What are the best strategies for assessing if a journal is a "vanity" or "predatory" journal that should be avoided (both for publishing in and reviewing for)? For example, how would one go about determining if a journal/publisher belongs on Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers?


4 Answers 4


First, you should probably publish in the same venues that you read and cite. Presumably those are reputable.

Now to describe low-quality vanity publishers. Two essential characteristics are:

  1. The publication of very low quality material. This is usually immediately recognizable to any expert. Sometimes it's obvious to anyone; for example, read this abstract.

  2. A business model in which the author (rather than the reader) pays the publisher. Of course, this by itself isn't necessarily indicative of a low-quality publisher (think PLoS). But low-quality publishers can't make money off of subscriptions, since they provide no content of value.

Additional common characteristics of such publishers are:

  • Mass e-mails (spam) to academics, especially when the recipients include researchers in unrelated fields. These e-mails may request submission of conference presentations, papers, or book manuscripts, or may contain invitations to journal editorial boards.
  • A high number of prominent typographical errors in text attributable to the publisher. For instance, at the beginning of this article "abstract" is mistakenly spelled "abstarct".
  • 10
    I love the example in your point 1! What a headache!
    – atiretoo
    Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 21:41
  • Elsevier is known to send such unsolicited an irrelevant mass emails: phylogenomics.blogspot.com/2012/03/… Does it fit your criteria?
    – Nemo
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 16:45

In addition to the answer already offered, you can use a tool such as the one developed by ULiège Library to help you in your decision.

Their tool, Compass to Publish, "uses a criteria-based evaluation to quantify the degree of authenticity of open access journals requiring or hiding article processing charges."

Even if you don't use their plat-form, their set of criteria / tests can be extremely useful to guide your judgment.

What are the criteria?

Compass to Publish uses an evaluation method based on 26 criteria which take the form of questions. These criteria and questions are the result of the critical and analytical work of the team behind Compass to Publish, who have* *examined the practices of a significant number of predatory journals and publishers. This examination was then followed by a qualitative survey and selection of criteria developed by trusted lists and directories, as well as checklists for the identification of predatory journals, including:

Looking at the full range of these criteria, we only retained those that are:

  • truly incriminating and easy to check to ensure user-friendliness;
  • sufficiently relevant and clear;
  • easy to use and check for users.

Some information regarding journal policies and procedures can be very hard and/or time-consuming to verify. We deliberately decided not to include this type of criteria in the evaluation process in an effort to ensure user-friendliness.

  • 1
    +1 This looks very useful, not only for assessing a specific journal, but also to learn about potential red flags.
    – cheersmate
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 8:03

I suggest another approach: You have already performed a literature review for your introduction. What journals are your references published in? Have you ever cited a paper in the journal you are thinking about submitting to?


There is an established framework for researchers: Think. Check. Submit.

  1. Think: Are you submitting your research to a trusted journal? Is it the right journal for your work?
  2. Check: Use our check list to assess the journal.
  3. Submit Only if you can answer "yes" to the questions on our check list.

The resource is available in over 40 languages as of 2018. If you want a more personal summary of such criteria, see qsp on why you don't need a list.

Note that an analysis of the numbers shows that The "problem" of predatory publishing remains a relatively small one and should not be allowed to defame open access. Researchers are generally smart enough to not fall in obvious traps; what's left is mostly problems with peer review which exist anywhere, but mostly in journals with scarce transparency.

  • 3
    Right now this is essentially a link only answer to your checklist. Can you list some of the categories or key stumbling blocks?
    – StrongBad
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 22:03
  • I think it's better to refer to the checklists hosted there, so that the information does not get stale. We could quote the titles of the sub-lists from thinkchecksubmit.org/check but I personally don't see a usefulness in that. I don't oppose someone editing my answer that way.
    – Nemo
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 6:28

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