Predatory practices in academic medicine

Durga Prasanna Misra, DM, FRCP
Associate Professor, Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, SGPGIMS, Lucknow

What does the term predatory imply?

Predatory practices refer to those associated with some form of “preying” or “deception”. In academic medicine, these could involve preying upon scientists or academic physicians.

Forms of predatory practices.

These could be predatory journals, which are low-quality journals that basically publish any junk that you submit to them without any due editorial or peer review processes. Such journals would often spam you repeatedly to solicit your article. As the saying goes, never look a gift horse in the mouth! After accepting your article, such journals would charge you a fee to publish the manuscript online. If at that stage you refuse to pay the fee realising the folly of submitting to a predatory journal, then they would publish it online and ask for a “smaller” fee for withdrawal of the manuscript. Anyways, once published online, even if it is removed eventually, you cannot submit your manuscript elsewhere. Therefore, your effort to gather data and write the manuscript is wasted.

Another predatory practice is predatory conferences, which arrange meetings (mostly abroad) of a heterogenous group of scientists from diverse fields without any relation to each other (such as agriculture and cardiology). You might be fooled into attending such meetings which would easily accept your abstract. However, neither is there any meaningful attention to your work nor do you get appropriate feedback or meaningful collaborations (because there are none to be found at such meetings).


The pressure to publish is one of the leading causes of publication in predatory journals. Such journals might occasionally be on Scopus or Web of Science or DOAJ, therefore, might be acceptable by the National Medical Council for promotion purposes. However, the content published in such journals is neither searchable nor read or cited by researchers of any repute. Therefore, it is essentially a waste of pdf (such journals are generally not published in print). Another motivating factor to submit in predatory journals is the perceived lack of criticism during “peer review” which authors (particularly from South-East Asia) often take personally.


Predatory publishing is flourishing as an industry due to the culture of “publish or perish”. Young, inexperienced authors fall prey to predatory journals or conferences. As a consequence, years of their effort spent into a piece of scientific work goes to waste. The Bohannon sting in 2013 identified that a large chunk of predatory journals were from Asia (particularly India). Occasionally, predatory journals might have a few articles identifiable on a Pubmed search due to funder mandates such as from the National Institutes of health which require an accepted version of the article to be archived on Pubmed. Such journals then widely popularise these articles to misinform authors about their status of MEDLINE/ Pubmed Central indexing. Predatory journals should be distinguished from genuine open-access journals such as PLoS One or Scientific Reports.

How to identify predatory journals – a short checklist

  • Publish on a wide variety of topics from engineering to fisheries in the same journal.
  • Incessantly spam authors soliciting articles with flowery language.
  • Lack of a proven publication record
  • Not affiliated with national, regional, or international scientific societies
  • Might misuse the term “International” in the journal title.

Suggested reading

  1. Misra DP, Ravindran V, Wakhlu A, Sharma A, Agarwal V, Negi VS. Publishing in black and white: the relevance of listing of scientific journals. RheumatolInt  2017;37(11):1773-8.
  2. Ravindran V, Misra DP, Negi VS. Predatory Practices and How to Circumvent Them: a Viewpoint from India. Journal of Korean medical science. 2017;32(1):160-1.
  3. Misra DP, Ravindran V. Current perspectives on predatory or low-quality journals. J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2020;50(3):224-5.
  4. Misra DP, Agarwal V. Integrity of clinical research conduct, reporting, publishing, and post-publication promotion in rheumatology. Clin Rheumatol  2020;39:1049 – 60.