Document Type


Publication Date




The academic community has warned that predatory journals may attempt to capitalize on the confusion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to further publish low quality academic work, eroding the credibility of scholarly publishing.


This article first chronicles the risks of predatory publishing, especially related to misinformation surrounding health research. Next, the author offers an empirical investigation of how predatory publishing has engaged with COVID-19, with an emphasis on journals related to virology, immunology and epidemiology as identified through Cabells' Predatory Reports, through a content analysis of publishers' websites and a comparison to a sample from DOAJ.


The empirical findings show that there were 162 titles related to these critical areas from journals listed on Cabells with a range of infractions, but most were defunct and only 39 had published on the pandemic. Compared to a DOAJ comparison group, the predatory journal websites were less likely to mention slowdowns to the peer review process related to the pandemic. Furthermore, another 284 predatory journals with COVID-19 engagement were uncovered from the initial exploration. These uncovered journals mostly centered on medical or biological science fields, while 42 titles came from other broader fields in social science, other STEM or humanities.


This study does not prove that predatory publications have released misinformation pertaining to COVID-19, but rather it exemplifies the potential within a complex academic publishing space. As these outlets have proven to be vectors of misleading science, libraries and the broader educational community need to stay vigilant as information intermediaries of online research.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Library Hi Tech, volume 39, issue 3, in 2021 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.

Peer Reviewed



Emerald Publishing Limited



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.