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News Feature: Predatory Journals and Paper Mills

March 28, 2023, #34

A paper mill is a journal that publishes large numbers of papers with little quality control, while a predatory journal lures authors into paying for publication with dubious quality promises. They are related but not identical. Ellie Kincaid writes in the Retraction Watch Blog on 21 March 2022 that Clarivate "dropped more than 50 journals from its indexes in March … for failing to meet 24 quality criteria such as adequate peer review, appropriate citations, and content that’s relevant to the stated scope of the journal."¹ Nineteen of the journals belonged to the open access publisher Hindawi, which Wiley now owns. Delisting can hurt authors directly because, as Kincaid explains, "Clarivate will no longer index its papers, count their citations, or give the title an impact factor, which can have negative effects for authors, as universities rely on such metrics to judge researchers’ work for tenure and promotion decisions."¹ Delisting does not necessarily mean that the journals are predatory, though it can. The problem for authors is to recognise when a journal is predatory. Florence Cook, Roganie Govender, and Peter A. Brennan write in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: "Predatory publishers, also known as counterfeit, deceptive, or fraudulent, are organisations that exploit the open-access scholarly model by charging hefty article processing charges (APCs), often without the scientific rigour and ethical processes offered by legitimate journals."² Unfortunately the advice for recognising predatory publishers is often vague: "Common characteristics include inappropriate marketing and misrepresentation of services by targeting individuals with solicitation emails, inadequate peer-review processes, lack of editorial services and transparency about APCs, and false claims about citation metrics and indexing that cannot be verified."² The problem is that these publishers prey on less well established scholars, especially those who are early in their careers, and have no one to turn to for advice. Often they are under heavy pressure to publish in order to retain their positions or get new ones. Universities contribute to the problem indirectly because of the pressure to publish. There is no perfect solution, but asking senior colleagues and being aware will help.


1: Ellie Kincaid, ‘Nearly 20 Hindawi Journals Delisted from Leading Index amid Concerns of Papermill Activity’, Retraction Watch (blog), 21 March 2023,

2: Florence Cook, Roganie Govender, and Peter A. Brennan, ‘Greetings from Your Predatory Journal! What They Are, Why They Are a Problem, How to Spot and Avoid Them’, British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 4 March 2023,


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