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Research impact guide: Unethical publishing behaviour

Identify unethical publishing behaviours

As with any industry, most publishing companies are legitimate businesses, but some participate in unethical behaviours.

Signs that a publisher may be engaging in unethical behaviours include:

  • hidden fees and charges
  • academics are barraged with email invitations to submit articles and to be on editorial boards
  • author agreements strip authors of all rights to their research
  • websites or publications are of poor quality with editorial errors
  • the sales pitch does not match the reality

Publishers who operate in these ways do not provide any of the value added services offered by more legitimate publishers, such as a thorough review process and marketing. In more serious cases, unethical publishers may also strip authors of all rights to their research and solicit funds.

To avoid being caught out:

  • Check the publisher websites and author guidelines
  • Research the publisher and consider contacting editorial board members
  • Carefully read any contracts and agreements
  • Ask questions of the publisher about the review process and any fees or charges
  • Ask question of colleagues and supervisors about the publication


The publishing business is just that, a business. Publishers need to make a profit and have their own agendas. Each author needs to remain vigilant that their interests are protected.

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