Unethical, “predatory” publishers seek to exploit authors and their research. Questionable journals may be either open access or toll access and are difficult to track through name or website changes. Some “fake conferences” purport to be scholarly meetings but don’t deliver.


The Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) Seal identify ethical, established journals. Scholarly organizations addressing the issue include the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. COPE’s Discussion Document on Predatory Publishing provides a summary as well as recommendations for authors, reviewers, and editors.

Here are tips to help you assess an unfamiliar publisher or conference--and possibly prevent legal, copyright, financial, or career issues. For more on what to ask before submitting your work, see Think, Check, Submit or work through a few scenarios in this Exploring Predatory Conference and Journals tutorial.

Tips for assessing publisher quality

  • Be wary of emails inviting you to submit to journals you hadn’t heard of.
    • Check the email address and name attached to the invitation.
    • Determine if it is part of a mass email soliciting submissions.
    • Note that reputable journals and conferences also use mass emails to call for submissions/proposals.
  • Check the journal title against a whitelist of reputable publications.
    • Is the title listed in the DOAJ?
    • Is it a member of COPE?
    • New or small independent journals may not be listed, but any publication more than a couple years old that isn’t a member should raise concerns.
  • Check the publication schedule.
    • Some legitimate, independent journals publish irregularly
    • If the journal is one of many from a publisher, irregular schedules can be an indicator of poor quality.
  • Be wary of offers promising a quick review.
    • This is often an indicator of questionable practices.
    • Be extremely wary of any offer of expedited review for a fee.
  • Consider the quality of previous issues.
    • Check the writing quality.
    • Check tables of contents for current, interesting, worthy articles.
    • Consult a colleague or a subject librarian for help with such assessments.
    • If there is advertising, consider whether it is high-quality, reputable, and relevant to the journal.
  • Verify the editors of the journal.
    • Not listing editors at all is a sign that the publication may not be reputable.
    • A list of unfamiliar editors in a familiar discipline can be cause for concern.
    • Some fake publishers list real people as editors without their knowledge. Check with an editor about their involvement.
  • Consider where the journal is indexed.
    • Check that the journal is indexed in databases commonly used in your field so the content will be findable.

Tips for assessing conferences

  • Be wary of emails inviting you to attend conferences you hadn’t heard of.
  • Check the email address and name attached to the invitation.
  • Consider who is hosting or sponsoring the conference. Are there well-known research centers, institutions, or government agencies affiliated with the event?
  • Ask others in your field if they have heard of the conference or sponsoring organization.
  • Consider the location. Are the conferences held in vacation hotspots?
  • Determine whether multiple unrelated conferences are being held at the same location at the same time.
  • Consider how the fees compare to other similar conferences.
  • Determine whether they publish proceedings. If so, where are the proceedings published? What is the quality of writing and copyediting?
  • Determine if it is an annual conference or a one-time event. If it’s a recurring conference, see who has previously attended or presented and ask their impressions.
  • Identify past conferences or other meetings held by the organization. Is there evidence that the conferences actually happen?