Today's publishing market has grown explosively over the last years and traditional publishers have met increased competition from other types of publishers, such as print-on-demand. During this time open access journals have become more common, and within this market, there also exist some publishers which offer more or less questionable venues for publishing. It is very easy to create a website that, at first sight, looks reasonably serious, and in some cases, it might even be a case of a copy of a serious journal's website with a journal-title similar to an already established journal, in hope of tricking potential authors to pay to publish in the journal. One of the reasons for this is that many researchers within the academic community are expected to publish as much as possible (publish or perish) and since those questionable publishers usually promise a speedy peer review process and high acceptance rate, many researchers might be tricked into publishing in these journals.
A distinctive characteristic of these publishers is that they send emails that seem to be directed personally to the recipient researcher or postgraduate student which is a way to promise a fast and sure acceptance of a submitted manuscript. In other words, they are out to catch potential authors for their journals. This type of publishers and journals are therefore called predatory publishers and predatory journals.
Since open access journals don't finance their publishing by subscriptions they are usually charging a so-called author fee, or APC (Author Processing Charge). It is nothing peculiar with this financial model as long as the publisher (or journal) is a legitimate one and performs the peer review and editorial work it promises. But in the case of these predatory publishers and journals, this peer review and editorial work are not performed and in many cases, they are not transparent which costs are included. The fee might be apparent first when the author is long into the publishing process.
In the following sections on questionable publishers and journals, we will talk about some of their distinctive characteristics (Questionable publishers and journals: Characteristics) as well as resources that can be used to avoid them (Questionable publishers and journals: Control strategies).
Eriksson, S. & Helgesson, G. (2017). The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics. Medicine, Health Care And Philosophy, 20(2), 163-170. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007%2Fs11019-016-9740-3
Predatory open access publishing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_open_access_publishing
Thorne, S., Chinn, P. L., Nicoll, L. H., Pickler, R., D'Antonio, P., Connolly, C., ... Bradley-Springer, L. (2014). Predatory publishing: What editors need to know. Nurse Author & Editor, 24(3), 2. Retrieved from http://naepub.com/predatory-publishing/2014-24-3-2/