1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN


We need to be vigilant against fake journals.


Article Content

I first wrote about predatory publishers and journals in my April 2015 editorial, "Predatory Publishing Is No Joke." Other members of the International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE) wrote about it as well, hoping to "get the word out" to our readers about how unscrupulous publishers were taking advantage of the open access publishing model. These publishers dupe authors into submitting work to journals that are essentially fake. They do little or no peer review, usually publish only a few online issues with little dissemination, and keep the copyright and author fees. Under these circumstances, authors are basically paying for work that will not be disseminated or counted toward promotion or tenure.

Figure. Maureen Shaw... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Maureen Shawn Kennedy

There have been many attempts to expose the identities of these publishers. The most widely known of these, perhaps, is Beall's List, a blacklist of predatory publishers compiled by University of Colorado Denver librarian Jeffrey Beall. Citing pressure from his employer and intimidation and threats of lawsuits from publishers, he ceased maintaining the list in 2017. However, it is currently available at and is periodically updated by a postdoctoral student who maintains anonymity to avoid the pressures that befell Beall.


We've learned a bit more about the deceptive practices of these publishers and can spot the red flags that reveal their true nature. Last April, a group of publishers, editors, researchers, funders, and other stakeholders in scholarly publishing met in Ottawa and reached a consensus on a definition of predatory publishers ("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"). In research conducted to identify predatory nursing journals and published in the November 2016 Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Marilyn H. Oermann and colleagues found 140 predatory journals from 75 publishers. In a subsequent 2018 study in Nursing Outlook that evaluated the quality of the articles published in predatory journals, Oermann and colleagues found that 96.3% of the 358 articles assessed were rated poor or average.


There's also evidence that articles from predatory journals are being cited in mainstream journals, including nursing journals. We've found this to be true in submissions we receive, prompting us to spend more time reviewing references. And in a 2019 study published in Nursing Outlook, Oermann and colleagues found 814 citations of articles published in predatory journals in 141 nonpredatory journals, generally cited one to four years after publication. Interestingly, the majority of authors of the predatory articles were from the United States.


Some researchers say that trusted indexes like PubMed and the Directory of Open Access Journals have been infiltrated by predatory journals. The danger in all this is that information that has not been verified or subjected to review is becoming mainstream and can undermine future research, or worse, be incorporated into protocols and guidelines for clinical interventions, ultimately causing harm to patients.


So, how do you know which journals are "good" journals? Authors have several resources: the website has a checklist to help weed out bogus journals; check to see if the journal is listed in MEDLINE, which does a rigorous review, or is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics; the World Association of Medical Editors offers resources on its site (; and INANE maintains a list of nursing journals vetted by its members at


In its newly revised guidelines in December, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors ( puts the onus on authors to do their due diligence in choosing a journal to publish their work.


It's no surprise that in this age of the Internet, when anyone can be a publisher or author, and facts seem to be dependent on individual perspective, we should also have fake journals with fake editors and fake editorial boards. Rigorous peer review is the best mechanism we have to ensure accuracy in our literature, and it's the responsibility of editors, reviewers, and authors to participate in the process in good faith.