In this comment, it was claimed:

Predatory publishers thrive because when you apply for a job or a grant, few read your papers. They check the papers you pinpoint and the number of publcations. That's where these publishers step on and that's why people choose them. Not because they don't know. Of course there might be a few accidentally doing it, like the OP in this question, but most of the people who are in academia for a while select them only to increase faster their publication list.

By contrast, I cannot remember a single case of somebody reporting their experience with such publisher on this very site that submitted a paper to a predatory publisher knowingly (except for exposing them). Now, there is no denying that there is a strong bias here since people who intentionally choose a predatory publisher are less likely to admit it or ask questions here.

So, I am curious: Is there any data or good argument to support the claim that people who publish with predatory publishers are aware that they are not publishing with a regular scientific publisher?

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    Imo the comment merely states that the authors are aware that these publishers trade a lower standard of quality for a faster review process and a higher acception rate. They are not necessarily aware of the "predatory" label. And low-impact factor journals are not all predatory either. – T. Verron Nov 23 '16 at 12:07
  • @T.Verron: I disagree with your interpretation of that comment. Anyway, this question does not depend on this. Also, I am aware of the distinction between a low-impact journal and a predatory one – this question is exclusively about predatory ones. – Wrzlprmft Nov 23 '16 at 12:19
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    I can only add anecdotal information. One of the people on my team regularly and enthusiastically passes on to me the automated "solicitations" from "journals" that (to me) are obviously fraudulent, asking if we should write the review or whatever that the "journal" requests; fully believing the offer to be sincere, in spite of me repeatedly pointing out that the "journal" is fake. English is her third language and I can only assume that the obvious red flags are not as obvious to her. Without my input, she would certainly have submitted articles unknowingly. – iayork Nov 23 '16 at 13:06
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    Indeed, I was refering to low standard, fast review, high acceptance rate journals. Besides, lists like Beall's list reports "Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers", so (in my perspective at least) the term predatory can be ambiguous. It's true that inexperienced authors might be inclined to submit to a journal sending repeated invitations (probable predatory), but I think everyone most probably has a more experienced colleague to get advise from. If the (very interesting) data in the very nice answer provided below show something is that – BioGeo Dec 19 '16 at 21:59
  • ... new authors have higher chance to pick a "predatory" or low quality journal. But they don't show their motivation. It could be because "I can publish quick and boost my publication list" or because "I received an invitation but I didn't know they are low quality". But I think we are in an environment where we can investigate the quality of the journal we select either by asking our colleagues like @iayork or by searching more thoroughly the right lists. Sorry, but I still can't exclude the first motivation... – BioGeo Dec 19 '16 at 22:04

There is some circumstantial evidence against the claim that most people who publish with predatory publishers are aware that they are not publishing with a regular scientific publisher.

  1. Many authors of papers published in predatory journals are inexperienced with academic publication. From [1]:

    The majority of authors who publish in predatory journals have no other publications, whereas the second largest group consists of authors with fewer than five journal publications elsewhere; very few authors have published more than 10 articles. In contrast, the histogram reveals that group 2 authors, those who publish in OA journals that have a robust review process and subsequently rejected Bohannon's false submission, generally have a stronger publication record. With the exception of a few new authors, most group 2 authors have published journal articles previously; in fact, some authors have published more than 30 articles.

    diagram from paper

    (Group-1 journals are open-access journals with low-quality or no peer review; group-2 journals are open-access journals that have more rigorous peer-review process than the journals in group 1. All are biomedical-science journals.)

  2. Many prospective authors are unfamiliar with predatory journals and unaware of predatory practices in the academic publishing industry.

    In a survey of 145 medical and veterinary science participants in a scientific writing workshop [2]:

    Thirty-four of 142 (23.9%) respondents were aware of the DOAJ; 7/143 (4.8%) were aware of Beall’s list, 33/143 (23.0%) were aware of the term “predatory journal”, and 24/142 (16.9%) were aware of the Science article about predatory journals.

    In another (very small) survey of U.S.-based authors who published in criminal-justice journals on Beall’s list [3]:

    Just under half (44%; 4 respondents) of the respondents had heard of the “Scholarly Open Access List” and one-third of the respondents had heard of the term “Predatory Journal.” Furthermore, all but one of the respondents was not aware that they had published an article in a journal associated with the predatory journal list. One respondent questioned the accuracy of their association with a predatory journal, and stated

    … should not be on the list. They had more referees than any other journal I’ve pursued and I’m [the] author of 20 peer reviewed papers (sic).


[1]: Xia J, Harmon JL, Connolly KG, Donnelly RM, Anderson MR, Howard HA. Who publishes in “predatory” journals?. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 2015 Jul 1;66(7):1406-17. DOI: 10.1002/asi.23265

[2]: Christopher MM, Young KM. Awareness of “Predatory” open-access journals among prospective veterinary and medical authors attending scientific writing workshops. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2015;2. DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2015.00022

[3]: Noga-Styron KE, Olivero JM, Britto S. Predatory Journals in the Criminal Justices Sciences: Getting our Cite on the Target. Journal of Criminal Justice Education. 2016 Jul 8:1-8. DOI: 10.1080/10511253.2016.1195421

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  • Good answer although quite surprising to me. Your references are a few years old, and since then at least in my environment, people are much more aware of predatory publishers than they used to be only two to three years back. – Snijderfrey Jan 17 at 19:33

Considering there are hundreds of thousands of papers published in predatory journals, it stretches belief that all the authors of those papers aren't aware of what they're doing. Increasingly, it seems like there's a supply and demand situation here: academics need to get published (demand), so predatory publishers provide the means to do so (supply). See this article by the New York Times about it, and references within (especially this one).

This article has a section about big pharmaceutical companies that publish with OMICS, a publisher widely regarded as predatory. The author was not able to ascertain if the pharmaceutical companies are aware of OMICS' shady reputation, but finds it's not impossible that they are, and are just looking for quick and easy ways to publish. For example, Pfizer published an article about the costs (in dollars) of severe back pain, which would probably have been rejected by the leading medical journals because of cost studies are notoriously unreliable.

This article claims "[some German] scientists appear to have taken advantage of the lack of editorial oversight ... to report their results quickly and without the risk of rejection."

As one might guess it's not an easy topic to get accurate data on, because nobody is going to claim they knowingly published in a predatory journal because they wanted to report their results quickly and without risk of rejection.

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