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      Predatory journals- Can we stem the rot?

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      Journal of Postgraduate Medicine

      Wolters Kluwer - Medknow

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          Abstract

          Science progresses on the basis of data generated by honest and trustworthy research published in peer reviewed journals. Over the last few years, the confidence in published literature is being systematically eroded by predatory journals and publishers, who “actively solicit manuscripts and charge publication fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services.”[1] These are largely seen to exploit the open-access model for their own profit. They achieve this through several surreptitious tactics like misrepresenting facts (for example, regarding indexing of the journal, hiding the identities of publishers and editors, use of the word ‘international’ in their title to give the appearance of a prestigious journal), accepting papers for publication without even a semblance of peer-review or any quality-assuring process and deception about services that, in reality, they do not provide (for example, archiving). Predatory journals are causing enormous damage to individual scientists, to the science itself and to many other legitimate processes and entities.[2 3 4] Some unsuspecting authors publish their genuine and quality research papers in these journals. These papers may be viewed with suspicion and the contributors may not receive the deserved credit, as the reviewers and assessors see these journals as 'suspect’. Predatory journals often do not archive their content and hence good-quality evidence is lost forever. It makes a mockery of the academic evaluation process, as getting articles published in these journals has become a very easy and speedy process these days. As most of these journals follow the open-access model (obviously as individuals do not subscribe to them, given the poor quality papers they publish), they bring a bad name to the Open-access publishing, a legitimate model wherein everyone gets immediate free access to the research published. Similarly, as many papers published in these journals are from low- and middle-income countries from Asia and Africa, all research from these countries is seen as suspect. Much of the research that is published in predatory journals is mundane and will not advance science and wastes resources.[5] The unscientific articles with unsubstantiated and biased (and at times fabricated) data and analysis published in these journals become a part of the ‘available scientific evidence’, thus polluting and diluting science. These articles can influence decisions regarding therapeutic and preventive strategies, thereby, significantly and adversely affect patient care and societal well-being. This will ultimately erode the public trust in scholarly research and scientific publications. The worrying part is that the trend is not showing any signs of abating. After being described in 2010, there was at least a three-fold increase in the number of predatory journals worldwide.[6] Although, the problem encompasses all regions of the world, scholars from India, United States and Nigeria are seen to be the predominant contributors to these journals.[5] Advances in information technology and widespread availability of internet are the primary reasons for the widespread distribution of these journals and impressive growth in their numbers. The technological developments have made the process of putting up a website and publishing a journal and contacting prospective authors with enticing emails, easier and inexpensive.[7] The practice of regulatory bodies linking promotion of medical teachers to the number of research publications[8], without assessing the quality of the research has provided impetus to predatory publishing. Young and unsuspecting researchers should be protected from falling prey to predatory journals. They should be made aware of the harm that these journals are causing. Features of predatory journals are outlined in Table 1.[9 10 11 12 13] Although lists of both predatory and legitimate journals and publishers are available[14 15 16 17], these lists are not foolproof, and hence cannot be the only sources for identifying predatory journals. It is necessary to equip all scientists with skills to recognize the predatory nature of a journal. There are several ways to do this – evaluate the journal's website and critically reviewing previously published papers, assess the website for absence of useful/critical information (e.g., absence of guidelines for publication, standard operating processes for review and editorial processes, archives of previously published articles, manuscript management system), and carefully review enticing emails soliciting articles along with quick fixes (assured quick publication).[18] Authors are also advised to cross-check certain details provided on the website (e.g., names, contact details and affiliations of editors and members of editorial board, indexation, impact factor) as part of due diligence. This is because predatory publishers are known to provide inaccurate or untruthful information. Table 1 Certain features commonly seen with predatory journals[9 10 11 12 13] Name/Title The name may be similar to another reputed and well-established journal The name may not match with the scope of the journal or with geographical location of publishers/editors. Journal policies Policies regarding review process, payment of fees, copyright, publication ethics, retraction of articles, archiving of published article etc, may be non-existent or may be perfunctory. Instructions to authors may provide incomplete or only sketchy details Article submission and processing Journal scope is very wide from medicine to nursing and dentistry, at times even including chemistry Submission is generally through email (as attachment to an email) and not through a manuscript management website/system Article processing charges are not revealed on website, but will be conveyed to the corresponding author once the manuscript is accepted There may not be a manuscript management/tracking facility, as all submitted manuscripts are accepted without any peer review and without any delay. The publishers do not invest in the Journal No archival of published/accepted manuscripts No Ombudsman to adjudicate on or resolve issues between the editor and author Editor and Editorial Board Members Their names may not be stated and they remain unidentified If their names are available, they may not be the experts in the field. Their affiliations may not be provided The individuals named, may not be aware that they have been appointed to these positions Publisher The name may not be revealed. There may not be a traceable address or contact number or email id Editors and publisher may not be a member of recognized industry initiative such as COPE, DOAJ, OASPA, WAME Indexation and Impact Factor The journal will not be indexed with reputed indexes and will not be listed in standard periodical directories such as Ulrich’s Periodicals Library. “Indexation” with non-indexes such as “Google” or “Google Scholar” may be claimed and advertised. Journal may use a fake or non-existent Impact Factor. The Impact Factor claimed will not be the one provided by Thomson Reuters Published papers Many papers represent poor science. There are grammatical and spelling errors There is no uniform formatting of published papers Advertisements and communications The journal would advertise itself aggressively through emails and posters The communications have plenty of grammatical and spelling mistakes Enticements with assured (rapid/express) publication within a ridiculously short period of a few days. This will allow hardly any time for a meaningful peer- or editorial review A single email will contain invitation to submit an article, contribute as a reviewer and join as an Editor/member of the Editorial Board These emails continue to pour in, despite the receiver requesting for “unsubscribe” Website Maybe difficult to find/locate May have a design similar to another reputed journal’s website Information about journal policies and scope and regarding editors and publishers is scanty Replete with grammatical and spelling errors Other The journal may be in existence only for a few years Using fake (or not using) DOI, ISSN COPE: Committee on Publication Ethics, DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals, OASPA: Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association, WAME: World Alliance of Medical Editors A survey on motivations of authors to publish in presumed predatory journals has shown frustration with time taken by standard journals, repeated rejections, pressure to publish for promotions and lack of mentorship among other reasons for the choosing these journals.[19] While the measures listed above will help naïve and unsuspecting scientists steer clear of predatory journals; other measures will be needed to discourage scientists those who knowingly submit their research to these journals. These will have to be tackled by supervisory and perhaps punitive measures to be implemented by universities and colleges, sponsors of research projects and ethics committees [Table 2]. Universities and colleges, ethics committees, research funding organizations will also need to rethink their systems and processes for assessment to see if they are actually encouraging submission to these journals. Finally, individual integrity is what will go a long way in stemming the rot and addressing the fraud and deception that has set in. Table 2 Steps from stakeholders that can put predatory journals and publishers “out of business”[5 6 12 20 21 22 23] Stakeholder Actions Universities, Colleges and Academic Institutions Empower students and faculty with skills in research methodology, critical appraisal of research papers and medical writing, early on in their careers. They will then do quality research and write excellent papers that can get published in good reputed journals Adopt a policy to discourage submissions to predatory journals. Prepare a list of predatory journals. During evaluation for extension of tenure, promotion or career advancement, do not provide any credit for papers published in predatory journals. Inform faculty that publication in a predatory journal will be considered as “disreputable” Do not include articles published in “predatory journals” in the institutional digital repository Audit where the faculty and students are publishing and consider appropriate measures Identifying predatory journals: Impart knowledge and skills to the scholars and students Do not give “payouts” for publications as this can push authors to publish in predatory journals Funding Organizations & Ethics Committees Insist on investigators publishing research related to funding only in non-predatory journals Indexing Organizations Evaluate candidate journals effectively to ensure that predatory journals do not get indexed Re-evaluate indexed journals periodically. Delist those falling short of established standards and those indulging in predatory activities Faculty Inform students about predatory journals and their characteristics, unethical practices and detrimental impact Inform fellow faculty members about a predatory journal once it is identified Do not become a reviewer, editorial board member or editor in predatory journals Evaluate a journal’s practices thoroughly before submitting a paper for publication. Do not submit research and other articles to predatory journals Do not cite articles published in predatory journals Create awareness among scientific community: Discuss this issue during meetings of scientific and professional organizations. Write about predatory journals. Librarians Assist faculty and students in identifying predatory publications Students Understand the harm that predatory journals are causing to the stakeholders, open-access publishing model, patient care and science. Approach mentors for tips on selecting good journals for submitting their papers Develop skills to identify predatory journals. Avoid citing articles published in predatory journals. Avoid submitting papers or reviews to predatory journals

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          Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison

          Background The Internet has transformed scholarly publishing, most notably, by the introduction of open access publishing. Recently, there has been a rise of online journals characterized as ‘predatory’, which actively solicit manuscripts and charge publications fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services. We carried out a cross-sectional comparison of characteristics of potential predatory, legitimate open access, and legitimate subscription-based biomedical journals. Methods On July 10, 2014, scholarly journals from each of the following groups were identified – potential predatory journals (source: Beall’s List), presumed legitimate, fully open access journals (source: PubMed Central), and presumed legitimate subscription-based (including hybrid) journals (source: Abridged Index Medicus). MEDLINE journal inclusion criteria were used to screen and identify biomedical journals from within the potential predatory journals group. One hundred journals from each group were randomly selected. Journal characteristics (e.g., website integrity, look and feel, editors and staff, editorial/peer review process, instructions to authors, publication model, copyright and licensing, journal location, and contact) were collected by one assessor and verified by a second. Summary statistics were calculated. Results Ninety-three predatory journals, 99 open access, and 100 subscription-based journals were analyzed; exclusions were due to website unavailability. Many more predatory journals’ homepages contained spelling errors (61/93, 66%) and distorted or potentially unauthorized images (59/93, 63%) compared to open access journals (6/99, 6% and 5/99, 5%, respectively) and subscription-based journals (3/100, 3% and 1/100, 1%, respectively). Thirty-one (33%) predatory journals promoted a bogus impact metric – the Index Copernicus Value – versus three (3%) open access journals and no subscription-based journals. Nearly three quarters (n = 66, 73%) of predatory journals had editors or editorial board members whose affiliation with the journal was unverified versus two (2%) open access journals and one (1%) subscription-based journal in which this was the case. Predatory journals charge a considerably smaller publication fee (median $100 USD, IQR $63–$150) than open access journals ($1865 USD, IQR $800–$2205) and subscription-based hybrid journals ($3000 USD, IQR $2500–$3000). Conclusions We identified 13 evidence-based characteristics by which predatory journals may potentially be distinguished from presumed legitimate journals. These may be useful for authors who are assessing journals for possible submission or for others, such as universities evaluating candidates’ publications as part of the hiring process.
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            Stop this waste of people, animals and money

            Predatory journals have shoddy reporting and include papers from wealthy nations, find David Moher, Larissa Shamseer, Kelly Cobey and colleagues.
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              Dangerous Predatory Publishers Threaten Medical Research

               Jeffrey Beall (2016)
              This article introduces predatory publishers in the context of biomedical sciences research. It describes the characteristics of predatory publishers, including spamming and using fake metrics, and it describes the problems they cause for science and universities. Predatory journals often fail to properly manage peer review, allowing pseudo-science to be published dressed up as authentic science. Academic evaluation is also affected, as some researchers take advantage of the quick, easy, and cheap publishing predatory journals provide. By understanding how predatory publishers operate, researchers can avoid becoming victimized by them.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Postgrad Med
                J Postgrad Med
                JPGM
                Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
                Wolters Kluwer - Medknow (India )
                0022-3859
                0972-2823
                Jul-Sep 2019
                : 65
                : 3
                : 129-131
                Affiliations
                Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
                [1 ]Department of Pediatrics, TN Medical College and BYL Nair Ch. Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
                Author notes
                Address for correspondence: Dr. Gogtay NJ, E-mail: nithyagogtay@ 123456kem.edu
                Article
                JPGM-65-129
                10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_266_19
                6659424
                31317875
                Copyright: © 2019 Journal of Postgraduate Medicine

                This is an open access journal, and articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License, which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as appropriate credit is given and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.

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