Signs of a predatory publisher

The variety of tactics used by predatory publishers to fool unsuspecting authors into submitting their work are frustrating and dishonest to be sure, but they also provide us at Cabells with the motivation to keep working at exposing them. But what does it mean when these deceitful operations no longer try very hard to trick anyone?


“Really? That’s the best they could do?”  That was our initial thought here at Cabells after receiving the most recent invitation to publish that crossed our collective desk. We then thought, “Who would be tricked into thinking this is a genuine invitation from a legitimate publisher? Did they really think this would work?” Our second thought was a bit more troublesome, “Are they even trying to fool anyone at this point?”

Nice day!

We have learnt about your published precious paper in LEARNED PUBLISHING with the title Cabells’ Journal Whitelist and Blacklist: Intelligent data for informed journal evaluations, and the topic of the paper has impressed us a lot.

Researchers specializing in a wide range of disciplines have expressed keen interests in your paper.

That’s it. That’s the entire message followed by two links, one to “Contribute Your Articles” and another to “Become the Editorial Member.”  At least some of the language above is likely familiar to anyone who has had an article published in an academic journal and is fairly easy to identify as suspicious, to say the least.

However, there is usually a bit more of an “honest” effort to seem like a legitimate operation. At least a bit more wooing in the text of the invitation. To be frank, these folks seem to be mailing it in a bit. After clicking the link, there was not much evidence present to move us from our initial impression:

Among the red flags: despite claiming to publish 39 journals, SCIREA lists approximately 10,800 editors; that would be around 277 editors per journal. It is safe to say there are not enough articles to go around for each of these editors to be kept busy.

There are also many of the standard red flags waved by most predatory operations:

  • the promise of rapid publication (“manuscripts are peer-reviewed and a first decision provided to authors approximately 20 days after submission; acceptance to publication is undertaken in 5 days.”)
  • mention of an APC but with no further information (“free for readers, with article processing charges (APC) paid by authors or their institutions”) – the link leads nowhere, which brings us to our next warning sign
  • numerous non-working links:

The four links in the column on the left: Journals, Articles, Conferences, and Editors are functional and take the user to those respective pages. The remaining 17 links in the three columns to the right are all non-functioning links that simply bump up to the top of the current page.

These signs taken together would likely be enough to alert most academics that they are probably looking at a predatory publisher’s website. Here at Cabells, we have the luxury of a team of experts who can dive in to remove all doubt and shine a light on these types of operations through inclusion in our Journal Blacklist. Stay tuned for an update on the results of the investigation which is still in its beginning stages, SPOILER ALERT, things are not looking good for SCIREA.

The fact that there is not much of an effort on the part of SCIREA to come across as legitimate is a concern. Is this an indication that subterfuge is no longer necessary to achieve their goal of collecting manuscripts and APCs? Is it now enough just to announce your presence as an outlet for publication, even an obviously dishonest one, and the money will come rolling in due to authors needing/wanting to have their work published?

We will continue to monitor this situation and will report our findings. As always, we love hearing from the academic community with feedback, tips or questions on predatory activity; please don’t hesitate to contact us at blacklist@cabells.com.

Publish and be damned

The online world is awash with trolling, gaslighting and hate speech, and the academic portion is sadly not immune, despite its background in evidence, logical argument and rigorous analysis. For the avoidance of doubt, Simon Linacre establishes fact from fiction for Cabells in terms of Open Access, predatory publishing and product names.


When I went to university as a very naive 18-year-old Brit, for the first time I met an American. He was called Rick who lived down the corridor in my hall of residence. He was older than me, and a tad dull if I’m honest, but one evening we were chatting in our room about someone else in the hall, and he warned me about setting too much store by perceptions: “To assume is to make an ass out of u and me,” he told me sagely.

Twenty years later, while I have come to realize this phrase is a little corny, it still sticks in my mind every time I see or hear about people being angry about a situation where the full facts are not known. Increasingly, this is played out on social media, where sadly there are thousands of people making asses out of u, me and pretty much everyone else without any evidence whatsoever for their inflammatory statements.

To provide a useful point of reference for the future, we at Cabells thought we should define positions we hold on some key issues in scholarly publishing. So, without further ado, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to our ACTUAL thinking in response to the following statements:

  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA’ or ‘Cabells likes paywalls’: Not true, in any way shape or form. Cabells is pro-research, pro-quality and pro-authors; we are OA-neutral in the sense that we do not judge journals or publishers in these terms. Over 13% of the Whitelist are pure OA journals and two-thirds are hybrid OA.
  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA like Beall’ or ‘You’re carrying on Beall’s work’: Cabells had several discussions with Jeffrey Beall around the time he stopped work on his list and Cabells published the Blacklist for the first time in the same year (2017). However, the list did NOT start with Beall’s list, does NOT judge publishers (only journals) for predatory behavior, and the Blacklist shows considerable divergence from Beall’s List – only 234 journals are listed on both (according to Strinzel et al (2019)).
  • ‘Predatory publishing is insignificant’ or ‘Don’t use the term predatory publishing’: The recent FTC judgement fining the Omics Group over $50m shows that these practices are hardly insignificant, and that sum in no way quantifies the actual or potential hurt done by publishing fake science or bad science without the safety net of peer review. Other terms for such practices may in time gain traction – fake journals, junk science, deceptive practices – but until then the most commonly used term seems the most appropriate.
  • ‘The Whitelist and Blacklist are racist’: The origins of the word ‘blacklist’ come from 17th century England, and was used to describe a number of people who had opposed Charles II during the Interregnum. It is a common feature of language that some things are described negatively as dark or black and vice versa. Cabells is 100% pro-equality and pro-diversity in academic research and publishing.
  • ‘Cabells unfairly targets new or small journals with the Blacklist’: Some of the criteria used for the Blacklist include benchmarks that a very few legitimate journals may not pass. For example, there is a criterion regarding the speed of growth of a journal. This is a minor violation and identifies typical predatory behavior. It is not a severe violation which Cabells uses to identify journals for the Blacklist, and nor is it used in isolation – good journals will not be stigmatized by inclusion on the Blacklist simply because they won’t be included. In the two years the Blacklist has been in operation, just three journals out of 11,500+ listed have requested a review.

Building bridges at NASIG 2019

The theme of this year’s NASIG Annual Conference – Building Bridges – was appropriate for a number of reasons. Not only did the meeting take place in the City of Bridges, but the idea of connecting the various global communities within academia was present in many of the sessions. What’s more, the core mission of NASIG is to “facilitate and improve the distribution, acquisition, and long-term accessibility of information resources in all formats and business models”: in essence, building a bridge to knowledge.

There were an array of sessions building on this “connectivity” theme: discussions on linking to disabled members of the community through greater accessibility, to resource users through technical and customer services, and to future academics through digital preservation, to name just a few. However, the session that caught our collective eye at Cabells was one that focused not so much on building bridges, but rather on blocking the way down a dangerous road …

While there is no debate (we think) that predatory journals are causing problems in the scholarly publishing landscape, there are differing opinions on the magnitude of these problems.  “Minding Your Ps and Qs: Predatory Journals, Piracy, and Quality Questions” was presented by Marydee Ojala, Editor of Online Searcher Magazine and Regina Reynolds, Director of the U.S. ISSN Center and Head of the ISSN Section of the Library of Congress.  Ms. Ojala, a former academic and corporate librarian, spoke of the danger, especially in today’s ‘fake news’ environment, of calling into question the validity of scholarly research by muddying the water with junk science and ‘sting’ articles filled with nonsense.  Ms. Reynolds suggested the problem of predatory publishing is overstated and exists due to a market created by academia through several enabling forces.

What was made clear in this session is the fact that more and more librarians are becoming aware of predatory publishing and the dangers it poses. They are also becoming keenly aware that they must rethink how they evaluate collections and what researchers are finding in available databases. Instead of going directly to subscription databases, many researchers turn first to Google or Google Scholar. A quick search on these platforms will make it clear the results contain predatory articles alongside legitimate ones. The use of LibGuides, instructional videos, posters, presentations and even one-on-one communication to educate researchers can go a long way to changing the methods they use.

When discussing whether the problem of predatory journals is overstated (a firm ‘no’ in Cabells’ opinion), Mr. Reynolds made several interesting points.  Enabling market forces such as open access, a rapidly growing number of scholars worldwide, the disadvantages of the those in the global south, and the ‘publish or perish’ mindset have created a fertile ground for predatory publishing activity. To think that it will not be taken advantage of is short-sighted.  Predatory journals give scholars who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to publish a chance to publish; this highlights an uneven playing field in academia that must be corrected to stem the tide of predatory enterprise.

Ms. Reynolds discussed the idea that predatory journals exist as a response to an environment, and market, created by academia itself.  Is the scholarly community willing to turn its collective back on predatory publications?  Is every academic serving on the editorial board of a predatory journal doing so without their knowledge and consent? Of course not, just as not everyone who publishes in a fake publication is duped into doing so. There must be a concerted effort throughout the scholarly community to reject the easy route to publication and CV glory on the back of fraudulent publications. As Ms. Ojala pointed out, there are resources (most notably the Journal Blacklist) that are working to shine a light on deceitful operations to alert researchers, librarians and administrators to stay away; as Ms. Reynolds pointed out, these stakeholders must be willing to heed the warning.

The power of four

After hearing so many different ways that its Journal Whitelist and Journal Blacklist have been used by customers, Cabells has started to map out how any researcher can use journal data to optimize their decision-making. Fresh from its debut at the World Congress on Research Integrity in Hong Kong last month, Simon Linacre shares the thinking behind the new ‘Four Factor Framework’ and how it could be used in the future.


The 6th World Congress on Research Integrity (WCRI) was held in Hong Kong last month, bringing together the great and the good of those seeking to improve the research process globally. Topics were surprisingly wide, taking a look at such diverse areas as human rights, predatory publishing, data sharing, and policy. It was significant that while much of the focus of the conference was on the need to improve education and learning on how to conduct research ethically, many of the cases presented showed that there is still much to do in this respect.

Cabells was also there and used its presence to share some ideas on how to overcome some of these challenges, particularly with regard to engagement with improved research and publishing practices. Taking the established issues within predatory publishing encountered the world over as a starting point (i.e. choosing the wrong journal), as well as the need to look at as much data as possible (i.e. choosing the right journal), Cabells has very much put the author at the center of its thinking to develop what it has called the ‘Four Factor Framework’:

 

The framework, or FFF, firstly puts the onus on the researcher to rule out any poor, deceptive or predatory journals, using resources such as the Blacklist. This ‘negative’ first step then opens up the next stage, which is to take the four following factors into account before submitting to a research paper to a journal:

  • Strategic: understanding how a journal will impact career ambitions or community perspectives
  • Environmental: bringing in wider factors such as research impact or ethical issues
  • Political: understanding key considerations such as publishing in titles on journal lists, avoiding such lists or journals based in certain areas
  • Cultural: taking into account types of research, peer review or article form

Having talked to many customers over a period of time, these factors all become relevant to authors at some point during that crucial period when they are choosing which journal to publish in. Customers have fed back to Cabells that use of Cabells’ Whitelist and Blacklist – as well as other sources of data and guidance – can be related to as benchmarking, performance-focused or risk management. While it is good to see that the databases can help so many authors in so many different ways, judging by the evidence at WCRI there is still a huge amount to do in educating researchers to take advantage of these optimized approaches. And this will be the main aim of Cabells’ emerging strategy – to enable real impact by researchers and universities through the provision of validated information and support services around scholarly publishing.

Guest Post: Business Ethics — Challenges and Conundrums

Are case studies about to play a key role in the development of business teaching and cultural awareness? In a guest post Gina Vega, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Instructional Cases, argues that the need for higher education, the business world and society at large to collaborate is stronger than ever, and invites interested parties to get involved in this critical discussion.


Business includes any transaction that requires money or ownership to change hands. Even in a barter-based society, engagement in business would be unavoidable in our 21st-century world. Business is what we “do.” However, the way we conduct our business is not consistent between individuals or across cultures and nations. Our business conduct reflects our norms and serves as a measure of the moral nature of our society.

We often relegate the topic of the moral nature of society to philosophy, the study of systems of thought. Business ethics is applied ethics, or the study of systems of action to our own actions. Philosophy provides the structure, but the behavior itself emerges from our inherent sense of morality which, in its turn, derives from philosophical perspectives, socio-economic and legal models, and religious training.

The many forms of decision-making are the core of business ethics: how we make decisions, why a decision must be made, how we can evaluate various options for action and select a recommendation, how we can reflect on the purpose of the decision and its potential consequences, which tools we can apply when analyzing an opportunity or an action, the correct identification of the decision to be made, syncretic (reconciled) approaches to harmonizing options and opportunities, and more. How do we apply the lessons learned from a vast array of multi-disciplinary theories to the small, daily decisions we make in business, and how do we wed our various small tactical decisions into a strategic behavioral thrust for our organizations?

We start by asking four BIG questions:

  • Cui bono? (Who benefits?)
  • Who is going to get hurt?
  • How will my decision affect my personal sense of morality?
  • What is the goal of business?

We conclude with an even bigger question:  What actions do our values endorse?

Cui bono?

The Starting Block

Regardless of our role in an organization or business, we are frequently confronted by conundrums that challenge our moral compass, our ability to apply ethical standards, and our actions on the ground. Our goal is to develop and share materials that can help our students learn how to handle the ethical issues that grow from today’s experiences and trials through providing guidance and practice in ethical analysis.

At the International Journal of Instructional Cases (www.ijicases.com), we share a strong commitment to advancing good business ethics curricula for both undergraduate and graduate programs. To that end,  we are sponsoring a competition aims to generate teachable concise cases with expanded teaching notes related to addressing the ethical challenges presented to businesses and organizations internationally for use in the classroom and the boardroom.

Case submissions may focus on any specific ethical theme, as long as the case is four pages or fewer, following the submission guidelines here.   Cases may be submitted in English, Spanish, or French and will be reviewed in English.

Cases may be focused specifically on any area that relates to business or organizational ethics on a wide variety of levels: individual, teams, SMEs through multinationals, even nations or regions. Challenges may come in the disciplines of marketing, management, human behavior, economics, finance/accounting, logistics, and others.

Prize:  The winning case will receive an award of US $250 and fast track review for publication in IJIC. The prize will be awarded in December 2019.

Key Dates:

  • 1 March, 2019, Submissions open
  • 1 August 2019, Submission deadline

We warmly encourage your submissions and your visits to www.ijicases.com where we are pursuing a focus on a wide range of societal forces that have evolved into an increasingly complex web of societal, government and business relationships.  As society is changing and raising its expectations for business and government, the existence, power and changing nature of our relationships and expectations requires careful, and ethical management attention and action.  The need for education, business, and society to work together has never been more critical. We have made our personal and professional commitment to developing tools that encourage the next generation of learners to share our focus on ethical business behavior.

Please join us!


Gina Vega, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Instructional Cases, taught corporate social responsibility and entrepreneurship for 20 years and is widely published in academic journals. She has written or edited seven books, including The Case Writing Workbook: A Self-Guided Workshop (1/e and 2/e, also in Spanish).  Dr. Vega is a Fulbright Specialist with assignments in Russia (2010), the UK (2012), and Peru (2018). She has been Editor-in-Chief of The CASE Journal, associate editor of the Journal of Management Education, and Teaching Case Section Editor of Project Management Journal. She is president of Organizational Ergonomics, an academic services consulting firm through for writing workshops and technical writing assistance (www.orgergo.com ).

Not all black and white

Two recently published articles by Cabells highlight the problems facing scholarly publishing. Their author, Simon Linacre, summarizes the articles and explains why publishing services are likely to see an increase in demand


Why do people go to a coffee shop? These institutions seem to have been doing a roaring trade in recent years, fueling the growth of multinationals such as Starbucks as well as local stores specializing in artisan coffee. But people going to these places are not there to drink coffee – they are there to meet friends, do some work, read a book or 101 other different things in addition to having a coffee. The success or otherwise of coffee shops is not necessarily down to the quality of the drinks available, but how well they facilitate the needs of their customers.

And in the digital world, those needs are changing fast, as they are for academic libraries the world over. People no longer visit the library to find information, but to do almost everything coffee shop customers also do. Which is why you will often find the best coffee places inside libraries, where 30 years ago you would run the risk of being thrown out for daring to drink the brown stuff.

Changing places

If libraries must adapt quickly, then so do publishers, and simply putting books and journals online doesn’t quite cut it in the brave new digital world. In 2019, the scholarly publishing press has been awash with stories of cancellations and so-called ‘read & publish’ deals that mark the transition from predominantly subscription deals to open access agreements between libraries (and the consortia/governments that represent them) and academic journal publishers. However, this is not the beginning of the end of academic publishing, more likely it is the end of the beginning of the second phase of scholarly communication development.

The first phase was subscriptions themselves and their dominance and growth during the 20th century; the second phase began with the Big Deal which almost inevitably has ended with the move to free access and open access to research. The next phase is likely to focus on a shift towards the taxonomizing and facilitation of research, so that the huge boom in available content will in some way be more manageable for researchers. This is why they will likely want to use the library as a resource – as well as for getting a decent coffee while they do so.

User case

In two articles recently published in EON, the journal of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE), I have set out how the Cabells Whitelist and Blacklist are geared up for this third age of publishing in supporting academic libraries to meet the challenges currently facing them. In the case of the Whitelist, it helps academics understand the myriad of options they have where once they had a relatively simple choice of which journal they should choose to submit their research articles. Now they have a much more complex picture before them. Depending on where they are based as a scholar, there may be Open Access mandates in place directing you to choose Open Access-only journals, or lists of designated journals from your Dean in given subject areas, or repositories or platform-based outlets that do not operate like traditional journals at all.

So, for the user of journals or any kind of research platform, the picture is a complex one. However, in addition, there are risks inherent in this complexity as predatory publishers prey on uncertainty and lack of knowledge of this new, changing publishing environment. In this respect, the Blacklist also supports the work of librarians, research managers and authors themselves by providing a reliable, curated list of 11,000+ predatory publishers that researchers should steer well clear of.

Combined, use of the Whitelist and Blacklist can act as a safety net for those involved in the decision-making process for article publishing. This process will never be a black and white process, but it hopefully adds at least some clarity to the blurred lines that have rapidly emerged in recent years.


References

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Life Without Journals? Platforms, Preprints, and Peer Review in Scholarly Communications’, Eon (March 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.2.2

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: The Sinister Threat of Predatory Publishing Practices’, Eon (April 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.3.1

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.

Tracking predatory publishers

Recently, we here at Cabells were fortunate enough to have an article (Cabells’ Journal Whitelist and Blacklist: Intelligent data for informed journal submissions) published in Learned Publishing, the journal of the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers, which is read around the world. We were very excited about this opportunity and received many wonderful notes from around the academic community after publication.

One note, in particular, forced us to do a double-take. “Nooo,” we thought, “this can’t be a predatory journal inviting us to submit for publication (for only $770) our article on predatory journals…”

 

Sure enough, the editors of Social Sciences, published by Science Publishing Group (Science PG), wanted to let us know that “the topic of the paper has impressed [them] a lot” and extended an invitation not only to publish the paper in their “journal” but to also join their Editorial Board. Upon hearing this news our Blacklist team began an investigation (Science PG was already on our list of publishers to be reviewed, but we had not yet begun to investigate this particular journal) into Social Sciences and, with eight violations in total, the journal was promptly added to our Blacklist:

Just days after this episode, we were contacted by our friends at Emerald Publishing who were concerned that one of their respected journals, International Journal of Innovation Science, was being targeted by a possible fake journal with a very similar name, International Journal of Innovation Science and Research:

After our team carried out an investigation on the International Journal of Innovation Science and Research, it will come as no surprise that it too (with 10 violations) was added to our Blacklist (which as of this writing lists 9,156 fraudulent publications):

We love to hear from the scholarly community about situations like the ones described above, or any involving contact from deceitful publishers. While we have an ever-expanding list of publications slated for review for the Blacklist, we consider it a top priority to protect the community from active occurrences of predatory activity and to help shed light on these phony operations. Contact us with tips, concerns or to share your thoughts at blacklist@cabells.com.