No signs of slowing

Cabells adds journals to its Predatory Reports database continuously, with over 10,000 added to the original 4,000 it launched with in 2017. But can we learn anything from the journals that have been added recently? To find out, Simon Linacre takes a look at the predatory journals listed throughout June 2021.


Fancy reading up on some research to learn about COVID-19? A lot of people will have been doing the same thing over the last 18 months as they try and figure out for themselves what on earth has been happening. They will do some Google searches and read articles published in journals like the British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine and the Open Journal of Epidemiology. Sure, the third one doesn’t sound quite as prestigious as the other two, but it has a bunch of articles on epidemics, and it’s all free to read – so that’s good, right?

Sadly, it’s not so good. The Open Journal of Epidemiology is one of 99 journals that Cabells listed in its Predatory Reports database last month, and is published by a well-known predatory publisher known as SCIRP (Scientific Research Publishing) based in China. The journal – not to be confused with the British Open Journal of Epidemiology or the American Open Epidemiology Journal, both in Predatory Reports as well – has dubious publication practices such as falsely claiming indexation in well-known databases, promising unusually quick peer review and publishing authors several times in the same journal and/or issue.

The journal’s search function points a handful articles relating to ‘COVID’, including one on ex-patients and their recovery which has been downloaded 200 times and viewed nearly 600 times according to the website. But we know that this journal was unlikely to have been given a full peer review, if any at all, and the data on the website is difficult to trust – the Open Journal of Epidemiology was just one of 26 journals from the same publisher which Cabells listed last month.

In total there were eight publishers who had journals listed in June, with the biggest being Bilingual Published Co. based in Singapore, with 30 journals in total. Other publishers had fewer journals listed and were based in several different countries – India, Hong Kong, Kenya and even Belgium – and it is worth pointing out that Cabells reviews each journal independently rather than the publisher as a whole.

What else can we glean from this selection of predatory titles? Just 11 out of 99 had no ISSN, further underlining the folly of using the existence of an ISSN as evidence of legitimacy. On average the journals were four-to-five years old, so reasonably well established, and predominantly based in STEM research areas. Of the 99 journals listed, just 13 were in non-STEM areas such as Education and Management. The most common subject was Medicine with no fewer than 38 journals represented. However, it is worth pointing out that many predatory publishers are either hopelessly generic, or will publish anything even if the article has nothing to do with the core topics of the journal.

Cabells is being kept rather busy by reviewing all these journals, but if you do spot a suspicious journal or receive those annoying spam emails, do let us know at journals@cabells.com and we can perform a review so that others won’t be deceived or fall into the numerous traps being laid for them.

Industrial disease

It’s almost four years since Cabells launched its Predatory Reports database, but the battle to overcome predatory journals shows no signs of abating. As a result, Cabells is constantly developing new ways to support authors and their institutions in dealing with the problem, and this week Simon Linacre reports from the virtual SSP Annual Meeting on a new collaboration with Edifix from Inera, which helps identify articles and authors published in predatory journals.

A common retort heard or read on social media whenever there is a discussion on predatory journals can go something like this: “is there really any harm done?”, “some research is only good enough for those kind of journals,” or “everyone knows those journals are fake.” For the latter rejoinders, there is some justification for taking those perspectives, and if recent global events have taught us anything it is that we need a sense of proportion when dealing with scientific breakthroughs and analysis. But the former point really doesn’t hold water because, when you think it through, there is a good deal of harm done to a number of different stakeholders as a result of one article appearing in a predatory journal.

Predatory journals do researchers and their institutions a huge disservice by claiming to be a reputable outlet for publication. Legitimate journals provide valuable services to both promote and protect authors’ work, which simply doesn’t happen with predatory journals. Essentially, there are three key reasons why authors and their employers can suffer harm from publishing in the wrong journals:

  • Their work may be subject to sub-par peer review, or more likely no peer review at all. The peer review system isn’t perfect, but papers that undergo peer review are better for it. Researchers want to make sure they are publishing in a place that values their work and is willing to devote time and resources to improving it.
  • Versions of record could disappear. One of the advantages of publishing with a reputable journal is that they make commitments to preserve authors’ work. Opportunists looking to make a quick buck are not going to care if your paper is still available in five years – or even five weeks.
  • Published articles will be hard to find. Some predatory journals advertise that they are included in well-known databases like Web of Science, Scopus, or Cabells when they are not. Predatory journals invest nothing in SEO or work to include journals in research databases, so research won’t be easily discoverable.

So, it is in the interests of authors, universities, societies, funders and society itself that research is not lost to predatory publishing activities. Checking against a database such as Predatory Reports will help those stakeholders, but to augment their capabilities Cabells is collaborating with Atypon’s Inera division, and specifically its Edifix product to help prevent ‘citation contamination’. This is where illegitimate articles published in predatory journals find their way into the research bloodstream by being referenced by legitimate journals. With Edifix, users can now vet bibliographic reference lists for citations to predatory journals, as identified by Predatory Reports.

This new Edifix web service with the automated Cabells Reference Checking Tool was showcased at SSP’s Annual Meeting (meeting registration required) this week (and previewed in an SSP sponsored session in October 2020) with a host of other new innovations, collaborations and product developments from the scholarly communications industry. While it would have been great to see old friends and colleagues in person at the event, the virtual format enabled much wider, international engagement which contributed to an undoubtedly successful event.

No laughing matter

The latest meme to sweep Twitter in the last week has been a satirical look at typical journal articles. Simon Linacre introduces Cabells’ own take on the theme and reflects on the impact they can have on our shared conscience.


We all like memes, right? Those social media nuggets that we can all relate to and laugh at, a form of in-joke without having to be with a group of people, which under current circumstances has meant a kind of gold rush for this form of humor. Whether it is the boyfriend looking over his shoulder at another woman or the excerpt from the film Downfall with Hitler going berserk, the number of situations and news items that lend themselves to this form of parody is literally endless.

So, when the meme spotlight fell on our own corner of the scholarly publishing world, we couldn’t help but join in and adapt the scientific paper meme to predatory journals (see image). To be honest, it wasn’t too difficult to think of 12 journal titles that highlighted the problems predatory publishing causes, and a whole series of memes could easily be created to underscore the joke that is the predatory journal phenomenon.

It’s easy to spot the themes we chose to lampoon, although however much we become familiar with the predatory journal tropes, publications and new journals are emerging all the time, as the total number of journals listed in Cabells’ Predatory Reports hitting 14,500 this week testifies. Among the issues we put under the spotlight in the graphic are both the unethical and unaware authors publishing in predatory titles, how poor research or plagiarized content can easily be published, and some of the poor excuses those who end up publishing in dodgy journals have provided.

However, underneath the tomfoolery there is a serious point to be made. A recent op-ed in The Atlantic took the opportunity of highlighting not just the shared joy and geekiness of the scientific paper meme, but also the existential dread it spotlighted. As the article expertly points out, while academics recognize the hamster-in-a-wheel absurdity the meme represents, they cannot help but see themselves in the wheel, unable to stop running. For some, they will just shrug their shoulders and find the next piece of clickbait; for others, there is little consolation in the humor and plenty of angst to try and control to preserve their sanity.

When it comes to predatory journals, from a pure eyeballs perspective we can see that articles and social media posts about the often bizarre world of predatory publishing get the most traction, such as the fact that one predatory journal lists Yosemite Sam on the editorial board. And yet there is always a serious point behind these fun stories, which is that predatory journals can make an unholy mess of scientific research, causing millions of funding dollars to be wasted and allowing either junk or rank bad science to contaminate legitimate published research. This is the real punchline and it rings pretty hollowly sometimes.

Cabells launches new SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating system in partnership with Saint Joseph’s University’s Haub School of Business

Following hot on the heels of Cabells’ inclusion in the United Nations SDG Publishers Compact, we are also announcing an exclusive partnership with Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) for a new metric assessing journals and their engagement with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Simon Linacre explains the origins of the collaboration and how the new metric could help researchers, funders, and universities alike.

If you can remember way back to the halcyon days when we went to academic conferences, you will remember one of the many benefits we enjoyed was to meet a kindred spirit, someone who shared your thoughts and ideas and looked forward to seeing again at another event. These international friendships also had the benefit of enabling you to develop something meaningful with your work, and went some way to justifying the time and expense the trips often entailed.

I was lucky enough to have one such encounter at the GBSN annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal at the end of 2019 when I met professor David Steingard from Saint Joseph’s University in the US. He was at the event to present some of the work he had been doing at SJU on its SDG Dashboard – an interactive visualization and data analytics tool demonstrating how university programmes align with the 17 SDGs. At the gala dinner I sought Dr. Steingard out and asked him something that had been buzzing inside my head ever since I heard him speak:

What if we applied your SDG reporting methodology to journals?

An animated conversation then followed, which continued on the bus home to the hotel, at the conference the next day and ultimately to the lobby of a swanky hotel in Davos (there are no other kinds of hotels there, to be honest) a year ago. From then on, small teams at SJU and Cabells have been working on a methodology for analysing and assessing the extent to which a journal has engaged with the UN’s SDGs through the articles it has published over time. This has resulted in the new metric we are releasing shortly – SDG Impact Intensity™ – the first academic journal rating system for evaluating how journals contribute to positively impacting the SDGs.

Using data collated from Cabells’ Journalytics database and running it through SJU’s AI-based methodology for identifying SDG relevance, SDG Impact Intensityprovides a rating of up to three ‘SDG rings’ to summarise the SDG relevance of articles published in the journals over a five-year period (2016-2020). For the first pilot phase of development, we chose 50 of the most storied business and management journals used for the Financial Times Global MBA ranking as well as 50 of the most dynamic journals from Cabells’ Journalytics database focused on sustainability, ethics, public policy and environmental management.

It may come as no surprise to learn that the so-called top journals lagged way behind their counterparts when it came to their levels of SDG focus. For example, none of the top 26 journals in the pilot phase are from the FT50, and only four of the top ten are from the world’s five biggest academic publishers. In contrast, the journals traditionally ranked at the very top of management journal rankings from the past 50 years in disciplines such as marketing, accounting, finance and management languish at bottom of the pilot phase ratings. While these results are hardly surprising, it perhaps shows that while governments, funders and society as a whole have started to embrace the SDGs, this has yet to filter through to what has been published in journals traditionally regarded as high impact. There has long been criticism that such titles have been favoured by business school management structures over more innovative, real-world relevant journals, and this very much seems to be borne out by the results of Cabells’ research with SJU. The very notion of what academic journal “quality” means is fundamentally challenged in light of considering how journals can make an ”impact” through engaging the SDGs.

Cabells and SJU are hoping to further their partnership and broaden their coverage of journals to enable more researchers and other interested parties to understand the type of research their target journals are publishing. With more information and greater understanding of the SDGs at hand, it is to be hoped we see a move away from a narrow, single-focus on traditional quality metrics towards a broader encouragement of research and publication that generates a positive impact on bettering the human condition and environmentally sustaining the Earth as detailed in the SDGs. In turn, we should see academia and scholarly communications play their part in ensuring the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development moves forward that much quicker.

Back to basics

As we enter what is an uncertain 2021 for many both personally and professionally, it is worth perhaps taking the opportunity to reset and refocus on what matters most to us. In his latest blog post, Simon Linacre reflects on Cabells’ new video and how it endeavors to show what makes us tick.

It is one of the ironies of modern life that we seem to take comfort in ‘doomscrolling’, that addictive pastime of flicking through Twitter on other social media on the hunt for the next scandal to inflame our ire. Whether it is Brexit, the coronavirus epidemic or alleged election shenanigans, we can’t seem to get enough of the tolls of doom ringing out in our collective echo chambers. As the New Year dawns with little good news to cheer us, we may as well go all in as the world goes to hell in a handcart.

Of course, we also like the lighter moments that social media provide, such as cat videos and epic fails. And it is comforting to hear some stories that renew our faith in humanity. One parent on Twitter remarked this week as the UK’s schools closed and reverted to online learning, that she was so proud of her child who, on hearing the news, immediately started blowing up an exercise ball with the resolve not to waste the opportunity lockdown provided of getting fit.

Reminding ourselves that the glass can be at least half full even if it looks completely empty is definitely a worthwhile exercise, even if it feels like the effort of constantly refilling it is totally overwhelming. At Cabells, our source of optimism has recently come from the launch of our new video. The aim of the video is to go back to basics and explain what Cabells does, why it does it, and how it does it through its two main products – Journalytics and Predatory Reports.

Making the video was a lot of fun, on what was a beautiful sunny Spring day in Edinburgh with one of my US colleagues at an academic conference (remember them?). While nerve-shredding and embarrassing, it was also good to go back to basics and underline why Cabells exists and what we hope to achieve through all the work we do auditing thousands of journals every year.

It also acted as a reminder that there is much to look forward to in 2021 that will keep our glasses at least half full for most of the time. Cabells will launch its new Medical journal database early this year, which will see over 5,000 Medical journals indexed alongside the 11,000 journals indexed in Journalytics. And we also have major upgrades and enhancements planned for both Journalytics and Predatory Reports databases that will help researchers, librarians and funders better analyse journal publishing activities. So, let’s raise a (half full) glass to the New Year, and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and not the darkness that seems to surround us in early January.

Cabells and AMBA launch list of most impactful Chinese language management journals

In his last blog post in what has been a tumultuous year, Simon Linacre looks forward to a more enlightened 2021 and a new era of open collaboration and information sharing in scholarly communications and higher education.

In a year with so many monumental events, it is perhaps pointless to try and review what has happened. Everyone has lived every moment with such intensity – whether it be through 24-hour news coverage, non-stop social media or simply living life under lockdown – that it seems simply too exhausting to live through it all again. So, let’s fast forward to 2021 instead.

While some of the major concerns from 2020 will no doubt remain well into the New Year, they will also fade away gradually and be replaced by new things that will demand our attention. Difficult as it may seem now, neither Trump, Brexit (for the Brits) nor COVID will have quite the hold on the news agenda as they did, and that means there is an opportunity at least for some more positive news to start to dominate the headlines.

One activity that may succeed in this respect is the open science agenda. With a new budget agreed upon by the European Research Council and a new administration in Washington DC, together with an increasing focus more generally on open science and collaboration, it is to be hoped that there will be enough funding in place to support it. If the recent successes behind the COVID-19 vaccines show anything it is surely that focused, fast, mission-driven research can produce life-changing impacts for a huge number of people. As others have queried, what might happen if the same approach was adopted and supported for tackling climate change?

In the same vein, information sharing and data analysis should also come further to the fore in 2021. While in some quarters, consolidation and strategic partnerships will bring organisations together, in others the importance of data analysis will only become more essential in enabling evidence-based decision-making and creating competitive advantages.

In this way, the announcement today made by Cabells and the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA) brings both these themes together in the shape of a new list of quality Chinese-language journals in business and management. The AMBA-Cabells Journal Report (ACJR) has been curated together by both organisations, using the indexing expertise of Cabells and the knowledge of Chinese journals at AMBA & BGA. Both organisations have been all-too-aware of the Western-centric focus of many indices and journal lists, and believe this is a positive first step towards the broadening out of knowledge and understanding of Chinese-language journals, and non-English journals more broadly.

There have also been policy changes in China during 2020 which have meant less reliance on journals with Impact Factors, and more of a push to incentivise publications in high quality local journals. As such, the ACJR should provide a valuable guide to business school authors in China about some of the top journals available to them. The journals themselves were firstly identified using a number of established Chinese sources, as well as input from esteemed scholars and deans of top business schools. Recommended journals were then checked using Google Scholar to ensure they had published consistently over the last five years and attracted high levels of citations.

The new list is very much intended to be an introduction to Chinese-language journals in business and management, and we would very much welcome input from people on the list so we can develop it further for a second iteration in 2021.

For more information on ACJR, visit https://www.associationofmbas.com/ and https://www.cabells.com/ 

What we’re about


Introduction to Journalytics

An introduction to Cabells’ Journaltycis Academic platform, our curated database of more than 11,000 hand-verified scholarly journals. Journalytics allows researchers to draw from the intersection of expertise, data, and analytics to make confident decisions to better administer their research.

Introduction to Predatory Reports

An introduction to Cabells’ Predatory Reports platform, the most comprehensive tool for combating predatory journals, currently reporting on deceptive behaviors of over 14,000 publications.