Swiss researchers analyse blacklists of predatory and whitelists of legitimate open access journals

For researchers, it is not always easy to tell the difference between predatory and legitimate scholarly journals. So-called “blacklists” and “whitelists” that show what journals are predatory and what journals are legitimate are widely used as a guide by the research community. Researchers from the Swiss National Science Foundation analysed the quality of these lists and compared them in terms of their inclusion criteria and the indexed publishers and scholarly journals. This was the first analysis and comparison of its kind.

The results of the study, which was published in mBio, show that the various lists differ considerably in terms of their inclusion criteria. Overall, the lists appear to give priority to easily verifiable dimensions of quality rather than to the quality of peer review. Moreover, the results show that there is an overlap of journals and publishers between blacklists and whitelists. This is an indication that some journals and publishers are misclassified and that others are operating in a grey zone between fraud and legitimacy.

The study shows that the blacklists and whitelists examined are helpful to inform researchers about journals that are probably fraudulent or probably legitimate. Because the lists emphasize easily verifiable criteria, and because they are static and can never be one hundred percent up to date, further sources should always be consulted in order to check the legitimacy of a scholarly journal (Strinzel et al. 2019).

Strinzel M, Severin A, Milzow K, Egger M. 2019. Blacklists and whitelists to tackle predatory publishing: a cross-sectional comparison and thematic analysis. mBio 10:e00411-19.