Get the Facts on Predatory Publishing and Fake Scientific Journals

Uncertainty and Misinformation

❗️Misinformation Alert❗️

Predatory scientific publishing is a thing.

There is an entire industry of essentially fake, for-profit “journals” that will publish just about anything for a fee. Academics get “invitations” to publish in these journals all the time. Most often they have humorous flaws like odd salutations “Greetings of the day, Respected Doctor!” or other telltale signs that something is off (like the journal is impossibly broad or has nothing to do with the recipient’s research.)

Besides annoying academics, why does this matter to you? Because these fake journals will publish just about anything, including utter nonsense, giving that nonsense an official-looking package. It *looks* like the study is from an official, peer-reviewed journal. It can easily be passed off as a real study, giving disinformation an air of authority.

Here’s one example from 2020 where a study claiming that 5G caused COVID was published in a predatory journal. The claims in this “study” literally defy the laws of physics, but it was in a “journal” and had lots of equations, so to the untrained eye, it can seem legitimate.

So how do you tell if a journal is fake or real? Often fake journals have legitimate-looking websites and take a name that is *very* similar to the name of a real journal, making it hard to tell if it’s fake or real just from googling.

The best way to tell if a study is from a fake or real journal is to see if it’s listed on PubMed. Any legitimate journal within the life sciences or medicine should be listed there. Just search for the title of the article at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/; if it isn’t listed there at all, that’s very suspicious. (One caveat: if a legitimate study was just published, it sometimes takes a day or two to show up on PubMed.)

TL;DR: one source of misinformation is fake journals! Any legitimate medical / biology study should be listed on PubMed within a day or two of publication. If it’s not there, it may be published by a predatory journal and be utter garbage.

Additional Links:

You Can Know Things: A Case Study in Misinformation