As part of our ongoing mission to protect and foster research integrity, the following journals from the publisher Hindawi have been removed from our Journalytics Academic and Journalytics Medicine databases for failure to meet our quality criteria, pending re-evaluation of their policies and practices:
Advances In Materials Science And Engineering (ISSN: 1687-8434)
Biomed Research International (ISSN: 2314-6133)
Computational And Mathematical Methods In Medicine (ISSN: 1748-670X)
Computational Intelligence And Neuroscience (ISSN: 1687-5265)
Contrast Media & Molecular Imaging (ISSN: 1555-4309)
Disease Markers (ISSN: 0278-0240)
Education Research International (ISSN: 2090-4002)
Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine (ISSN: 1741-427X)
Journal Of Environmental And Public Health (ISSN: 1687-9805)
Journal Of Healthcare Engineering (ISSN: 2040-2295)
Journal Of Nanomaterials (ISSN: 1687-4110)
Journal Of Oncology (ISSN: 1687-8450)
Journal of Sensors (ISSN: 1687-725X)
Mathematical Problems In Engineering (ISSN: 1024-123X)
Mobile Information Systems (ISSN: 1574-017X)
Oxidative Medicine And Cellular Longevity (ISSN: 1942-0900)
Scanning (ISSN: 0161-0457)
Scientific Programming (ISSN: 1058-9244)
Security and Communication Networks (ISSN: 1939-0114)
Wireless Communications & Mobile Computing (ISSN: 1530-8669)
Wiley’s statement confirming ‘compromised articles’ in Hindawi special issues, coupled with strong evidence that at least some of the retracted content was generated by paper mills, points to the absence of a functional peer review system in place at the above listed journals. The backbone of not just any legitimate, trustworthy journal, but of all of academic and medical publishing, is a robust and closely managed peer review process.
We covered the wave of retraction notices in recent years from scientific and medical publications on our Journalytics Medicine blog in November. Retractions are, to a certain extent, ‘part of the process’ for journals, but retractions at this level by one publisher shows a breakdown in that process. It is our hope that the removal of these journals from our databases will motivate all scholarly and medical publishers to review their current publication processes and make the necessary improvements or changes to any substandard elements.
Despite admittedly painting a “sobering picture,” the report stresses that the SDGs can be rescued with concentrated global effort in three crucial areas:
armed conflicts and the senseless loss of lives and resources that accompany them must be ended in favor of diplomacy and peace – preconditions for sustainability
the blueprint laid out by the SDGs must be met with urgency
a global economy that works for all must be created to ensure developing countries are not left behind.
Those are no small tasks and there is no denying that moving the planet forward on the path to sustainability will require coordinated worldwide action. Fortunately, the SDG roadmap is clear and as Liu Zhenmin, former Under-Secretary-General for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs points out in the 2022 Report, “just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are solutions.”
We must rise higher to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals – and stay true to our promise of a world of peace, dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.
António Guterres Secretary-General, United Nations
To help in this effort, researchers, authors, educators, reviewers, and editorial boards are invited to join the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows and the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) in a Sustainable Solutions Summit next month. The virtual event will focus on the top recommended actions and trends to better align academic research, education materials, and the sharing of research findings with making the world a better place through connections to the SDGs.
SDG research output is increasing and it is clear that scholarship and science must be driving forces behind the push for the Global Goals. But to succeed, the gap between researchers and practitioners must be closed. Groups like the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows and HESI, and events like the Sustainable Solutions Summit, will be key to leveraging the power of scholarly publishing to help solve the SDGs.
During his time working at Cabells, predatory publishing practices turned into a near obsession for Simon Linacre – so much so, he wrote a book about it: The Predator Effect. Here he shares details of the book, and how predatory journals could form part of a publishing ethics crisis.
In a recent conversation with a senior academic regarding publishing ethics, the discussion veered between predatory publishing, paper mills, paraphrasing software and the question of whether an article written by AI could be regarded as an original piece of work. Shaking his head, the academic sighed and exclaimed: “Retirement is starting to look pretty good right now!” The conversation demonstrated what a lot of people in scholarly communications feel right now, which is that at this moment in time, we are losing the arms race when it comes to research integrity and publishing ethics.
In the last year, we have seen the number of predatory journals included on Cabells’ Predatory Report database approach 17,000, thousands of articles be retracted by major publishers such as Wiley and IoP, and major scandals, such as one I worked on with Digital Science company Ripeta, where one author was responsible for dozens of plagiarised articles. The concern is that many more articles might have leaked into the scholarly communications system from paper mills, and this coupled with leaps in technology that enable students and authors to buy essays and articles generated by AI without lifting a finger themselves. Now wonder older scholars who didn’t have to deal with such technologies are shaking their heads in despair.
These issues can be rather abstract as they don’t necessarily translate into tangible impacts for most people, but this also means they can be misunderstood and underestimated. For example, what happens when an individual reads about a cure in a predatory journal and tries to use it and makes the condition of a patient worse? Or what about someone qualifying for a position based on coursework they cheated on? There are numerous instances where a breakdown in ethics and integrity can cause major problems.
More broadly, the whole fabric of trust that society has in academic research risks being undermined with so many options open to bad actors if they wish to buck the system for their own ends. We have seen this with the fateful Wakefield article about the MMR vaccine in the 1990s, the effects of which are still being felt today. That was an anomaly, but if people ceased to believe that published research was trustworthy because of these numerous threats, then we will indeed be in a perilous position.
In October, the State of Open Data (SoOD) report was published by Figshare, Digital Science and Springer Nature. It produced the results of a huge survey of researchers which showed open data sharing was only growing gradually, and policymaking needed to be more joined up and consistent
In November, The Predator Effect was published – a short open access ebook detailing the history and impact of predatory publishing practices.
While each of these publications offers some sobering findings in terms of the problems faced by scholarly communications, they also offer some hope that technology might provide some solutions in the future. In terms of predatory journals, this means using not only using technology as one solution, but using multiple solutions together in a joined up way. As I say in the book:
“Using technology to improve hygiene factors such as legitimate references may be another strategy that, if adopted together and more widely, will have a significant impact on predatory journal output.” (Linacre, 2022)
Concerns around trust in science are real, but so is the anticipation that technology can show how scholarly communications can move forward. As a former publisher, I thought technology could easily solve the problem, but thanks to working at Cabells I understood much more work is required in equipping researchers with the right tools, knowledge and know how to avoid predatory journals. In the past, collaboration in the industry has often been slow and not fully inclusive, but this will have to change if a breakdown in research integrity and publication ethics is going to be avoided.
Last month, Cabells was lucky enough to attend two of our favorite conferences – the Charleston Library Conference, appropriately held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, and GBSN Beyond, the annual conference of the Global Business School Network (GBSN), this year held in The Netherlands. We were excited to attend the events not just due to the amazing locations, or to once again be together with the scholarly community (something we have sorely missed), but also for the chance to spread the word on a project we are passionate about – helping publishers, researchers, educators, and practitioners work together to achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our first stop was the Charleston Library Conference, where our project manager, Clarice Martel, took part in an outstanding panel to present, “Sustainability, Open Science, and Scholarly Communications.” The session discussed ways that the scientific community, publishers, and librarians can drive change and wider societal outreach through open science policies and by embracing SDGs as a key topic in research impact, mission, and practice. Clarice was joined on the panel by Robin Kear, Liaison Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh, Lucy Frisch, Director of Content Marketing Strategy at Springer Nature, and Laura Helmuth, who is the editor in chief of Scientific American.
Having a panel comprised of knowledgeable and passionate stakeholders from all corners of scholarly communication was key in creating a comprehensive and action-inspiring session. Themes that ran through each part of the presentation were the vital importance of advocating for open access (OA) research, further development of OA-focused resources and related initiatives, and the importance of supporting education and action plans around SDGs and other sustainability-focused science.
Clarice highlighted Cabells work with the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI), an open partnership between several UN entities and the higher education community. HESI aims to create an interface between higher education, science, and policy-making by supporting sustainable development, convening multi-stakeholder discussions and action, and sharing best practices. Stressing the importance of establishing and adhering to best practices and driving action around SDGs, Clarice also discussed our work as part of the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows group, focusing on action tips to put research into practice.
A few days later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Dr. Julia Neufeind, journal metric scientist at Cabells, joined forces with Dr. Steingard to present, “Measuring the Relevance of Academic Research in Terms of the SDGs” at GBSN Beyond. The session touched on several crucial issues in need of attention and action, such as the paucity of articles published (only 2.8% as of December 2021) in ‘top-tier’ journals that address SDGs and related research, and the need to transform from ‘quality’ to ‘impact’ when assessing academic publications.
We are committed to further developing the SDGII and will continue our efforts to encourage all areas of science to share in incentivizing researchers to perform work that addresses the SDGs, and to highlight journals that recognize and prioritize these global challenges.
Conference season is upon us and all of us at Cabells are excited to get back to in-person events to safely reconnect with old friends and establish ties with new ones. Like everyone else in the world, academe has had to adapt, pivot, and evolve to a new way of life, one largely designed to limit human interaction. Maybe that’s why it seems like there is a bit more excitement surrounding conferences this year, the anticipation of being back together with our community and all the ideas, learning, teaching, and growing that in-person events foster.
Cabells is hitting the ground running and we will be at the upcoming Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) North American Biennial Meeting April 21-23 in Arlington, Virginia. PRME is a United Nations-supported initiative founded in 2007 as a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in management and business schools around the world. Their mission to transform management education and shape the skills and mindset of future business leaders to advance sustainable development and create collective impact dovetails perfectly with Cabells’ values and goals.
Speaking of fitting perfectly with our mission, we are also very excited to be returning to AACSB’sICAM 2022 in New Orleans, April 24-26. We will have a large contingent at ICAM this year, find us at booth 219 or in one of the conference’s insightful sessions to say hello and learn what we have been up to since we last met.
At both PRME and ICAM we are looking forward to discussing our work in collaboration with David Steingard and Saint Joseph’s University (previously discussed here and here) in examining how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can inspire a transformation from “quality” to “impact” in academic publications. We’ve looked at opportunities that help and obstacles that hinder work on making this shift happen, and hope to offer solutions that help accelerate progress.
Our work in helping to develop the SDG Impact Intensity™ (SDGII) journal rating, which measures business and management journals on their focus and impact on sustainability and related issues has been challenging and rewarding. We’re looking forward to sharing our work and the progress we’ve made in helping shift the paradigm on what counts as impact in academic and business research.
We hope to see you in Arlington or New Orleans, travel safely!
Stemming the tide of predatory publishing operations is a challenging endeavor. Cabells has witnessed this firsthand through the rapid growth of our Predatory Reports database, which now lists over 16,000 deceptive publications. Advancements in digital publishing have made it easier than ever to launch and operate academic journals and have done much to democratize and globalize research. However, these same advancements have also made it easier than ever to create fake publishing operations that are focused solely on profit, with no regard for scholarship.
Recently, we discussed the importance of ‘researching your research’ and how one researcher’s persistence in vetting a suspect speaking opportunity at a conference traced back to a predatory publisher, Knowledge Enterprises Inc. (KEI), who happened to have six journals included in Predatory Reports). Predatory publishing outfits such as KEI were the focus of the recently released report from the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), the global network of over 140 science, engineering, and medical academies. The report, “Combating Predatory Academic Journals and Conferences,” was the result of a two-year study to determine what constitutes predatory practices, pinpoint their root causes and drivers, and provide recommendations and guidance on how they can be identified and avoided.
nearly a quarter of the academics had either published in a predatory journal, participated in a predatory conference, or didn’t know if they had
over 80% thought predatory practices were on the rise or a serious problem in their country of work
over 80% thought these practices fueled misinformation in public policy.
The study shows that researchers in all countries, at all stages of their career, and in any discipline can be vulnerable to predatory practices, and as a result, raising awareness is now a vital mission for IAP.
The authors identified three main drivers of predatory practices: the increasing monetization and commercialization of the scholarly enterprise, the predominance of quantity-over-quality research evaluation systems, and serious challenges and weaknesses in the peer-review system. To make a lasting and measurable impact on the pervasiveness of predatory journal and conference practices, these root causes, and the unintended consequences that spring from them, require urgent action.
The final section of the report examines the conclusions of the study, including the need for an evolved definition of predatory academic journals and conferences and an increase in the awareness and understanding of predatory behaviors. The study also concludes that predatory operations are on the rise and undermine public trust in research, waste resources, and exploit weaknesses in the peer review system.
Most importantly, the authors set out recommendations for a course of action to combat these harmful and pervasive outfits. Cabells takes seriously the fact that our resources, in particular Predatory Reports, are recommended as trustworthy and effective tools to identify and avoid predatory operations.
Ultimately, the report stresses the need for urgent and collective action among all stakeholders as predatory practices continue to rise at an alarming rate. Training is imperative as is the need for cooperation from all players in taking action on the report’s recommendations. The authors assert that efforts to identify, understand, and expose predatory academic operations must continue, and the root causes of predatory practices need to be addressed if interventions are to have any lasting impact.
The 17 integrated UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Research and higher education will play vital roles in society’s march toward achieving the SDGs by the end of the decade and in building a sustainable future by providing current and future stakeholders with the knowledge, skills, and ethos to make informed and effective decisions to this end.
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) is a partnership that gathers over two dozen UN agency members and Higher Education Sustainability Networks. The Initiative tackles the most crucial challenges of our time by redesigning higher education to provide leadership on education for sustainable development, spearheading efforts to ‘green’ campuses, and supporting sustainable efforts in communities, while also ensuring the quality of education, equity, and gender equality.
Initiated in 2012 leading up to the Rio+20 conference, and bolstered with support of the United Nations, HESI provides higher education institutions with a vibrant confluence of higher education, science, and policymaking by enhancing awareness of higher education’s role in supporting sustainable development, facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions and action, and sharing best practices. The Initiative emphasizes the crucial role that higher education plays in educating the current and next generation of leaders, propelling the research agenda for public and private sectors, and helping to shape the path of national economies.
One of the overall goals of Cabells is to optimize decision making for both researchers and institutions. The SDGs are becoming increasingly important to these groups, and we strive to support them in enhancing the impact of the work they’re doing. One way we’ve been able to do this is through our collaboration with Saint Joseph’s University and Dr. David Steingard, developers of the SDG Dashboard at Saint Joseph’s University, to create a new metric called the SDG Impact Intensity™ (SDGII) journal rating. The SDGII seeks to contextualize and understand the relevance of academic research in terms of the SDGs. Climate change, sustainability, and equity are among the most powerful forces for change in society, and yet they are ignored by traditional citation-based metrics.
The SDG Impact Intensity uses a sophisticated AI methodology from SJU to look at article output in journals from Cabells’ Journalytics database and gives those journals a ranking determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the last five years with respect to the SDGs. The SDGII provides a rating of up to five ‘SDG wheels’ to summarize the SDG relevance of articles published over a five-year period (2016-2020).
As previously discussed in The Source, the SDGII show that journals well-known for perceived academic quality in business and management performed badly when assessed for SDG relevance, while journals focused on sustainability issues performed much better.
We believe our work with SJU and Dr. Steingard will be a key collaboration within the industry and its work on the SDGs, and we’ve joined the SDG Publishers Compact (Cabells was proud to be named the Compact’s member of the month for December 2021) to help further this partnership and the pursuit of the SDGs. In the coming months, Cabells and Dr. Steingard will be on hand at the upcoming PRME, AACSB, and SSP annual meetings to discuss a new iteration of the metric and lead discussions on how impact-focused metrics can support a progressive publication agenda. Greater than a change in perspective, there is an ongoing paradigm shift occurring as the value of journals moves past ideas of quality based largely on citations, reputation lists, and prestige, to impact and mission-driven research outputs.
During 2021 while Simon Linacre was researching and writing what he thought was the first book on predatory journals, he discovered… someone had got there first. Putting rivalry to one side he reviews the recently published book, which offers in-depth research into a phenomenon which is now stepping out of the shadows.
It is a curious feeling reading a book on a topic that you yourself have written about. During 2021 when I was writing a short ebook on predatory journals (to be published later this year), I heard that Jingfeng Xia – a former academic based in the US – had written a book on predatory publishing that was due out at the end of the year. It was, therefore, with a mix of trepidation and intrigue that I ordered the book as soon as it was released to see what another author had made about the phenomenon. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Predatory Publishing (Xia, 2021) presents an overview of not just predatory publishing practices, but also predatory conferences, journal hijackings and other related deceptive activities. The stated aim of the book is to provide a reference point for researchers, authors and other stakeholders in scholarly communications, and its comprehensive academic research builds a solid base to achieve this. After introducing the topic and giving some necessary background, the meat of the book goes into some detail on predatory journals and predatory publishers, and the market dynamics that have enabled them to develop and prosper.
As you would expect, a good deal of the book focuses on Jeffrey Beall and Beall’s Lists, which are explained and discussed objectively, as are some examples of predatory journal behaviors. Xia also discusses Cabells’ Predatory Reports and other “blacklists”, and the use of this term to describe lists of predatory journals does sit rather uneasily as Cabells and many other organizations have moved away from employing it. Nevertheless, the author looks at this and other lists of recommended journals and does a good job of highlighting how they work and the value they can offer researchers if used wisely. Of particular good use are the inclusion of numerous screenshots and tables of information to fulfil the intention of providing a useful reference for authors, including Cabells’ list of criteria for including titles in its Predatory Reports database.
In terms of publishers, Xia has decided to use several examples of predatory and non-predatory behaviour based on some publishers that were included in Beall’s List. This is particularly instructive as it highlights both accepted predatory publishers and why they were included in Beall’s List (in this case OMICS), but also publishers that were included at one stage but then removed as they were able to show their activities were legitimate (in this case MDPI). By highlighting real examples of publishing behaviours – both deceptive and legitimate – those people hitherto ignorant of predatory publishing practices will be much enlightened.
The rest of the book includes an excellent short chapter on the role journal stakeholders play in predatory publishing, including editors and reviewers who have worked (or have been purported to work) on predatory journals, although of course one of the main traits of such journals is they don’t have any such stakeholders on board. But as Xia notes, “it takes a village to build the predatory publishing market”, and stakeholders other than predatory publishers themselves have been complicit in growing the phenomenon, such as those authors who knowingly publish in the journals to satisfy some requirement or other. Further chapters on predatory conferences, hijacked journals and in particular fake indices are also instructive, and Xia’s dissection of the latter is particularly welcome. Its explanation and presentation of a long list of such indices is perhaps unique in the literature on predatory publishing, and extremely valuable to researchers taken in by data points made to look like Clarivate Analytics’ Journal Impact Factor.
One unfortunate manifestation of reading a book on a topic you are so familiar with is that it is all too easy to spot errors. One such error is in relation to a common myth that Cabells’ Predatory Reports database and Beall’s Lists are in some way linked – they are not. Xia quotes one academic article saying “they [Cabells] do take many articles from Beall’s archive”, and says elsewhere that “unlike Beall’s journal blacklist, which has been taken over by Cabells…”. Both these statements are untrue – Cabells developed its database independently, and while it spoke to Beall as an expert in the area during development, it verified each journal as per its criteria. If there is one criticism for what is an otherwise excellent book, it is that it is rather a cold and dispassionate investigation into the subject that relies a little too much on academic research at the expense of a little journalistic endeavour. Conducting interviews and speaking to stakeholders might have brought the topic more alive, and achieve the author’s aim to provide a much-needed point of clarity on what has always been an all-too-murky subject area.
It is a little over three years since Cabells launched its blog The Source, and over 100 articles later it is still here dispensing wisdom on publication ethics, scholarly communications, and even the odd cartoon character. Simon Linacre reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly from the last 1,000 days and counting…
A quick look at the tag cloud at the bottom of this blog tells you everything you need to know about the main topic of conversation that has dominated its content for the last three or so years. While the number of predatory journals appearing and being identified in Cabells’ Predatory reports shows no sign of abating – 15,715 and counting – it is a topic that always generates the most interest among readers. Part of this fascination, I think, is that for many of us law-abiding citizens, coming face to face with actual crime and misdemeanors happens relatively rarely in our lives, But with every unwanted spam email we receive we are up close and personal with actual criminality in action.
Posts concerning predatory publishing that have garnered most interest – and this is replicated in the many webinars that Cabells delivers globally – tend to cover practical advice on avoiding predatory journals, as well as the wackier side of the phenomenon. For example, the post in 2019 that featured a journal with Yosemite Sam from Yale on one journal’s Editorial Board attracted a lot of attention, as did an article last year answering common questions about predatory journals. Despite the widespread coverage in academic journals and wider media, the topic still holds huge interest for all stakeholders in academia.
Other topics that have also been popular have focused on ‘how to…’ guidance, such as the latest criteria used to identify journals for inclusion in the Predatory Reports database and an ‘A to Z’ of predatory publishing in 2020. This perhaps highlights there is still great uncertainty amongst the many authors, librarians and publishers who read the blog about how to navigate the predatory journal landscape.
More recently, posts about hijacking journals and various issues highlighted in scholarly journals on wider issues of publication ethics have also garnered significant interest, with growing threats such as paper mills worrying many academics. Indeed, reflecting on the 100+ posts shared on the blog, there does seem to be a disproportionately large number of topics on bleak topics such as climate change, threats to academic freedoms and lack of research funding. However, some positive items have shone through and inspired a good deal of response and hope amidst the gloom. Chief among these is the work being done by Cabells and others to highlight the increasing engagement research reported in academic journals is contributing toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to Cabells’ pilot collaboration to create a new metric, one of the most viewed recent posts was on how this ‘new perspective’ could change the entrenched paradigms of research publications for the better. Such interest in new ideas and positive change offers a glimpse of a more open and collaborative future, one that is not mired in scandal and tired thinking. There is much, then, to look forward to in The Source over the next three years and hundred posts.