about exceptions to this rule: are there known predatory journals (defined as being on any standard black list, such as Beall's) who also offer subscription content?

Note: there are journals whose reputation has significantly changed (and of course many journals have revised their subscription rules). My question, however, is about journals that at the same time are (or have been) both predatory and pay-to-read: are there any such cases?

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  • Defining predatory journals as the one being on a predatory's journal list is a a tautology. The question is a shopping question and I suggest to close it.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:20
  • @EarlGrey regarding your first point, the question which I linked above (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/124807/…) has a broader definition of predatory, which is more or less what I had in mind; I refer to Beall's list simply because it is an established reference in this field
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:26
  • Regarding the second issue: the answers by Bryan Krause and Allure address my original curiosity in a way that does not refer to individual journals or publishers. I suggest that the question could be rephrased, to clarify that I am not interested in particular cases, but in verifying whether the "rule" is in fact general
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:30
  • Please note that Beall's list has two huge flaws: - not anymore updated; - it was based on the personal feelings of a single individual, see here science.org/doi/10.1126/science.342.6154.60 where they prove that Beall's list was wrong 18% of the times ... obviously nothing can be perfect, but it shows how unreliable is to tackle a systemic (and time-changing) issue with a single reference list curated by a (however good-faith made) single individual acting like a sheriff.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 9:38
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    Predatory journals predate open access popularity -- so yes there are such journals, or at least there were such journals. Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 15:10

3 Answers 3

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I know of at least one physics “journal” with the following properties:

  • A hybrid financing model: You need to pay to publish and to view. For whatever it’s worth, the prices are considerably below the respective ones for real journals that are only pay-to-publish and pay-to-view.

  • The journal caters primarily to cranks, but you also occasionally have what appears to be clueless scientists from developing countries publishing regular (but possibly irrelevant) research.

  • The journal claims to perform peer review. Articles are accepted within months (which is normal within the field).

  • As you need to pay to view, I have only ever seen one paper e-mailed to me by its author (unsolicited). However, I have looked at quite a handful of abstracts. The vast majority of these are far below normal publication standards. Any peer review is clearly not effective.

  • A considerable fraction of the editors the journal lists are dead, some since over a decade. Most editors were unresponsive. One alive editor did not know about this honour and got his name deleted from the journal’s webpage after I mailed him. (More on this.)

  • The journal appears to be published privately by one or two people.

  • I cannot find the journal on any list of predatory publishers (other than lists of journals de-listed by Scopus), but it’s worth noting that many on these lists exclusively focus on open-access publishers.

Naming the journal here would be against the ethos of the site. However, if you know your synonyms, it should be easy to find this journal and judge for yourself.

Obviously I do not know the finances of the journal and I cannot divine the real motivations of the journal’s publishers: They could be predators milking cranks or they could really believe in their cause and be just covering their expenses. So whether this meets your definition of predatory journal is up to you.

Either way, I would argue that what’s more important is what it means to publish there (or be listed as an editor):

  • You spend money for publishing.
  • There is effectively no peer review.
  • A publication or editorship will be as worthless and damaging as one in a typical predatory journal.

This is the same as for a classical predatory journal and thus you can treat it like one when advising authors potential authors (and editors).

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  • Naming the journal here would be against the ethos of the site Of course, I see, but that's not even necessary in this case: the example you mention checks all the boxes I had in mind
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 20:56
  • @GioMott: Well, I might have made all of this up. After all, I provide no evidence. You need to convince yourself that the journal I am describing actually exists. Of course that can be done, but it gets a bit more tedious since I won’t help you by naming it.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 20:59
  • Yes, of course, but I always trust answers on StackExchange :-) More seriously, I understand that a practical answer to my question will likely have this shortcoming
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 21:07
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Academia.SE isn't about providing lists and evaluating specific journals is off-topic here. However, I can write a more vague/general answer.

Open access is a newer model than predatory publishing, even if the term was created with open access journals in mind. Though standards vary by field, "page charges" as well as fees for things like number of figures (often more expensive for color) were common in my field (including in reputable journals), while those journals still collected subscription fees and were not open access. Therefore, predatory journals still existed to collect those fees. Open access has merely made the publishing step more expensive for those legitimate journals, and made a predatory mimic of that model more lucrative.

Vanity press has also been around for a long time as a term that shares a lot with the predatory journal publishing, but may use different mechanisms for extracting funds, such as offering to pay authors royalties while also requiring authors to secure a certain number of books up-front (example: "we'll pay you $30 per $100 book published, but you need to sell at least 100 copies! You know, Every Author You Ever Heard Of does this thing where they actually start things off by buying 100 copies right away and sharing them with friends to get people interested! So yeah, that'll be $10,000 please!"). The scam is that the publisher doesn't actually expect or intend anyone to be interested in the book except the author themselves. Or, they may push payment for for editing costs ("your book is almost good enough to print, but we'll have our editors get it up to industry standards for $2,000"). The publisher doesn't actually spend that money on editing.

There's no "open access" in these models, but they're still extracting funds from the authors up front. Some of them may even legitimately sell copies and even pay royalties, just like some journal publishers with predatory tactics still do some level of peer review (for at least some submissions).

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  • "Academia.SE isn't about providing lists and evaluating specific journals is off-topic here" Thanks for the detailed answer; I understand your point, but (besides the mere curiosity) I am also interested in the broader point of whether the rule "not open access -> not predatory" is general enough. I was also inspired by the question I linked in my original post (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/124807/…), which is similar in style
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:07
  • BTW: good point regarding vanity press, I did not think about that as I was thinking mostly about journals instead of books
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:09
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This question is more complicated than one might think at first sight. Under the traditional definition of "predatory publishing" - where one does not conduct peer review and publish everything - then the answer is clear, there are no predatory journals which are subscription-based. You hit on the reason why not. The primary buyer of subscription content is libraries. These days one of the key tools libraries use to determine what to subscribe to is usage statistics. You need people who use that library to land on your journal's webpage and attempt to access subscription content, a lot, and then you might be able to get them to subscribe. If you publish junk, you won't get these so-called 'denials', and you also get no subscribers. Predatory publishing simply did not exist before open access, for a reason.

However the definition of "predatory publishing" has become nebulous, and these days you get people defining all sorts of things as predatory:

Suffice to say, virtually every publisher in the world is predatory, depending on your definition. Put another way, you can find people who think virtually every publisher in the world is predatory. Therefore, there is no meaningful answer to your question unless you first define what predatory is. Good luck.

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  • "you probably can't see this till you have more rep however" You mean the question on Academia Meta? I can in fact see the question (even without logging in)
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:12
  • @GioMott I mean Anonymous Physicist's answer to it (it's hidden right now).
    – Allure
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:13
  • Aha, you are right, I can see only one answer now
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:15
  • Very informative choice of links, especially the second one. Regarding the definition of what predatory is, a nice checklist is in the question by Robert Columbia (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/124807/…) that you and I linked
    – GioMott
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 7:19
  • While your last definition does sound like predatory behavior, I couldn't find anything on the linked journal page to suggest they do that. Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 14:48

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