Just how big a problem is predatory publishing? Simon Linacre reflects on the news this week that Cabells announced it has reached 12,000 journals on its Journal Blacklist and shares some insights into publishing’s dark side.
Predatory publishing has seen a great deal of coverage in 2019, with a variety of sting operations, opinion pieces and studies published on various aspects of the problem. It seems that while on the one side, there is no doubt that it is a problem for academia globally, on the other side there is huge debate as to the size, shape and relative seriousness of that problem.
On the first of those points, the size looks to be pretty big – Cabells announced this week that its Journal Blacklist has hit the 12,000 mark. This is less than a year since it hit 10,000, and it is now triple the size it was when it was launched in 2017. Much of this is to do with the incredibly hard work of its evaluations team, but also because there are a LOT of predatory journals out there, with the numbers increasing daily.
On the last of those points, the aftershocks of the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling against OMICS earlier this year are still being felt. While there is no sign of any contrition on the part of OMICS – or of the $50m fine being paid – the finding has garnered huge publicity and acted as a warning for some academics not to entrust their research with similar publishers. In addition, it has been reported that CrossRef has now cut OMICS membership.
However, the shape of the problem is still hard for many to grasp, and perhaps it would help to share some of the tools of the trade of deceptive publishers. Take one journal on the Cabells Journal Blacklist – the British Journal of Marketing Studies.
Sounds relatively normal, right? But a number of factors relating to this journal highlight many of the problems presented by deceptive journals:
- The title includes the word ‘British’ as a proxy for quality, however, over 600 journals include this descriptor in the Blacklist compared to just over 200 in Scopus’ entire index of over 30,000 journals
- The journal is published by European-American Journals alongside 81 other journals – a remarkable feat considering the publisher lists a small terraced house in Gillingham as its main headquarters
- When Cabells reviewed it for inclusion in the Blacklist, it noted among other things that:
- It falsely claimed to be indexed in well-known databases – we know this because among these was Cabells itself
- It uses misleading metrics, including an “APS Impact Factor” of 6.80 – no such derivation of the Web of Science metric exists, apart from on other predatory journal sites
- There is no detailed peer review policy stated
- There is no affiliation for the Editor, one Professor Paul Simon, and searches cannot uncover any marketing professors with such a name (or a Prof. Garfunkel, for that matter)
This IS a problem for academia because, no matter what the size and seriousness of predatory publishing may be unless researchers learn to spot the signs of what it looks like, they will continue to get drawn in and waste their research, funding dollars, and even career, on deceptive publishing practices.