Public Policy Chair Co-Authors ‘Nature’ Commentary on Predatory Journal Publishers

Cassidy Sugimoto

Posted October 28, 2021

Most scholarly journals are credible outlets for important academic work. A few, however, subvert the rigor and precision demanded of researchers with shoddy practices or, sometimes, even outright fraud.

In a new commentary published Oct. 26, 2021, in the journal Nature, a team of researchers including Cassidy R. Sugimoto of the School of Public Policy detail its work creating a database of publishers not indexed by major bibliographic databases, such as Web of Science or Scopus, and analyzing the work of those publishers for questionable practices.

The authors found what they describe as new questionable conduct by so-called “predatory publishers,” despite a 2018 ruling in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission against an India-based journal publisher for deceptive business practices. They found that some publishers have turned to rebranding old, questionable content or reappropriating legitimate articles previously published in other journals, without the authors’ consent.

“Predatory publishers take publication fees without performing advertised services, such as archiving, indexing, or quality control,” the researchers wrote. “They often use outright deception, such as fake editorial boards or impact factors, to appear legitimate.”

Such practices can fool well-meaning academics, especially newer researchers eager to establish a publication record, and flood the web with false articles that can deceive students and practitioners seeking information, said Sugimoto, the Tom and Marie Patton Chair in the School of Public Policy.

“It is essential that we find ways to identify and discourage predatory practices while supporting emerging journals who often provide valuable outlets for publication for those from under-resourced countries and institutions,” Sugimoto said.

In addition to Sugimoto, the article was written by Kyle Siler, Vincent Larivière, and Philippe Vincent-Lamarre of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Montreal.

They describe their database, called Lacuna, as “one strand of a broader strategy” to reduce the influence of predatory publishers. Other policy proposals they suggest include:

  • Mandate more transparent peer-review processes to combat fake or low-quality peer review practices.
  • Encourage universities, funders, and libraries to demand adherence to transparency rules as a prerequisite for purchases.
  • Find ways to support emerging publishers seeking to expand access to high-quality publishing options for disadvantaged scholars and institutions.
  • Reduce the emphasis on quantity over quality in university hiring, tenure, and retention practices.

Sugimoto said it is important that changes are systemic, to avoid further burdening academic researchers who are already under significant pressure to publish, teach, and take on administrative responsibilities.

“The solution to this problem is really with funders and institutions, who can help deprive these questionable journals of the profit they need to flourish,” Sugimoto said.

The commentary, “Predatory Publishers’ Latest Scam: Bootlegged and Rebranded Papers,” is available at

The School of Public Policy is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

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