Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted in August, 2021.
As members of our journal evaluation team work their way around the universe of academic and medical publications, one of the more brazen and egregious predatory publishing scams they encounter is the hijacked, or cloned, journal. One recent case of this scheme uncovered by our team, while frustrating in its flagrance, also offered some levity by way of its ineptitude. But make no mistake, hijacked journals are one of the more nefarious and injurious operations carried out by predatory publishers. They cause extensive damage not just to the legitimate journal that has had its name and brand stolen, but to medical and academic research at large, their respective communities of researchers and funders, and, ultimately, society.
There are a few different variations on the hijacked journal, but all include a counterfeit operation stealing the title, branding, ISSN, and/or domain name of a legitimate journal to create a duplicate, fraudulent version of the same. They do this to lure unsuspecting (or not) researchers into submitting their manuscripts (on any topic, not just those covered by the original, legitimate publication) for promises of rapid publication for a fee.
A recent case of journal hijacking investigated by our team involved the legitimate journal, Tierärztliche Praxis, a veterinary journal out of Germany with two series, one for small and one for large animal practitioners:
by this counterfeit operation, using the same name:
One of the more immediate problems caused by cloned journals is how difficult they make it for scholars to discover and engage with the legitimate journal, as shown in the image below of Google search results for “Tierärztliche Praxis.” The first several search results refer to the fake journal, including the top result which links to the fake journal homepage:
“Tierärztliche praxis” translates to “veterinary practice” in English, and the legitimate journal is of course aimed at veterinary practitioners. Not so for the fake Tierärztliche Praxis “journal” (whose “publishers” didn’t bother/don’t care to find out what “tierärztliche” translates to) which claims to be a multidisciplinary journal covering all subjects and will accept articles on anything by anyone willing to pay to be published:
Aside from a few of the more obvious signs of deception found with the cloned journal: a poor website with duplicate text and poor grammar, an overly simple submission process, no consideration of the range of topics covered, to name a few, this journal’s “archive” of (stolen) articles takes things to a new level:
A few things to note:
The stolen article shown in the pictures above is not even from the original journal that is being hijacked, but from a completely different journal, Tuexenia.
The white rectangle near the top left of the page to cover the original journal’s title and the poorly superimposed hijacked journal title and ISSN at the header of the pages, and the volume information and page number in the footer (without bothering to redact the original article page numbers).
The FINGER at the bottom left of just about every other page of this stolen article.
Sadly, not all hijacked or otherwise predatory journals are this easy to spot. Medical and academic researchers must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to selecting a publication to which they submit their work. Refer to Cabells Predatory Reports criteria to become familiar with the tactics used by predatory publishers. Look at journal websites with a critical eye and be mindful of some of the more obvious red flags such as promises of fast publication, no information on the peer review process, dead links or poor grammar on the website, or pictures (with or without fingers) of obviously altered articles in the journal archives.
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.
With plenty of advice and guidance on the internet on how to identify and avoid predatory journals, many argue the game is up. However, Simon Linacre argues that while so many authors and journals slip through the net, numerous skills are required to avoid the pitfalls, not the least of which is, as one case study shows, being an amateur sleuth….
Back in the day when I used to lecture researchers on optimizing their publishing strategy, I always used to use the refrain ‘Research your research’ to underline the importance of utilizing the investigative skills of academic research for the purpose of understanding scholarly communications. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and knowing how the medium of academic publishing works can enable effective and robust decision-making, especially in academia where those decisions can have a long-term bearing on careers. Knowing the best journals to publish in can prove to be a huge benefit to any given academic.
Turns out knowing where NOT to publish can also have the same benefits.
This notion was underlined to Cabells this month when an academic publications advisor highlighted a case they had been involved in at their university. The advisor – whose identity and that of the institution has been anonymized at their request – was based at a research institute and among other duties advised its researchers about submissions to academic journals, including such things as copyediting, publishing licenses, and open access payments.
Recently, one of the institute’s academics had been invited to present at a conference in 2022, but the invitation was brought to the advisor’s attention as it was a little outside their normal sphere of activity. The advisor thought the invite and presentation were a bit unprofessional and advised against accepting the invitation. Upon further investigation, they found the conference was linked to a suspected predatory publisher, which had been highlighted online in several different sources.
However, the advisor was still not satisfied as while there were suggested links and implications, there was also some evidence of legitimate activities and details. It was only when the advisor scrutinized some of the journals’ articles that she found further evidence of fake journals and scientific anomalies and requested confirmation of their suspicions. We were glad to confirm that the publisher in question – Knowledge Enterprises Inc. (KEI) – indeed looked suspicious and had six journals included in our Predatory Reports database [see image below for example].
The moral of this story is not just that ‘researching your research’ can help identify bad actors. It also shows that persistence with an investigation and a wide range of inputs from different sources are required to support ethical publication practices. In some cases, nothing less will do.
As the return to university beckons for many of us, we are unfortunately reminded that many of the challenges facing scholarly communications persist. Simon Linacre assesses wider issues impacting on publication ethics as Cabells’ Predatory Reports database hits the 15,000 journal mark.
Last month saw two landmarks in my working life of the sort that makes you sit back and reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The first was my three-year anniversary of starting work at Cabells, which have been three of the most rewarding years I have spent in my career in scholarly publishing. The second was Cabells’ Predatory Reports database reaching a total of 15,000 journals – 15,059 at the time of this post to be precise – pushed to that level by a recent surge in positive identifications of predatory journals.
What links these two milestones personally, is that the Predatory Reports database hit the 10,000 journal mark just after I started work for Cabells, and one of my first tasks in my new role was to write a press release detailing the news for interested parties (a press release for the new milestone can be accessed here). At the time, it was mind-boggling for me to think that the problem had grown so big, and I wondered how many more journals would be discovered. Would the database reach 11,000 or 12,000 journals? Would the rate of increase level off or decline? In fact, the rate of increase has been maintained, with around 150 titles being added on average by Cabells’ journal audit team every month.
While the rate of increase has been steady, it has been interspersed with sharp gains when a new publisher is uncovered and its numerous cut-and-paste journals included. As we saw in this blog post in July where almost a third of the journals added were from a single publisher, new entrants to the market (or existing operators with new identities), are still driving up numbers and as a result making it harder for researchers to find legitimate outlets for their papers to be published.
Luckily for authors, if the threats over publication ethics have never been greater, the solutions to this problem also seem to be proliferating. In addition to databases of information such as Cabells’ Predatory Reports that can aid decision-making for academics, there are many online courses now available, as wells as new studies into how to train academics effectively in publication ethics issues. So while the numbers of predatory journals and size of the publication ethics problem seems to be increasing, the tools to deal with these challenges at least seem to be keeping pace – which is the good news we need as we head back to school.
As our journal investigation team members work their way around the expanding universe of scholarly publications, one of the more brazen and egregious predatory publishing scams they encounter is the hijacked, or cloned, journal. One recent case of this scheme uncovered by our team, while frustrating in its flagrance, also offered some levity by way of its ineptness. But make no mistake, hijacked journals are one of the more nefarious and injurious operations carried out by predatory publishers. They cause extensive damage not just to the legitimate journal that has had its name and brand stolen, but to research and society as a whole, as noted recently in this piece from Retraction Watch on the hundreds of papers from hijacked journals found in the WHO COVID-19 library.
There are a few different variations on the hijacked journal, but all include a counterfeit operation stealing the title, ISSN and/or domain name of a legitimate journal to create a duplicate, fraudulent version of the same. They do this to lure unsuspecting (or not) researchers into submitting their manuscripts (on any topic, not just those covered by the original, legitimate publication) for promises of rapid publication for a fee.
The most recent case of journal hijacking investigated by our team involved the hijacking of this legitimate journal, Tierärztliche Praxis, a veterinary journal out of Germany with two series, one for small and one for large animal practitioners:
by this counterfeit operation, using the same name:
One of the more immediate problems caused by cloned journals is how difficult they make it for scholars to discover and engage with the legitimate journal, as shown in the image below of Google search results for “Tierärztliche Praxis.” The first several search results refer to the fake journal, including the top result which links to the fake journal homepage.
“Tierärztliche praxis” translates to “veterinary practice” in English, and the original journal is of course aimed at veterinary practitioners. Not so for the fake Tierärztliche Praxis “journal” which is aimed (sloppily) at anyone writing about anything who is willing to pay to have their article published:
Aside from a few of the more obvious signs of deception found with the cloned journal: a poor website with duplicate text and poor grammar, an overly simple submission process, an incredibly wide range of topics covered, to name a few, this journal’s “archive” of (stolen) articles takes things to a new level.
A few things to note:
The stolen article shown in the pictures above is not even from the original journal that is being hijacked, but from a completely different journal, Tuexenia.
The white rectangle near the top left of the page to cover the original journal’s title and the poorly superimposed hijacked journal title and ISSN at the header of the pages, and the volume information and page number in the footer (without even bothering to redact the original article page numbers).
The FINGER at the bottom left of just about every other page of this stolen article.
Sadly, not all hijacked or otherwise predatory journals are this easy to spot. Scholars must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to selecting a publication to which they submit their work. Refer to Cabells Predatory Reports criteria to become familiar with the tactics used by predatory publishers. Look at journal websites with a critical eye and be mindful of some of the more obvious red flags such as promises of fast publication, no information on the peer review process, dead links or poor grammar on the website, or pictures (with or without fingers) of obviously altered articles in the journal archives.
The first set of data from Cabells’ collaboration with Inera’s Edifix shows that nearly 300 article checks included references to predatory journals. Simon Linacre looks behind the data to share more details about ‘citation contamination.’
A few months ago, Cabells announced a trial partnership with the Edifix service, an article checking tool from Wiley’s Inera division (watch the free webinar discussing the collaboration from SSP’s OnDemand Library). Subscribers to Edifix can check their article’s references against Cabells’ Predatory Reports database for free during an open beta phase, and the first results of this offer have been announced by Edifix on their latest blog. The results show that:
A total of 295 jobs have had at least one reference flagged as having been included in a journal that is currently listed by Cabells’ Predatory Reports since May 2021
When you look at all 295 of those jobs, there were 66 (22%) that also included multiple references from predatory journals
Over the same period, Edifix processed a total of 7102 jobs (containing 104,140 submitted references, of which Edifix was able to fully process 89,180), so overall around 4% of all live jobs included at least one reference flagged by Cabells’ Predatory Reports database.
To recap, it is in the interests of all stakeholders in scholarly communications – authors, universities, societies, funders, and society as a whole – that research is not lost to predatory publishing activities. The Edifix and Cabells collaboration is designed not only to offer access to a database such as Predatory Reports to help all these stakeholders, but to augment their capabilities to produce the best research.
In addition, the collaboration represents a step forward in preventing ‘citation contamination’, where articles published in predatory journals find their way into legitimate journals by being referenced by them directly. The new service allows users to vet references for citations to predatory journals, as identified by Predatory Reports, and reduce the contamination of the scholarly record.
It is important to underline that while checking references won’t remove the predatory journal publications in the first place, it will ensure that those articles are cited less, and also that the research they include is checked. Authors cite articles assuming what is included in them has been peer reviewed, which is the very thing that is most unlikely to happen with a predatory journal. If an author understands the work they are citing may not have had any peer review – or a sub-standard or superficial one – they can find other literature to support their case. The analogy of contamination is a strong one as not only does it conjure up the stench many feel predatory publishing practices represents, it also describes how the problem can ‘cross-contaminate’ other journals and research projects. By empowering authors to clean up their research, and highlighting the problem of contamination more widely, it is hoped that this early experiment can lead to more steps forward in the fight against predatory publishing.
Are predatory journals to academic publishing what PEDs are to Major League Baseball?
The 2021 Major League Baseball season is underway and for fans everywhere, the crack of the bat and pop of the mitt have come not a moment too soon. America’s ‘National Pastime’ is back and for at least a few weeks, players and fans for all 30 teams have reason to be optimistic (even if your team’s slugging first baseman is already out indefinitely with a partial meniscus tear…).
In baseball, what is known as the “Steroid Era” is thought to have run from the late ‘80s through the early 2000s. During this period, many players (some for certain, some suspected) used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) which resulted in an offensive explosion across baseball. As a result, homerun records revered by generations of fans were smashed and rendered meaningless.
It wasn’t just star players looking to become superstars that were using PEDs, it was also the fringe players, the ones struggling to win or keep jobs as big league ball players. They saw other players around them playing better, more often, and with fewer injuries. This resulted in promotions, from the minor leagues to the major leagues or from bench player to starter, and job security, in the form of multi-year contracts.
So, there now existed a professional ecosystem in baseball where those who were willing to skirt the rules could take a relatively quick and easy route to the level of production necessary to succeed and advance in their industry. Shortcuts that would enhance their track record and improve their chances of winning and keeping jobs and help build their professional profiles to ‘superstar’ levels, greatly increasing compensation as a result.
Is this much different than the situation for researchers in today’s academic publishing ecosystem?
Where some authors – called “parasite authors” by Dr. Serihy Kozmenko in a guest post for The Source – deliberately “seek symbiosis with predatory journals” in order to boost publication records, essentially amassing publication statistics on steroids. Other authors, those not willing to use predatory journals as a simple path to publication, must operate in the same system, but under a different set of rules that make it more difficult to generate the same levels of production. In this situation, how many authors who would normally avoid predatory journals would be drawn to them, just to keep up with those who use them to publish easily and frequently?
At academic conferences, on message boards, and other forums for discussing issues in scholarly communication, a familiar refrain is that predatory journals are easy to identify and avoid, so predatory publishing, in general, is not a big problem for academic publishing. While there is some level of truth to the fact that many, though not all, predatory journals are relatively easy to spot and steer clear of, this idea denies the existence of parasite authors. These researchers are unconcerned about the quality of the journal as they are simply attempting to publish enough papers for promotion or tenure purposes.
Parasite authors are also likely to be undeterred by the fact that although many predatory journals are indexed in platforms such as Google Scholar, articles published in these journals have low visibility due to the algorithms used to rank research results in these engines. Research published in predatory journals is not easily discovered, not widely read, and not heavily cited, if at all. The work is marginalized and ultimately, the reputation of the researcher is damaged.
There are many reasons why an author might consider publishing in a predatory journal. The ‘publish or perish’ system places pressure on researchers in all career stages – how much blame for this should be placed on universities? In addition, researchers from the Global South are fighting an uphill battle when dealing with Western publishing institutions. Lacking the same resources, training, language skills, and overall opportunities as their Western counterparts, researchers from the developing world often see no other choice but to use predatory journals (the majority located in their part of the world) to keep pace with their fellow academics’ publishing activity.
To a large degree, Major League Baseball has been able to remove PEDs from the game, mostly due to increased random testing and more severe penalties for those testing positive. Stemming the flow of predatory publishing activity in academia will not be so straightforward. At the very least, to begin with, the scholarly community must increase monitoring and screening for predatory publishing activity (with the help of resources like Cabells’ Predatory Reports) and institute penalties for those found to have used predatory journals as publishing outlets. As in baseball, there will always be those looking to take shortcuts to success, having a system in place to protect those who do want to play by the rules should be of paramount importance.
Turkey has been making great strides in recent years as a force to be reckoned with on the international research stage. However, it seems to have encountered more problems than other countries with regard to predatory journals. Simon Linacre looks at the problems facing the country and highlights some resources available to help Turkish scholars.
A simple Google search of “predatory journals Turkey” provides quick insight into the concerns academic researchers there have regarding these deceptive publications. Numerous articles fill the first pages of results highlighting the particular issue Turkey seems to share with a few other countries such as India and Nigeria. Alongside, however, are anonymous websites offering unsupported claims about predatory publications. Validated information appears to be thin on the ground.
Luckily, the Turkish government understands there is a problem and in the Spring of 2019 it decided to take action. According to Professor Zafer Koçak in his article ‘Predatory Publishing and Turkey’, the Turkish Council of Higher Education decreed that “scientific papers published in predatory journals would not be taken into account in academic promotion and assignment. Thus, Turkey has taken the step of becoming one of the first countries to implement this in the world”.
According to its website, the Turkish Council of Higher Education believed the phenomenon was increasing, and was doing so internationally. A number of articles have been published recently that back this up – for example here and here – and there is the potential for Turkish authors to get caught up in this global swell due to their increasing publication output.
To support Turkish authors and institutions, Cabells has translated its information video on its Journalytics and Predatory Reports products, as well as translating this page, into Turkish. Hopefully, the availability of independently verified information on predatory journals and greater dialogue will improve the conditions for Turkey and its scholars to continue to grow their influence in global research.
Türkiye son yıllarda uluslararası araştırma sahnesinde yabana atılamayacak büyük bir aşama kaydetmektedir. Ancak yağmacı dergilerle diğer ülkelerde olduğundan daha fazla sorunlarla karşılaşıyor gibi görünüyor. Simon Linacre bu konuda ülkenin karşı karşıya olduğu sorunlara bakıyor ve Türk bilim insanlarına yardımcı olacak mevcut kaynakların altını çiziyor.
Basit bir “predatory journals Turkey” Google taraması akademik araştırmacıların bu aldatıcı yayınlarla ilgili endişelere sahip oldukları konusunda hızlı bir anlayış sağlıyor. Taramanın ilk sayfaları, Türkiye’nin bu sorunu Hindistan ve Nijerya gibi diğer bir kaç ülke ile paylaştığını gösteren sonuçlarla dolu. Fakat bu sonuçların bir kısmı da yağmacı yayınlar hakkında desteklenmeyen iddialar sunan anonim web sayfaları. Doğrulanmış ve güvenilir bilgi nadir görülüyor.
Neyse ki, Türk hükümeti bir sorun olduğunun farkında ve 2019 Baharında önlem almaya karar verdi. Profesör Zafer Koçak’ın ‘Predatory Publishing and Turkey’ makalesine göre, Yükseköğretim Kurulu tarafından alınan kararla “yağmacı dergilerde yayımlanan bilimsel makaleler akademik yükseltmelerde dikkate alınmayacak. Böylece Türkiye dünyada bu kararı yürürlüğe koyan ilk ülkelerden biri olma adımını attı”.
Yükseköğretim Kurulu web sitesine göre, Kurul hem ulusal hem de uluslararası ortamlarda yağmacı yayıncılığın arttığına inanıyor. Son zamanlarda bunu destekleyen bir çok makale yayımlandı – örneklerini burada ve burada görebilirsiniz – ve yayın sayıları ile birlikte hızla artan küresel yağmacılığa Türk yazarların yakalanma olasılığı var. Cabells, Türk yazarları ve kurumları desteklemek için Journalytics ve Predatory Reports ürünlerinin bilgilendirici videosu ile birlikte bu sayfayı da Türkçeye çevirdi. Umarız ki, yağmacı dergiler hakkında bağımsız olarak onaylanmış bilginin ulaşılabilirliği ve daha güçlü iletişim, Türkiye’nin ve akademisyenlerinin global araştırmadaki etkilerini arttırarak devam ettirmeleri konusunda şartları iyileştirecek.
There are many ways to skin a cat, and many ways to infer a journal could be predatory. In his latest blog post, Simon Linacre looks at the role the International Standard Serial Number, or ISSN, can play in the production of predatory journals.
For many reasons, the year 2020 will be remembered for the sheer volume of numbers that have invaded our consciousness. Some of these are big numbers – 80 million votes for Joe Biden, four million cases of COVID in the US in 2020 – and some of these will be small, such as the number of countries (1) leaving the EU at the end of the year. Wherever we look, we see numbers of varying degrees of import at seemingly every turn.
While numbers have been previously regarded as gospel, however, data has joined news and UFO sightings (seemingly one of the few phenomena NOT to increase in 2020) as something to be suspicious about or faked in some way. And one piece of data trusted by many authors in determining the validity or otherwise of a journal is the International Standard Serial Number, or ISSN.
An ISSN can be obtained relatively easily via either a national or international office as long as a journal can be identified as an existing publication. As the ISSN’s own website states, an ISSN is “a digital code without any intrinsic meaning” and does not include any information about the contents of that publication. Perhaps most importantly, an ISSN “does not guarantee the quality or the validity of the contents”. This perhaps goes some way to explain why predatory journals can often include an ISSN on their websites. Indeed, more than 40% of the journals included in Cabells’ Predatory Reports database include an ISSN in their journal information.
But sometimes predatory publishers can’t obtain an ISSN – or at least can’t be bothered to – and will fake the ISSN code. Of the 6,000 or so journals with an ISSN in Predatory Reports, 288 or nearly 5% have a fake ISSN, and this is included as one of the database’s behavioural indicators to help identify predatory activity. It is instructive to look at these fake ISSNs to see the lengths predatory publishers will go to in order to achieve some semblance of credibility in their site presence.
For some journals, it is obvious that the ISSN is fake as it looks wrong. In the example above for the Journal of Advanced Statistics and Probability, the familiar two groups of four digits followed by a hyphen format is missing, replaced by nine digits and a forward slash, which is incorrect.
More worrying are the few publications that have hijacked existing, legitimate journals and appropriated their identity, including the ISSN. In the example below, the Wulfenia Journal has had its identity hijacked, with the fake journal website pictured below.
If you compare it to the genuine journal shown below (the German homepage can be found here), you can see they list the same ISSN.
One can only imagine the chaos caused for a legitimate journal when its identity is hijacked, and this is just part of wider concerns on the effects of fake information being shared have on society. As always, arming yourself with the right information – and taking a critical approach to any information directed your way – will help see you through the morass of misinformation we seem to be bombarded with in the online world.
This week we are pleased to feature a guest post from Dr. Salim Moussa, Assistant Professor of Marketing at ISEAH at the University of Gafsa in Tunisia. Dr. Moussa has recently published insightful research on the impact predatory journals have had on the discipline of marketing and, together with Cabells’ Simon Linacre, has some cautionary words for his fellow researchers in that area.
Academic journals are important to marketing scholars for two main reasons: (a) journals are the primary medium through which they transmit/receive scholarly knowledge; and (b) tenure, promotion, and grant decisions depend mostly on the journals in which they have published. Selecting the right journal to which one would like to submit a manuscript is thus a crucial decision. Furthermore, the overabundance of academic marketing journals -and the increasing “Publish or Perish” pressure – makes this decision even more difficult.
The “market” of marketing journals is extremely broad, with Cabells’ Journalytics indexing 965 publication venues that that are associated with “marketing” in their aims and scope. While monitoring the market of marketing journals for the last ten years, I have noticed that a new type of journal has tapped into it: open access (OA) journals.
The first time I have ever heard about OA journals was during a dinner in an international marketing conference held in April 2015 in my country, Tunisia. Many of the colleagues at the dinner table were enthusiastic about having secured publications in a “new” marketing journal published by “IBIMA”. Back in my hometown (Gafsa), I took a quick look at IBIMA Publishing’s website. The thing that I remember the most from that visit is that IBIMA’s website looked odd to me. Then a few years later, while conducting some research on marketing journals, I noticed some puzzling results for a particular journal. Investigating the case of that journal, I came to realize that a scam journal was brandjacking the identity of the flagship journal of the UK-based Academy of Marketing’s, Journal of Marketing Management.
Undertaking this research, terms such“Predatory publishers”, “Beall’s List”, and “Think, Check, Submit” were new discoveries for me. This was also the trigger point of a painful yet insightful research experience that lasted an entire year (from May 2019 to May 2020).
Beall’s list was no longer available (shutdown in January 2017), and I had no access to Cabells’ Predatory Reports. Freely available lists were either outdated or too specialized (mainly Science, Technology, and Medicine) to be useful. So, I searched for journals that have titles that are identical or confusingly similar to those of well-known, prestigious, non-predatory marketing journals. Using this procedure, I identified 12 journals and then visited the websites of each of these 12 journals to collect information about both the publisher and the journal; that is, is the journal OA or not, its Article Processing Charges, whether the journal had an editor in chief or not, the names of its review board members and their affiliations (if any), the journal’s ISSNs, etc. I even emailed an eminent marketing scholar that I was stunned to see his name included in the editorial board of a suspicious journal.
With one journal discarded, I had a list of 11 suspicious journals (Journal A to Journal K).
Having identified the 11 publishers of these 11 journals, I then consulted three freely available and up-to-date lists of predatory publishers: the Dolos List, the Kscien List, and the Stop Predatory Journals List. The aim of consulting these lists was to check whether I was wrong or right in qualifying these publishers as predatory. The verdict was unequivocal; each of the 11 publishers were listed in all three of them. These three lists, however, provided no reasons for the inclusion of a particular publisher or a particular journal.
To double-check the list, I used the Directory of Open Access Journals, which is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high-quality, OA, peer-reviewed journals. None of the 11 journals were indexed in it. To triple-check the list, I used both the 2019 Journal Quality List of the Australian Business Deans Council and the 2018 Academic Journal Guide by the Chartered Association of Business Schools. None of the 11 journals were ranked in these two lists either.
To be brief, the one year of endeavor resulted in a paper I submitted to the prestigious academic journal, Scientometrics, published by Springer Nature, and my paper was accepted and published online in late October 2020. In that paper, I reported the findings of a study that examined the extent of citations received by articles published in ten predatory marketing journals (as one of the 11 journals under scrutiny was an “empty journal”; that is, with no archives). The results indicated that some of these journals received quite a few citations with a median of 490 citations, with one journal receiving 6,296 citations (see also Case Study below).
I entitled the article “Citation contagion: A citation analysis of selected predatory marketing journals.” Some people may or may not like the framing in terms of “contagion” and “contamination” (especially in these COVID times), but I wanted the title to be striking enough to attract more readership. Those who read the article may see it as a call for marketing researchers to “not submit their (possibly interesting) knowledge products to any journal before checking that the publication outlet they are submitting to is a non-predatory journal.” Assuming that the number of citations an article receives signals its quality, the findings in my study indicate that some of the articles published in these predatory journals deserved better publication venues. I believe that most of the authors of these articles were well-intentioned and did not know that the journals they were submitting to were predatory.
A few months earlier and having no access to Cabells databases, I read each of the posts in their blog trying identify marketing journals that were indexed in Predatory Reports. Together with Cabells, our message to the marketing research community is that 10 of the 11 journals that I have investigated were already listed (or under-review for inclusion) in Predatory Reports. I believe my study has revealed only the tip of the iceberg. Predatory Reports now indexes 140 journals related to the subject of Marketing (which represents 1% of the total number of journals listed in Predatory Reports). Before submitting your papers to an OA marketing journal, you can use Predatory Reports to verify that it is legitimate.
The study completed by Dr. Moussa provides an excellent primer on how to research and identify predatory journals (writes Simon Linacre). As such, it is instructive to look at one of the journals highlighted in Dr. Moussa’s article in more detail.
Dr. Moussa rightly suspected that the British Journal of Marketing Studies looked suspicious due to its familiar-sounding title. This is a well-used strategy by predatory publishers to deceive authors who do not make themselves familiar with the original journal. In this case, the British Journal of Marketing Studies sounds similar to a number of potential journals in this subject discipline.
As Dr. Moussa also points out, a questionable journal’s website will often fail to stand up to a critical eye. For example, the picture below shows the “offices” of BJMS – a small terraced house in Southern England, which seems an unlikely location for an international publishing house. This journal’s website also contains a number of other tells that while not singularly defining of predatory publishers, certainly provide indicators: prominent phone numbers, reference to an ‘Impact Factor’ (not from Clarivate), fake indexation in databases (eg DOAJ), no editor contact details, and/or fake editor identity.
What is really interesting about Dr. Moussa’s piece is his investigation of citation activity. We can see from the data below that ‘Journal I’ (which is the British Journal of Marketing Studies) that both total citations and the most citations received by a single article are significant, and represent what is known as ‘citation leakage’ where citations are made to and from predatory journals. As articles in these journals are unlikely to have had any peer review, publication ethics checks or proof checks, their content is unreliable and skews citation data for reputable research and journals.
Predatory journal: Journal I (BJMS)
Total number of citations received: 1,331
Number of citations received by the most cited article: 99
The most cited article was published in: 2014
Number of citations received from SSCI-indexed journals: 3
Number of citations received from FT50 listed journals: 0
It is a familiar refrain from The Source, but it bears repeating – as an author you should do due diligence on where you publish your work and ‘research your research’. Using your skills as a researcher for publication and not just what you want to publish will save a huge amount of pain in the future, both for avoiding the bad journals and choosing the good ones.