Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 129-131  

Predatory journals- Can we stem the rot?

NJ Gogtay1, SB Bavdekar2,  
1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Pediatrics, TN Medical College and BYL Nair Ch. Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
N J Gogtay
Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Gogtay N J, Bavdekar S B. Predatory journals- Can we stem the rot?.J Postgrad Med 2019;65:129-131

How to cite this URL:
Gogtay N J, Bavdekar S B. Predatory journals- Can we stem the rot?. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 May 15 ];65:129-131
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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}

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}[23]


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