How should we define a “predatory journal”… ????

Below is more correspondence, plus a “confession of one who was recently duped.” For any “journal” (that has been launched since ~2010), one should check its credentials on multiple internet sites (I’ve seen sites in which comments of those who have been duped can register their complaints — much like complaining online about a bad restaurant or poor-quality vacuum cleaner). Many predatory journals also post “fake impact factors” In addition, check the internet address for the “journal”; e.g. if it is, this is a dead giveaway! You can google an email address, e.g. on google I found:

Flaky Academic Journals: Peertechz Journals › 2017/01 › peertechz-journals

Jan 22, 2017 – Peertechz’s “vision is … to promote qualitative research publications for Science … with an un-restricted access.” The “about us” page explains …

I do believe there MUST soon be an international committee set up, and why not base it in Geneva?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group …

And then each “questionable journal” (that has been established, since, say 2010?) must expect a SITE VISIT from a qualified scientist on this W.H.O. Committee, to interview the publisher and the chief editor. The Inspector must also be allowed to peruse “all reviewed manuscripts submitted (at least) during the previous 2 years”, and be allowed to see the “journal’s” records of how many accepted vs how many rejected (and accepted or rejected … on what grounds).

To me, the scariest part, these days — is that the LINE between “scientifically sound” and “scientifically dubious” has become extremely VAGUE; 5-10 years ago, this line was not nearly so ambiguous… Another factor I look for is the volume number. These days, a predatory journal (that began in 2012, with two “fake volumes” per year) can be “up to volume no. 16”. Find out when the journal began. And where. And why. And with what publishing company.

How can such a Scientific Institute of Integrity be set up? As with most things, of course “this is easier said than done.” 😊

Over the past decade, these GEITP pages have often discussed the problems with “online open-access predatory journals,” which have increased from a few in ~2008 to more than 20,000 today. Many of us receive several hundred emails per week, requesting that we “submit a manuscript within the next 1-2 weeks, it can be one page or 30 pages long, we just need one more paper to satisfy our quota for the current issue.” Many of us also receive dozens of email requests to “become a part of their editorial board”, or “be a keynote speaker at a meeting/symposium/workshop” (often in exotic locations), “following which we’ll publish the proceedings of the meeting in our prestigious journal.” Honest scientists often will have sufficient data to prepare for publication, and are puzzled/challenged in their decision as to which journal it might be best to submit the manuscript.

There is no question that these predatory journals are a global threat. They “accept” articles for publication — along with hundreds of dollars in publication fees — without performing proper quality checks for such matters as plagiarism or ethical approval. Naïve readers are not the only victims; many naïve researchers have been duped into submitting articles to predatory journals, only to find out their work can subsequently be overlooked. One study suggests predatory publishers collect millions of dollars in publication fees that are ultimately paid out granting agencies such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). One example of fraud (discussed previously in these GEITP pages) was a family of four living in Turkey had earned more than $1 million in “publishing fees” in one year, just by pretending to be a legitimate “publishing company.”

What is needed is consensus on a definition of predatory journals; this would provide a reference point for research into their prevalence and influence, and would help in crafting coherent interventions. To agree on “a consensus” and to map solutions, authors [of the attached editorial] and others met in Ottawa, Canada, in April 2019. Participants hailed from 10 countries and represented publishing societies, funding agencies, researchers, policymakers, academic institutions, and libraries. Their focus was on biomedical sciences, but their recommendations should apply broadly. Some of their conclusions included:

Predatory journals are driven by self-interest (usually financial), and at the expense of scholarship. They are characterized by the following:

False or misleading information. (They pretend to have “official impact factors” when they actually do not).

Deviation from best editorial and publication practices. (They promise an honest “peer review” by at least two experts in your field, but then accept the paper, as is, within 48 hours so as to meet their deadline of “publishing another issue”).

Lack of transparency. (The name of the soliciting editor might be “Mary George” (i.e. common English names) and a fake address on a street in some town in New Jersey — when in fact the “journal” represents one or a few people living in Pakistan or China).

Aggressive, indiscriminate solicitation. A clear warning sign is that the invitee’s expertise is outside the journal’s scope (e.g. I’ve been invited to speak at nurses’ conventions, global economics summits, particle physics workshops, and geochemical symposia).

Other criteria — such as journal quality, and intent to deceive. The bottom-line today is that there is a very blurry gradient [e.g. see the diagram on p 211 of attached], showing how problematic it can be to distinguish between a predatory journal and an honest journal that is “becoming under-resourced” (caused perhaps precisely by these predatory journals taking over their domain). The attached article is highly recommended to be read carefully. 😊


Nature 12 Dec 2019; 576: 210-212

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