Beware the known unknowns

Following a recent study showing an alarming lack of knowledge and understanding of predatory journals in China, Simon Linacre looks at the potential impact of the world’s biggest producer of research succumbing to the threat of deceptive publications.

That China has achieved something remarkable in its continued growth in research publications is surely one of the most important developments in modern research and scholarly communications. It passed the US in 2018 and all indications suggest it has increased its lead since then, propelled by huge investment in research by the Chinese government.

Cabells sought to reflect on this success when it published the list of top Chinese-language management journals in December 2020 following a collaboration with AMBA. However, research on that project also highlighted the significant risk for Chinese scholars in publishing in the wrong journals. Until last year, academics tended to be pushed towards – and recognised for – publishing in Impact Factor journals. This policy has, however, now changed, with more of a focus on Chinese-language journals as well as other international titles. The concern then arises, that some scholars may be lured into publishing in predatory journals with the shift in policy.

This thought has been fortified by the publication of the article ‘Chinese PhD Students’ Perceptions of Predatory Journals’ (2021) by Jiayun Wang, Jie Xu and DIanyou Chen in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Their study looks at the attitudes of over 300 Chinese doctoral students towards predatory journals, making three key findings:

  1. In STEM subjects, students regularly confused predatory journals with Open Access (OA) journals
  2. In Humanities and Social Science subjects, students tended to only identify predatory journals in the Chinese language, but not in English
  3. While the majority of respondents said they had no intention of submitting to predatory journals (mainly due to the potential harm it could do to their reputation), the few that would do so cited quick publication times and easy acceptance as motivating factors.

While there are limitations to the Wang et al article due to its relatively small sample and restricted scope, it is clear there is at least the potential for widespread use and abuse of the predatory publishing model in China, in parallel to what has been observed to a greater or lesser degree around the rest of the world. In conclusion, the authors state:

“PhD candidates in China generally have insufficient knowledge about predatory journals, and also generally disapprove of publishing in them.” (2021, pp. 102)

This lack of knowledge is referred to time and time again in articles about predatory publishing, of which there is now a small library to choose from. While there is considerable debate on how to define predatory journals, how to identify them and even score them, there is a gap where a better understanding of how to prevent publication in them can be engendered, particularly in the PhD and early career scholar (ECR) communities. Some studies on this aspect of predatory publishing would be very welcome indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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