Another step towards defining predatory journals

A new comment article in Nature, headed up by lead-author Agnes Grudniewicz, unveils a new consensus-formed definition of predatory publishing, and provides some suggestions of steps to take in the future to tackle the problems developing from the phenomena.

The group of 43 participants, consisting of members of industry organisations, society and commercial publishers, research institutes, libraries, policymakers and other key academic roles, provided answers to 28 questions, and engaged in 12 hours of discussion to develop the documents, followed by 2 further rounds of feedback and revision.

The definition put forward by the group is as follows:
“Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

The key characteristics defined by the group consist of just a small number of broad headings:
  • False or misleading information.
  • Deviation from best editorial and publication practices.
  • Lack of transparency.
  • Aggressive, indiscriminate solicitation.

The paper also states some items which the group deliberately left out of the defining characteristics. Though they provide justification (and admit they are controversial), there are some surprising omissions, which among other things include peer review processes and intent to deceive, as the group say are too difficult or subjective to assess.

Despite their omissions, these concepts are still incorporated into the areas which are considered for assessment. For example, transparency of processes can require journals to provide evidence of peer review processes being conducted, and determining false and misleading information would encompass attempts to deceive.

The problem of these publishers is unlikely to go away of its own accord, in a world which combines the existence of both harsh publishing demands on researchers and high open access fees of legitimate publishers, there is a market for affordable publication venues.  These documents, and the work of this group are yet another step towards providing resources to help researchers, and many other members of academia and the publishing industry, navigate, identify and reduce the potential harms done by poorly governed research publishing.

Supporting files can be accessed on OSF here, including a Call to Action statement which can be signed to discuss a roadmap of activities related to monitoring, measuring, and stopping predatory journals.


Grudniewicz et al. Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature 576, 210-212 (2019)

Cobey, K. D., Moher, D., Lalu, M. M., Grudniewicz, A., Cukier, S., & Bryson, G. L. (2019, December 11). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Retrieved from