by Siti Nurleily Marliana & Joaquim Baeta

The advancement of open access (OA) scholarly publishing is inevitable. Accessing content is easier now than it has ever been, and people are much less inclined to pay for it, especially in countries where subscription costs are prohibitively high. The OA model offers efficiency in the publishing process, and promises better visibility and discoverability for research. Nevertheless, there are many worries about the implications of OA for authors and readers alike, as it can be easily abused by publishers trying to earn faster and higher revenue by accepting an ever-increasing number of papers regardless of their scientific quality, while at the same time charging authors exorbitant fees for the privilege of being published in them. These publishers just barely adhere to—or even completely ignore—the long-established scientific practices that guarantee the scientific merit of articles, compromising the integrity of science and scientific communication.

At the same time, many have argued that the abuse of the publishing model is not exclusive to the OA system. Subscription-based publishers are also known to exercise unethical conduct in running their business (see Dupuis1 for many interesting examples).

So, authors are now left in a quandary about what to do with their papers—not all OA journals are bad, and not all subscription-based ones are good. The challenge for people is being selective in where they choose to publish their work, which requires one to know the criteria and standard of good publishing practice.

To date, there have been a number of studies aimed at judging the quality of journals based on their practices. There have been several attempts to narrow down the definition of a “good” journal, or create whitelists (such as those by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or Cabell’s). The first notable attempt to highlight predatory publishing was by Jeffrey Beall, who compiled a list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers.2 Although this list was received with an equal amount of praise and vitriol, Beall’s work was instrumental in showing the level of fraud by deceptive publishers in the OA movement, and served as a jumping off point for subsequent blacklists. But how should we as scientists respond to that? Should we believe it? Does it matter at all? This article series explores the origins of predatory publishers, the attempts to expose them, the resulting controversy, why this discussion matters, and what authors can do to outsmart the predators snapping at their heels.


  1. Dupuis J. Some perspective on “predatory” open access journals. Confessions of a Science Librarian. 2015 [accessed 2018 Apr 9].

  2. Note that the adjectives “potential”, “possible”, and “probable” are tentative and do not imply an accusation.