Unethical publishing practices

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The world of publishing has seen an increasing number of publishers that exist somewhere in between the world of reputable publishing and ‘unethical’ publishing.

Confusion has occurred with the emergence of ‘gold’ open access publishing, which is a legitimate model of paying for publication. However, the journal’s impact may be be limited because it does not have the reach or visibility of mainstream publications, or well known publishers.

Watch out for journals which:

  • have a name that is similar to other established journals or academic institutions
  • publish articles on subjects not normally associated with the discipline
  • send unsolicited emails which contain errors, are extremely complimentary or the journal is not in the researcher’s discipline

Publication source considerations

  Reputable publishing practice Signs of potential problems
Content Publishes quality research that you would read and use. The journal promises to publish all content.
Organisational affiliation You can identify and contact any affiliated organisation. There is no clear organisational affiliation.
Editorial processes Has clear editorial policies and peer review processes. The editorial process is unclear.
Peer Review Is listed in the Ulrichs directory as a peer reviewed journal. Does not undertake a peer review process.
Publication fees Has clear information about publication fees. Publication fees are undisclosed or difficult to find.
Editorial board The names and affiliations of editorial boards are clearly visible. It is unclear who is on the editorial board. The same editors are on numerous journals.
Indexing Is indexed in standard databases in the subject field. Not indexed in the standard databases.
Citation impact Mention of citation impact factor comes from standard sources such as JCR, Scimago or Scopus Sources. It makes unverified claims regarding citation impact. The sources are not the standard ones.

Further readings

Information and readings about deceptive publishing practices are available on the Library guide Strategic publishing.


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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