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FTC’s victory will educate, but will it deter?

Word of the Federal Trade Commission’s $50 million court judgment against OMICS International and its owner, Srinubabu Gedela, has reached all corners of the academic community. While there is no question this is a step in the right direction, there is little reason to believe this will do much to slow the growing problem of predatory publishing.

The victory for the FTC was a decisive one, with the court granting a summary judgment – a decision without the need for a trial as no material facts were in dispute – and the message is clear: OMICS International is running a scam operation and the damage is real and impactful. If there are still those in the scholarly community who doubt the severity of the problem of predatory publishing, perhaps this judgment will convince them of the magnitude of the issue and the need to deal with it in a proactive manner.

While OMICS is the largest predatory publishing operation – there are currently 768 OMICS journals listed on Cabells’ Journal Blacklist – it is simply the most ravenous shark in a sea of predators. If/when OMICS actually halts their fraudulent operations – they are expected to appeal the decision – the vacuum created will quickly be filled by any number of bad actors looking to capitalize and snatch up the revenue that is now presumably up for grabs.

Fundamentally, there are two groups of researchers at play when it comes to predatory publishers. The first group is made up of researchers who might be considered “prey” – those who unwittingly fall victim to the ploys of predatory publishers. These researchers submit their paper for publication only to find that their work has been hijacked, part of their limited budget has been squandered on (often hidden) publication fees, and their careers have been compromised by this association with a fraudulent publisher.

The work of the FTC and news of their victory over OMICS will hopefully go far in protecting those who are unaware of the existence and deceitful nature of operations such as OMICS, and will educate them on the warning signs and help them steer clear of ever becoming involved going forward.

However, what (if any) impact this decision will have on the second group of researchers, those who knowingly use predatory publishers to advance their career or for other professional gains remains to be seen.  The reason predatory publishers have been able to flourish and grow exponentially is that there is an insatiable market for their services due in large part to the ‘publish or perish’ system forced upon academics. The publication of research papers is at an all-time high with estimates of close to two million papers published each year, with little in the way of a quality control system in place. Predatory publishers have simply identified and capitalized on an opportunity for illicit profit.

The focus on research and publication needs to be on quality and not quantity. Publication records need to be vetted and researchers held accountable for the outlets they choose for publication.  The respective bodies of knowledge for many fields are compromised and diluted by the dissemination of junk research. Unqualified candidates are getting hired, promoted and tenured on the backs of their ginned-up publication records. Predatory publishers and these researchers who support them are coming out ahead, while academia and knowledge are losing out.

Despite the decision against OMICS, certain researchers have been and will continue to look for shortcuts to publication. The onus is on administrators, department heads, funders, and academia at large to change – not just the process by which academics are measured by moving away from the “publish or perish” mindset, but also the methods used to monitor and vet research and publication activity.

The FTC’s victory may go a long way in reducing the number of researchers who can honestly say they were unaware of a problem with the journal they chose, but it will do little to stop those who are willful participants in this process without wholesale changes from other key stakeholders.

Two worlds collide

Two events this week in the UK have little in common at first glance, aside from the fact that the Cabells team are attending both of them. In his latest post, Simon Linacre compares and contrasts #UKSG2019 and #ICAM2019 in order to tease out how such events can remain relevant in today’s changing scholarly environment.


The life of an academic, and those who make a living supporting their work, can be a nomadic one at times, thrusting you in and out of both familiar and unfamiliar scenarios at breathless speed. This week, I joined one of my colleagues at Cabells at the UK Serials Group (UKSG) conference in Telford, and while the location lacked a certain glamour, it made up for it in interesting debates and the feeling that at least some progress was being made to improve the lot of librarians and the work they do.

Cabells was very pleased to sponsor the pre-conference seminar, which was organized by the Society of Scholarly Publishers (SSP) with the theme of “’We’re Not Who We Used to Be’: Shifting Relationship Dynamics and Imbalances in an Open Access World”.

Image by SSP

There were a number of great talks on the development of open access (OA) and what the next steps were likely to be for industry initiatives such as Plan S, as well as more macro happenings such as Brexit.

No limits

A discussion afterward on how people saw their roles changing in the light of the anticipated OA developments – be you a publisher, librarian, academic or industry professional. Of particular note was reference to the notion of a ‘facilitated collection’ – discussed in Lorcan Dempsey’s recent blog post which relates to how libraries main focus has shifted from acquiring research for their academics to use to facilitating the use and access to a much wider variety of resources, some of which are acquired but some of which is increasingly available through the myriad of open access resources now available. However, the reality of almost limitless resources is that increasingly limited librarian resources struggle to support academics find their way.

Helping hand

This scenario is familiar to us at Cabells and is one of the reasons we developed the Journal Blacklist to help both librarians and researchers understand not all open access journals and articles are of good quality, and indeed can contain bad science or lack any form of peer review. Thanks to a shout out from Ebsco’s Sam Brooks in his plenary at UKSG, where he recognized Cabells’ contribution to identifying predatory journals that even the most skilled researchers had trouble doing so.

And so, after returning home from Telford we have a quick turnaround before heading North to the beautiful city of Edinburgh and the AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting. Attended by the great and the good of business schools globally, its theme is ‘Challenging Core Foundations’, which similarly addresses the changing landscape of the modern digital age, and what it means for its delegates and institutions. For business schools, these changes mean that they are being pushed to explore new perspectives on how business education could and should develop to meet new demands, and one hopes the ideas exchanged in the old city of Edinburgh next week can match the new thinking put forward by librarians this week.

Do we need the Journal Blacklist?

As any scholar will attest, one of the most annoying aspects of becoming an academic author is the incessant emails popping into your inbox on a daily basis offering to publish your next article for a knockdown price – in just a few weeks’ time, in a subject area you know nothing about, for a journal you have never heard of. Simon Linacre asks if the Blacklist of journals is actually worth the time and expense just to help eradicate this nuisance, or if there is more to it than that.


In the world of academic research, there is an equivalent to the emails everyone receives supposedly from a Nigerian prince who needs to deposit $30m in your account for a few days, for which you will be paid handsomely. These are the emails that promise rapid open access publication for just a few hundred dollars, most likely in a very generic-sounding journal that purports to have an Impact Factor, even though you have never heard of it. As with the emails promising a generous slice of $30m, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And anyway, just how many gullible idiots pay these people?

Well, if you are sat in a lab or department meeting, you could be looking at one. While it is difficult to establish exactly how many authors fall for predatory publishing, some recent investigations can put the problem in context. Firstly, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) judgment in the US in 2018 against OMICS Group Inc and related entities found damages totaling over $50m were owing due to the predatory practices of the organizations over a four-year period, based on the operation of predatory journals and predatory conferences. This figure was arrived at following an estimation of the total revenues accruing from predatory practices – revenues from individuals paying for publishing and conference services that were below the expectations they were entitled to have from such services. In other words, that’s a lot of disappointed people.

Human face

The FTC investigation brings the actual cost of predatory practices into relief, as that money will not just have come from the back pockets of some gullible academics, but from university grants and research funders, happy to support research in belief some of the money will enable it to published in reputable journals, cementing its place in the body of knowledge for others to use. Another investigation in 2018 put forward the human side to this problem, namely a joint enterprise by three German news organizations – Süddeutschen Zeitung, the NDR and the WDR. In the article Das Scheingeschäft – Angriff auf die Wissenschaft” (“The Bogus Business – Assault on Science), the various aspects, dangers and consequences of predatory publishing are considered using a sting operation as a vehicle. What is striking about the reports – supported by Cabells which gave gratis access to the Blacklist – is that the problem is not just one of annoyance, but large-scale fraud and misinterpretation of science. Amongst other things:

  • After analyzing over 175,000 of publications in predatory journals, authors included Nobel-prize winners and those from top German institutions
  • Individual employees from large firms figured significantly among the authors of papers, including BMW, Siemens and Airbus. Indeed, of the thirty top companies on the German stock exchange (DAX), employees of 12 of these companies had published in predatory journals
  • One top pharma company has published a study on Aspirin in a predatory journal, which purports to provide evidence that a new version of its product is more effective at treating flu symptoms than the original drug
  • Finally, one story emerged about a German celebrity who died of cancer after trying a drug where the only evidence for its efficacy was published in predatory journals.

The German team of journalists concluded that this final example was a warning for the dangers abusing predatory publishing to spread “false science”, citing examples where climate-change deniers had also published research in predatory journals. This highlights an often overlooked point – recently covered by Danish academic Tove Faber Frandsen in the article ‘Why do researchers decide to publish in questionable journals? A review of the literature’ – that far from being duped, many authors knowingly publish in predatory journals simply to tick the necessary box. This trend has also been noted by reports in The New York Times and other research journals like CMAJ and Journal of Scholarly Publishing.

Black and White

Cabells’ Journal Blacklist was several years in development and was specifically designed to provide researchers and their institutions a resource to help them avoid publishing in predatory journals and avoid the serious issues outlined above. The Blacklist uses over 60 different, weighted criteria to determine whether a journal exhibits predatory behaviors or not. It utilizes a team of academic and publishing experts to constantly monitor publishing practices and assess if an individual journal – not a publisher – is legitimate or not. Many journals are left off the Blacklist where they are legitimate, but of low quality, and as such are not listed in the Journal Whitelist either. The process is transparent and often time-consuming, with all the criteria published by Cabells as well as the violations if a journal is listed.

It has been almost two years since the Blacklist was first published, in which time it has grown from 4,000 journals to 11,000.

In all that time, there have only been three requests from journals for a review.

Cabells places a very high value indeed on the legitimacy and veracity of scholarly publishing, a value it believes it shares with academics the world over. It believes that the provision of the Blacklist is a valuable service to those institutions who believe they need to support their academics in a world of fake news, fake science and fake journals. Like any other commercial service, in order to recoup the costs of its investment it charges a fee for a subscription to the Blacklist which can be less than a single APC for many predatory journals, so universities can avert the problems caused by a faculty member submitting to a predatory journal just once to pay for the service.

As we have seen, faculty can be unaware of the problems, or in some cases, they can be aware but make unethical decisions. Either way, librarians or research managers are often tasked with policing publications, and Cabells continues to develop the Blacklist to support them in their work. Hopefully, a subscription is a small price to pay to ensure public or institutional funding isn’t wasted and quality research is published in the right journals.

Cabells signs transparency declaration

Ever since Cabells started in the 1970s, it has sought to shine a light on journals and highlight information needed by academic scholars. Simon Linacre shares today’s news that Cabells has signed a transparency declaration aimed at opening-up peer review and editorial policies.


Cabells is delighted to announce that today it has become just the second institution to sign the Declaration on Transparent Editorial Policies for Academic Journals. As well as becoming a signatory, Cabells will be working with other supporters to work on improving the transparency for all aspects of editorial policy.

The Declaration was formed last year by the participants of the meeting “IT Tools in Academic Publishing: between Expectations and Challenges”, held at Leiden University in The Netherlands on 5-6 July. The aim was to promote greater openness in peer review and editorial procedures, and those individuals signing up were from publishers such as Elsevier, IOP and Brill, institutions such as Tilburg and Paris Descartes Universities, and industry operators PubPeer and Origin Editorial.

Key aims

At the heart of the Declaration there are four clear publication phases where Cabells believes greater transparency will benefit authors and editors, as well as the scholarly publishing environment as a whole. These are:

  1. Submission: Journals and publishers explain editorial governance, including the precise composition of the editorial board, the scope of the journal, the applicable ethics policies, and the use of journal metrics, including rejection rates
  2. Review: Journals and publishers should explain the criteria for article selection (e.g. the relevance of novelty and/or anticipated impact and methodological rigor) and the timing of review in the publication process (e.g. whether registered reports and/or post-publication review are used). They should be clear about the extent to which authors’ and reviewers’ identities will be known (blinding), and to whom review reports will be communicated. They should also specify how reviewers will be selected, instructed, or possibly trained, and explain how digital tools such as similarity scanners and scanners for digital image manipulation will be used and whether any reporting guidelines are applied
  3. Publication: Journals and publishers should make information about the review process of published articles available on the article-level, by detailing the roles in the review process (e.g. specify how many reviewers were involved and what other people contributed to the final decision), what criteria for acceptance and what digital tools were used
  4. Post-publication: Journals and publishers should explain the criteria and procedures for corrections, expressions of concern, retractions, or other rectifications or changes to published material.

(Source: www.ru.nl/transparencydeclaration)

Going forward, Cabells will be using these tenets as guidance on the decisions it makes for journals it assesses for both its Whitelist and Blacklist products. The Declaration states that making editorial policies more transparent will require a concerted effort by publishers and editors, but this effort will be rewarded by trust in the research community. Cabells believes this is the sincere aim of every responsible publisher and editor, and as such is proud to sign the Declaration as part of its ongoing support for scholarly communications.

Blacklist Journals Overtake Whitelist

What’s in a number? Well, when the number of bad journals overtakes the number of good journals, we may have something to worry about. Simon Linacre takes a brief look behind the figures and shares some insight into the current dynamics of scholarly publishing.


Right up there with ‘How many grains of sand are there in the world?’, ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ and ‘Where do babies come from?’, one of the questions you do not want to be asked as a member of the scholarly communications industry is ‘How many journals are there?’. This is because, like grains of sand there is no finite answer as the numbers will change from one day to the next, but also there is no way to even approximate an educated guess. You could, perhaps, as a fall back look at the numbers of journals where someone has actually counted and updated the number. For example:

  • Cabells Journal Whitelist: 11,048
  • Clarivate Analytics Master Journal List: 11,727
  • Directory of Open Access Journals: 12,728
  • Scopus: 36,377
  • Ullrichs Periodicals Directory: 300,000+ (periodicals)

However, all of the above have criteria that either limit the number of journals they count or include most journals plus other forms of publication. And another journal list that adds further complexity is this one:

Now, the more eagle-eyed among you will have seen that the Cabells Blacklist now lists more journals than are indexed in the Whitelist. How can this be? Are we saying there are more predatory journals than legitimate titles out there? Well, not quite. While Cabells has a growing Blacklist thanks to the ever-expanding activities of predatory publishers, the Whitelist is limited to journals of evident quality according to specific criteria and is yet to include medical and engineering journals. When both databases were launched in 2017, the Whitelist was based on Cabells Directories that went back decades, while the Blacklist was newly developed with 4,000 journals. That has now grown to over 11,000 in nearly two years, with many journals coming through the pipeline for assessment.

Due to the rigorous process Cabells administers for the Whitelist, it was inevitable that such a list where many titles are rejected would be superseded by the Blacklist where sadly ever more titles are acceptable for inclusion, due to the proliferation of predatory publishing practices.

So, if you do get asked the dreaded question, the answer is that there are a LOT of journals out there. Some are good, some are bad, and some are in-between. But arm yourself with a trusted index and some relevant criteria, and you won’t need to play the numbers game.

Yosemite Sam is at Yale University? And he’s on the editorial board of an academic journal??

yosemite sam ajbsrAccording to the fraudulent ‘journal’ American Journal of Biomedical Science & Research, published by Biomed Research and Technology, the answer is yes on both counts.  Thanks to a tip from a subscriber—a librarian who, along with several colleagues, received an email calling for editorial board members for this publication—our Journal Blacklist team initiated an investigation and lo and behold, among the ‘Honorable Editors’ on the journal’s Editorial Committee is one Yosemite Sam, of Yale University:

AJBSR screenshot
Wait, what?
Sam closeup.png
Upon closer inspection…

You can probably guess which of our Blacklist criteria the presence of Bugs Bunny’s archenemy (with all due respect to Elmer Fudd) violates (hint: it’s the one that expects editors to be living…or actually exist).  This is of course not the only violation for American Journal of Biomedical Science & Research, there were several other doozies such as:

  • Emails from journals received by researchers who are clearly not in the field(s) the journal covers
  • Scholars included on the editorial board without their knowledge or permission (not Yosemite Sam, though this would apply to him too)
  • Promise of rapid publication and/or unusually quick peer review (less than four weeks)
  • No policies for digital preservation
  • The same article appears in more than one journal

AJBSR blog 3.1.19

Unfortunately, not all predatory journals include cartoon characters on their editorial board, making them easy to spot if you know where to look. And, without a doubt, none are a laughing matter.  We’ll continue to keep on top of the different methods of deceit used by predatory publishers, closely investigate suspected journals, and report on those that prove to be fraudulent. We’ll also be sure to pass along any that give us a chuckle along the way.

Cabells Launches New Blog

Cabells today launches this new blog site, The Source, which brings the original posts and news coverage from our popular bi-weekly newsletter to a wider audience. Simon Linacre introduces the new site along with some wider thoughts on scholarly communications.


Earlier this week I attended the annual Research 2 Reader Conference, which has earned somewhat of a reputation in recent years for, as one delegate put it, “emitting more light than heat.” R2R, as it has become known, aims to use the judicious mix of publishers, librarians and scholarly communication bodies that attend to try and move many of the conversations forward that often become bogged down in the rhetoric and corporate-speak that blight so many other events.

True to their mission, the organizers did well to focus minds on the two big discussion points of the day in Plan S and Sci-Hub. Inviting Science Europe’s Marc Schlitz, one of the key people involved in progressing Plan S, to give the opening keynote ensured plenty of coverage on the first day through the usual social media channels. Later, two willing volunteers tried to pull apart the moral conundrum that is Sci-Hub and its use by debating mano-a-mano whether it did more harm than good for scholarly communications. (Good won by a nose on the votes.)

Communicating what?

What struck me during the event was that, as with other major debates such as Brexit or climate change, the communication is done most effectively in the ‘bubble’ in which the debating parties exist, with little or no apparent engagement from the people that the matters at hand actually impact? For both Plan S and Sci-Hub, the views and narrative from the perspectives of academics, authors, early career scholars, and editors are drowned out by the ‘professionals’ in scholarly communication.

And so, beginning today, we are going to try and change things.

Welcome to the first blog published directed to our new, dedicated blog page designed to represent the different views and voices of those in the trenches of scholarly communications. Many of you will have received our newsletter The Source every two weeks, and this will continue to share curated news from multiple sources around the world about academic publishing and higher education. However, to develop engagement with our readers and highlight their interests and concerns, we have established this blog and hope to add real color to the debates around such issues as Plan S.

New era

In addition to regular blog posts from myself, colleagues and invited guests, we will also be including:

  • highlights of related research Cabells has undertaken or supported
  • details of ongoing news and activities through our dedicated Twitter account
  • access to a rapidly growing set of free resources aimed at improving best practice in research, publishing and scholarly communications in general.

Since its founding over 40 years ago, Cabells services have grown to include both the Journal Whitelist and Journal Blacklist, manuscript preparation tools, and a suite of powerful metrics designed to help its users find the right journals, no matter the stage of their career. Our new blog has been put together with your needs front and center, and we invite you to get onto the comment section and let us know what you are thinking!

P.S. If you would rather comment directly, please feel free to email me at simon.linacre@cabells.com and hopefully we can start to create some interesting new posts.

For more information about Cabells, visit https://www2.cabells.com/.

Bridging the Validation Gap

The pressure on academics is not just to publish, but to publish high research and to do so in the right journals. In order to help researchers with what can be a monumental struggle, Cabells is launching an enhanced service offer with leading editing services provider Editage to offer scholars the chance to up their game.


What is the greatest obstacle for authors in their desire to publish their research? This is a common question with a multitude of answers, much of them depending on the personal circumstances of the individual, but there are some things that everyone must overcome in order to fulfill their potential in the field of academia. Quality research is the starting point, ensuring that it makes an original contribution to the current body of knowledge. But what about finding the right journal, and ensuring the article itself is word perfect?

These constitute what I would call the ‘validation gap’ that exists for all authors. In the publication process for each article, there are points where the author should check that the intended journal they would like to submit their work to is legitimate and whether it has the required quality aspects to publish their work. The Cabells Blacklist and Whitelist were designed to help authors with these questions, and today Cabells is stepping up its partnership with Editage to relaunch its Author Services support page.

New beginning
Far too little support is given to researchers about publishing in universities, which is why I and others involved in scholarly communication have always been content to share some of our knowledge with them on campus or through webinars. Universities or governments set benchmarks for researchers to publish in certain journals without equipping them with the skills and knowledge to help them do that. This is incredibly unfair on researchers, and understandably some struggle. They need much greater support in writing their articles, especially if they do not have English as a first language, and understanding how the publication process works.

Universities can offer great support to researchers from Ph.D. supervision and research ethics up to teaching and public engagement. However, when it comes to publication of articles there is this chasm that needs to be crossed to develop academic careers and help is too often found wanting. This is a crucial part of the journey for early career scholars and even more experienced scholars, and along with Editage, Cabells is aiming to bridge that gap.

Give it a try
So, if you or any of your colleagues are about to take the trip over this yawning divide, why not give our new service a go. Just go to the website at https://cabells.editage.com/ and let Editage do the rest. And once you are happy with your article, check that the intended journals on your shortlist are legitimate by using the Blacklist, and have the necessary quality benchmarks by using the Whitelist. And then, once the validation gap has been successfully negotiated, you can click ‘send’ with peace of mind.

NB: For help on using the Whitelist and Blacklist in your journal search, you can use Cabells’ BrightTALK channel, which aims to answer many of the individual user queries we receive in one place. Good luck!

Why asking the experts is always a good idea

In the so-called ‘post-truth’ age where experts are sidelined in favor of good soundbites, Simon Linacre unashamedly uses expert insight in uncovering the truth behind poor publishing decisions… with some exciting news at the end!


Everyone in academia or scholarly publishing can name at least one time they came across a terrible publishing decision. Whether it was an author choosing the wrong journal, or indeed the journal choosing the wrong author, articles have found their way into print that never should have, and parties on both sides must live with the consequences for evermore.

My story involved an early career researcher (ECR) in the Middle East whom I was introduced to whilst delivering talks on how to get published in journals. The researcher had submitted an article to well-regarded Journal A, but, tired of waiting on a decision, submitted the same article to a predatory-looking Journal B without retracting the prior submission. Journal B accepted the paper… and then so did Journal A after the article had already appeared in Journal B’s latest issue. Our hapless author went ahead and published the same article in Journal A – encouraged, so I was told, by his boss – and was then left with the unholy mess of dual publication and asking for my guidance. A tangled web indeed.

Expert advice

The reason why our author made a poor publishing choice was both out of ignorance and necessity, with the same boss telling him to accept the publication in the better-ranked journal, the same boss who wanted to see improved publishing outputs from their faculty. At Cabells, we are fast-approaching 11,000 predatory journals on our Blacklist and it is easy to forget that every one of those journals is filled with articles from authors who, for some reason, made a decision to submit their articles to them for publication.

The question therefore remains: But why?

Literature reviewed

One researcher decided to answer this question herself by, you guessed it, looking at what other experts had said in the form of a literature review of related articles. TF Frandsen’s article is entitled, “Why do researchers decide to publish in questionable journals? A review of the literature” and is published by Wiley in the latest issue of Learned Publishing (currently available as a free access article here). In it, Frandsen draws the following key points:

  • Criteria for choosing journals could be manipulated by predatory-type outlets to entrap researchers and encourage others
  • A ‘publish or perish’ culture has been blamed for the rise in ‘deceptive journals’ but may not be the only reason for their growth
  • Identifying journals as ‘predatory’ ignores the fact that authors may seek to publish in them as a simple route to career development
  • There are at least two different types of authors who publish in so-called deceptive journals: the “unethical” and the “uninformed”
  • Therefore, there should be at least two different approaches to the problem required

For the uninformed, Frandsen recommends that institutions ensure that faculty members are as informed as possible on the dangers of predatory journals and what the consequences of poor choices might be. For those authors making unethical choices, she suggests that the incentives in place that push these authors to questionable decisions should be removed. More broadly, as well as improved awareness, better parameters for authors around the quality of journals in which they should publish could encourage a culture of transparency around journal publication choices. And this would be one decision that everyone in academia and scholarly publishing could approve of.

PS: Enjoying our series of original posts in The Source? The great news is that there will be much more original content, news and resources available for everyone in the academic and publishing communities in the coming weeks… look out for the next edition of The Source for some exciting new developments!

Predicting 2019 is a fool’s game… so here are some predictions!

Five things that may or may not happen this year — In his first post of 2019, Simon Linacre lifts the lid on what he expects to happen in the most unpredictable of years since, erm, 2018…


A very Happy New Year to everyone, and as has become traditional in post-Christmas, early-January posts, I thought I would bring out the old crystal ball to try to predict some trends and areas of development in scholarly publishing in 2019. However, please do not think for one second that this is in any way a scientific or even divine exercise, as we all know that we may as well just stick a few random happenings on a wall and throw darts at them blindfolded to try and somehow see what may or may not occur in the next few months. So, with that caveat in mind, here are five predictions that at least may have some vague hope of coming to pass this year:

  1. #Plan_S – the agreement from 11 major European funders to mandate certain types of Open Access publications from researchers they have supported – has already kept commentators busy in scholarly communications in the early days of 2019. Suffice it to say it will undoubtedly gain traction, with all eyes on the U.S. and China simultaneously to see if funders in those research behemoths sign-up to or explicitly support the movement. However, while Plan S may hasten change in STEM funding and publishing communities, this change may be quicker than academia itself can change, with petitions being raised against it and significant communities outside either Europe and/or STEM subjects still largely oblivious to it.
  2. The most popular research-related search terms in 2018 included ‘AI’ and ‘blockchain’, as the belief is that both can have a major influence on scientific development in a huge range of areas. Expect 2019 to see these both have more of an influence on scholarly publishing, with applications of blockchain to peer review systems and AI improving the ways knowledge is utilized, especially in countries set up for exploiting such opportunities.
  3. Hot on the heels of the news that the whole Editorial Board of Elsevier’s Informetrics journal has resigned to form their own journal Quantitative Science Studies with MIT Press, bibliometrics should remain in the headlines with new metrics appearing or rumored on a regular basis. Chief among these will be new rankings slated to appear from Times Higher Education and other organizations based around utility, impact or relevance rather than as a proxy for quality.
  4. While any prediction around Brexit – especially this week, day, hour, or even minute – is wholly futile, several shifts can already be seen to be occurring as a result of this and other major political events. Uncertainty around Brexit, especially based on fears of the so-called no-deal Brexit, will inevitably cause some prospective students to think long and hard about any plans they had to study in the UK, while President Trump’s one-of-a-kind presidency may have a similar effect. Major elections in Europe will also have major ramifications for higher education, not least where the EU research money goes if/when the UK eventually exits.
  5. Given the increasingly complicated nature of higher education on both a macro- and micro-scale, it is also to be hoped that we all become a little more skilled and experienced at dealing with this so-called ‘VUCA’ environment – an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Steering through these uncharted waters in the calmest way possible can be the only path to take – and it is to be hoped our leaders show us the way.