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What reputable journals offer - and predatory journals don't

Read our blog post to find out what features you can expect from reputable journals and what predatory journals withhold to your detriment.

Functions of scientific journals

The functions that a journal performs for researchers can be divided into several categories: Registration, certification, dissemination and archiving. Predatory journals rarely, if ever, perform these functions, as they are driven solely by profit and the personal gain of those who run them. In most cases, they use a business model similar to that of OA journals: authors pay article processing charges (APCs) for publication. However, predatory journals cannot be equated with OA journals. OA journals offer the features listed below in exchange for the APCs they collect. Predatory journals usually only pretend to offer them.


By submitting a manuscript to a reputable journal, the authors of a scientific article simultaneously secure ownership of the idea. A timestamp ensures that the scientific result is attributed to the researchers who first submitted it. Submissions can also be retracted.

As predatory journals do not have a strategy for long-term archiving of content, in the worst case scenario - the journal's website is no longer accessible - it may no longer be possible to trace the priority of an idea. In addition, it is not always possible to withdraw an article from predatory journals. Once a manuscript has been submitted, it is usually impossible to prevent publication.


Certification of a manuscript ensures that its content conforms to good scientific practice. This is mainly done through peer review. These are carried out by researchers recruited and supervised by journals. Peer review improves the quality of submitted manuscripts by checking whether the idea is novel, the study design and methods are adequately and sufficiently described, important results from other studies have been taken into account, and the results are conclusive and clearly presented. At the same time, peer reviewers check for unfair practices such as plagiarism, citation manipulation and data falsification. It is also part of the journal's role to reject a manuscript if it does not meet scientific standards. The type of peer review used - single-blind, double-blind or open peer review - is irrelevant to quality control, as long as good scientific practice is followed.

In addition to the central quality control of peer review, journals carry out further work during the certification process to ensure that the manuscript meets research standards. This includes, in particular, proofreading and editing by editors. They improve the manuscript in terms of consistent spelling, but also identify general problems in manuscripts. These include logical errors or incorrect conclusions. They also help authors to formulate their results precisely to avoid ambiguity.

In the case of predatory journals, it is not clear whether they carry out peer review. As peer review is a lengthy process, the practice of these journals to publish manuscripts within a few days means that it can usually be assumed that no adequate peer review has taken place. To deceive researchers, they either list fictitious reviewers on their websites or claim to have recruited established researchers as reviewers. It is impossible to verify whether they have actually agreed to appear there or whether they are carrying out peer reviews for the predatory publisher. The quality of a manuscript is therefore often not checked, which means that studies are published that have been conducted using unethical methods - plagiarism, falsification of research data, etc. - or are simply of poor quality. Therefore, The acceptance rate is very high, reaching 100% for some journals. Editing and proofreading are also services that predatory journals often only pretend to offer.


After quality control and acceptance of the manuscript, a journal is responsible for the dissemination of the scientific results. The article, revised by the authors, is given an appropriate layout by the journal in accordance with its style and is printed in an issue of the journal or published online. In addition, articles from reputable journals are indexed in established scientific databases. In this way, scientific results reach their target audience - primarily other researchers, but also the media and the interested public.

When an article is published in a predatory journal and the APCs are paid, it is not clear to what extent the journal will take care of dissemination. The article is usually published on the journal's own website, but because of its untested quality, it is not indexed in established databases. In addition, the article is not given an appropriate layout. Apart from the journal's website, the article is usually nowhere to be found. The visibility of the article is therefore very low.


At the end of the publication process, journals have a responsibility to ensure that published articles remain accessible. This last step is particularly important for scholarly work, as it ensures that research results are not lost and can be built upon in further research. On the one hand, journals fulfil this role by printing and distributing the articles in a journal, often for a fee. But this step also includes the preservation of online publications. For this purpose, journals archive articles on their own publishing platforms.

In the case of predatory journals, long-term availability is not guaranteed, as the article is usually only published on the journal's own website. The journal may remove the article from the site at any time. It is also possible for the entire website to be taken down. In this case, the article cannot be found and cannot be used for further research.


The features offered to researchers by predatory journals are a sham. In particular, they do not provide the quality control necessary for good scientific practice. As a result, other researchers will doubt the results of studies published in predatory journals - which can cause considerable reputational damage. It is therefore highly recommended that you thoroughly review a journal before submitting a manuscript. You can read more about how to identify and avoid predatory journals in our recent blog post.


More about the Key Functions of Scholarly Communication:
Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication. Report of the Expert Group to the European Commission, page 24. DOI: 10.2777/836532

Michaela Zottler is a librarian at TU Graz. She helps researchers and students finding literature and is happy to answer questions about scientific publications.
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