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.
… I made this mistake once and I published a paper in one of these journals … now it does not appear online on searching … how can I withdraw this paper and republish it in a trusted journal??
This is a variation of a question we at Cabells are asked and consider frequently, and one that perfectly encapsulates the scholarly publishing-esque three-act drama that unfolds when a researcher is entangled with a deceptive publishing operation:
Act I: Setup
‘… I made this mistake once and I published a paper in one of these journals …’
The ‘mistake’ made (or in our drama, the ‘inciting incident’) was unknowingly submitting work to and publishing it in a predatory journal. This can and does happen innocently and somewhat easily to unsuspecting researchers, most often students and early career researchers.
Act II: Confrontation
‘…now it does not appear online on searching…’
The stakes are raised as the ramifications of the inciting incident from Act I are realized. One of the damaging results of having research published in a predatory journal is that it won’t be easily (if at all) discoverable. Some predatory journals advertise that they are included in well-known databases like Web of Science, Scopus, or Cabells, when they are not. These operations devote no time or resources to developing SEO or facilitating inclusion in research databases, so published articles will be difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Act III: Resolution
‘…How can I withdraw this paper and republish it in a trusted journal??’
The short answer, as provided in the launch event chat by Susan Veldsman, one of the authors of the IAP report, was succinct and unfortunately accurate:
‘Authors have reported that it is very difficult to retract these articles, actually no chance, as publishers just ignore requests and pleas from authors.’
This is the sad truth. Once an article is submitted to a predatory journal there is little to no hope of successfully withdrawing the article. These requests by authors are either ignored or not acted upon. Once published by the predatory journal, which often occurs without notice, researchers risk running afoul of publication ethics concerning duplicate publication if they submit the article to a second publication, whether or not copyright has been transferred. But should this be the case?
One alternative for dealing with research that has essentially been ‘lost’ to predatory operations, and so dismissed or ignored, was put forth by Jeanette Hatherill, Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of Ottawa. Hatherill proposes that an author be able to “… retract or withdraw the article, acknowledge its ‘prior publication’ and submit it to a preprint server to make it available for open peer review.” While most preprint servers, including bioRxiv, require that articles be submitted prior to being accepted by (and of course, published in) a journal, Hatherill points out that these policies are set by the preprint servers and can be examined and revised.
As for the question of copyright, Hatherill notes that ‘even deceptive publishers’ such as OMICS, the predatory publishing giant recently on the losing end of a $50 million dollar judgment due to their predatory publishing practices, ‘state that all articles are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.’ Publishing an article open access under Creative Commons licenses leaves the copyright with the author, meaning from a copyright standpoint it should be permissible to post on a preprint server as long as the place of first ‘publication’ is cited.
Until a more comprehensive, structured, and widely applicable solution to the dilemma of how to salvage legitimate and potentially valuable research that has been unknowingly published in a predatory journal is found, creative solutions such as posting to a preprint server with an acknowledgment of prior publication and might be the most effective and efficient way to proceed.
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.
There is much to learn from literature regarding scholarly communications, not least how to get messages across the divide to the wider public. Simon Linacre finds much food for thought in chewing over a modern classic.
Like many people, I tend to have two or three books on the go at once. This is due in part to different moods suiting different types of books, but also due to some fallacious idea that I will read them more quickly if I do so concurrently rather than one at a time. It also helps tackle larger books, and there are few larger than my recent fiction read, The Overstory by Richard Powers. A true epic intertwining several different stories that all become rooted to the conservation of redwoods in the Pacific Northwest of the US, it encompasses far more than environmental concerns. Liberty, corporate behavior, relationships and child welfare are all covered, as well as the often-blighted route taken by academic researchers.
The professor in question makes a quite literally groundbreaking discovery about how trees can communicate with each other in a forest through root systems, but as soon as she is lauded she then is put down by fellow academics pouring scorn on her ideas and effectively shunning her from her profession. It is only when her ideas are revived and proven again that she comes into her own, but not as an academic expert – rather as a rabble-rouser, polemicist, and leader of like-minded people.
One of the themes hinted at in this story is the impact debate, and how academic research or any kind of uncovered truth can possibly enable real change in the face of corporate hegemony, state bureaucracy and sheer noise created by those arguing for their individual rights to lead their lives as they see fit. The book offers a little hope among huge piles of despair, but is nevertheless an uplifting read due to the force of will exhibited from the main characters. Similarly, one can see that for those academics who raise their head above the parapet and choose impactful research over more popular or recognised research areas, the path towards individual and societal success can appear a long one.
In one telling passage in the book, one character trying to save a tree by living high in its boughs is almost blown off by a helicopter hovering over her perch. Those behind the actions of the helicopter argue they are saving livelihoods by cutting down the trees; those behind the protest say the same, but those livelihoods stretch far into the future and will be worth more than the short-term approach being adopted by the loggers. The parallels for scholarly communication are also stark, as the limited resources that have backed non-actionable research may soon switch to more actionable outcomes. It just needs all stakeholders to see the wood for the trees and move towards a much more impact-focused trail.
What should a good quality journal include in its make-up – rigorous research, well-regarded editorial board, plenty of citations? But what if we challenge these assumptions and demand commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well? There are solutions to this challenge, and here Simon Linacre introduces the first SDG Impact Intensity™ rating from Cabells and Saint Joseph’s University.
It is said that some of the best deals are done in a secluded restaurant or in the back of a cab. For academics, perhaps the equivalent is the fringes of a conference gala dinner and in a coach back to the hotel. That’s what happened when I met Dr. David Steingard from Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Lisbon in late 2019, where we discussed what an appraisal of journals from the perspective of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) might look like.
First trialed in March of this year, the fruits of this meeting are released today in the shape of the SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating. This pilot study – the first full ratings are expected in early 2022 – seeks to highlight the differences between business and management journals regarded as leaders in their disciplines, and those which have focused on sustainability and related issues. The pilot consists of 100 journals rated according to their relevance – or intensity – to the UN’s 17 SDGs, determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the last five years. Using a sophisticated AI methodology from SJU and journals based on Cabells’ Journalytics database, journals were rated from zero to five, with six journals achieving the top rating.
Traditionally, citations and rankings have been a proxy for quality, none more so than the list of 50 journals used by the Financial Times for its FT Research rankings. However, to what extent have these journals started to reflect on research on climate change and the SDGs in recent years – a focus which should surely be a top priority for business and business schools alike?
The evidence from the SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating is that… there has been very little focus at all. As you can see from the list of 100 journals, only two journals from the FT 50 appear in the top 50 of the list, showcasing the fact – as if there was any doubt – that sustainability journals that have typically lagged behind top business journals in terms of citations and prestige far outperform them when it comes to engagement with the SDGs and the research agenda they represent. We will view with interest the FT’s plan for a “slow hackathon” this Autumn as part of a review of their journal list.
Cabells started to investigate this area to see if there was another way to assess what value journals represented to authors looking to publish their work. What the last two years have shown is that more than a shift in perspective, there is a paradigm shift waiting to happen as the value of journals to authors moves from old-fashioned prestige to a more dynamic representation of mission-driven research. While Cabells and some publishers have backed this general shift by signing up to initiatives such as the UN Publishers Compact, much more can be done to progress the impact agenda in scholarly communications. Events such as the upcoming Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) Webinar aim to tackle the problem of aligning research programs and outcomes in publications head on. By highlighting those journals that are already focused on this alignment – and those that could do better – Cabells and SJU are hoping they can play a part in genuinely moving the dial.
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.
Peer Review Week 2021 has been announced for September 20–24 with the theme of Identity in Peer Review. Simon Linacre, who volunteers for the event’s Steering Committee, takes a look at the importance of the event and this year’s chosen theme.
For those new to scholarly communication, the annual celebration of peer review probably seems one of the more unlikely events to occur in the crowded calendar. It makes sense for relatively novel ideas such as open access and open science to have their day – or week – in the sun in October, while other events supporting academic research and universities in general pepper the rest of the year. So why is boring old peer review so special?
Well, it may be a surprise to learn it’s not that old, and when you dig deeper you find it is anything but boring. While journals began life in the 17th Century – 1665, to be precise – it seems the first peer reviews only took place in the 18th Century, and external reviews in the Victorian period. According to academic publishing historian Alex Csiszar, peer reviews grew from these beginnings very slowly, and only took hold in mainstream science journals in the post-war period.
Furthermore, this year’s theme shows that issues and challenges facing the world today are very much relevant to the process of peer review. Identity in Peer Review was the first Peer Review Week theme to be chosen by the public, and will explore the role of both personal and social identity in peer review. It is hoped that the various events and activities during the week will develop a more diverse, equitable and inclusive approach to peer review. Academia has seen increased emphasis on the taking of steps to ensure research literature reflects and amplifies diverse voices, and of course the manner in which peer review is conducted is key to that.
Peer Review Week steering committee co-chair Danielle Padula says: “If the past year has taught us anything, I think it’s that recognizing the composite of identities that make up who we are as individuals, organizations, and populations, and the links between those identities, is essential to the future of scholarship and, ultimately, global progress. The pandemic has illuminated myriad deep-seated inequities that we need to address in all areas of society, with academia being no exception. And I think that starts with unpacking various aspects of personal and social identity and how we need to rethink the systems in which we operate to acknowledge and make space for diverse identities.”
Looking back to learn about the future is an apt approach, given that the past of peer review is not far behind us, and radical change potentially so near in the future. As ever, focusing on peer review makes a lot of sense for everyone with an interest in knowledge sharing and scholarly communications. Roll on September.
In the course of researching a book on predatory publishing, Simon Linacre wanted to find some answers to common questions on the subject. In his latest blog post, he shares why straightforward is never easy when it comes to this controversial topic.
Have you ever wondered where those questions come from near the top of a Google search? Headlined ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA), the feature was introduced by Google in 2015 to aid search activities, and, according to SearchEngineWatch.com, the feature now appears in around half of all searches. The algorithms that trigger the feature seem to work more with searches based on questions and that include multiple keywords, and now form part of the standard toolbox of any digital marketer, as it opens up a wider range of sites than the top three hits at the top of a Google search engine results page (SERP).
For academic researchers, the feature is probably both a benefit and an irrelevance. While it may help some to gain a wider understanding of what kinds of questions are being asked about a topic – and it certainly helped me in this regard – it will also annoy others with much more sophisticated skills and needs for their search activities, where being sent down a potential blind alley is something to be avoided.
But do the questions posed by the algorithm any use? To put it to the test, here are the top nine results to the question, ‘What is a predatory journal?’, which was posed on Wednesday 23rd June 2021. The initial question reveals four results (see Figure A), clicking on the first answer reveals a further two (Figure B), and clicking on the second question reveals a total of nine questions (Figure C). These questions will differ depending on which question is clicked, as the algorithm seeks to provide further related questions to the initial one that was clicked on.
Each question provides a summary answer and link through to the original web page, which will inevitably vary greatly in how useful they actually are. Some sources are blogs, some university library guides, and others Wikipedia. What is perhaps concerning is the direction the questions take, in that it is not the sources per se that provide worrying information, but the questions that are posed in the first place, presumably from an algorithm based on usage data and relevance to the questions being asked. So, to try and set the record straight in our own small way, here are some short and more realistic answers to the nine questions Google puts forward as most relevant to the predatory journal question:
Q. What is meant be predatory Journal?
Wikipedia supplies as good a short description as any, with the addition that there is rarely if any peer review at all: “Predatory publishing is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not.”
Q. How do you know if a journal is predatory?
Common indicators include fake claims of an Impact Factor, lack of information/lies about the Editorial Board, and unrealistic promises of a fast turnaround.
Q. What happens if you publish in a predatory journal?
It stays published – retraction is highly unlikely, and to try and republish the article in a legitimate journal will only compound the problem by breaching publication ethics guidelines.
Q. What is a predatory journal a journal published over Internet?
Predatory journals began life by taking advantage of online publication as well as the Open Access model – both things were simply combined to create the right circumstances for predatory journals to evolve.
Q. Why are predatory journals bad?
Predatory journals do not check the validity or accuracy of submitted research but present it as if they have. As a result junk science, propaganda, and faked research can appear and be accessed by other academics and the general public alike, causing confusion and potential harm to anyone adopting that research for another purpose.
Q. Is PLOS ONE a predatory journal?
No, not at all. PLOS ONE like many so-called ‘mega-journals’ publish large numbers of articles based on a light-touch peer review that nevertheless checks the validity and accuracy of the research articles submitted.
Q. How can you detect and avoid predatory journals?
Research the topic and use the many guidelines provided by university libraries around the world. You can also use Cabells’ own criteria it uses to identify them for inclusion in its Predatory Reports database.
Q How many predatory journals are there?
There are currently 14,647 journals listed on Cabells’ Predatory Reports database.
Q. What is the warning sign that a journal or publisher is predatory?
In addition to the common indicators listed above, other more superficial signs can include poor grammar/spelling, very broad coverage of a topic, or solicitation of article submissions with excessive flattery in spam emails.
Predatory academic journals and, even more so, predatory conferences have been given surprisingly little attention in academic circles, despite their rapid growth and sophistication in recent years. Juxtaposed with the pervasive “publish or perish” research assessment culture, where quantity trumps quality, the research community risks sleepwalking into a perfect storm. Predatory academic practices are one manifestation of a surge in online scams and deceit that are deluging many sectors, fuelled further by changes in (post-) pandemic lifestyles, but their impact on the knowledge economy, research enterprise, and public policy is potentially profound.
The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) – the global network of over 140 academies of science, engineering and medicine – is leading an international project “Combatting predatory journals and conferences” which seeks to better understand the growing menace of these practices, gauge their extent and impact, what drives them and what actions are required to curb them. With the number of predatory journals now estimated to be at least 14,500 (Cabells) and predatory conferences believed to outnumber legitimate ones (THES), this project is imperative and our recent survey of researchers all over the world is illuminating.
Conducted in November-December 2020, the survey gives concerning insight into the extent and impact of predatory practices across the world. Based on the 1800+ respondents, two headlines are particularly striking:
1. Over 80% of respondents perceived predatory practices to be a serious problem or on the rise in their country.
2. At least a quarter of respondents had either published in a predatory journal, participated in a predatory conference, or did not know if they had. Reasons cited for this included a lack of awareness of such scams and encouragement by their peers. Indeed, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the use of predatory journals and conferences is embedded, or at least tolerated, in some institutions/networks.
Contrary to some studies citing that early career researchers are especially vulnerable, we found no correlation between a researcher’s career stage, or their discipline, with their likelihood to publish in a predatory journal or participate in a predatory conference. However, there is a small correlation with the economic status of the country in which they work, with those in lower- and middle-income countries more likely to participate or publish than those in high-income countries. If left unchecked, the research gap between higher- and lower-income countries risks widening. Putting definitive guidance on predatory journals behind paywalls, whilst sometimes unavoidable, risks exacerbating this further.
A challenge for such essential services, whether paywalled or not, is how to distinguish fraudulent, deceitful journals from low quality but well-intentioned and legitimate ones. Whilst bringing the clarity researchers crave, journal safelists and watchlists force an in or out binary decision that is increasingly inadequate and unfair. In reality, there is a spectrum of fast-evolving and highly nuanced publishing practices that makes Cabell’s and its counterparts’ work very difficult. IAP is currently exploring a subset of Cabell’s-listed predatory journals using internet scraping and spidering techniques for data on predatory publishing.
Our project report, anticipated by early 2022, will include recommendations for all key stakeholder communities – researchers, research funders, publishers, academies and universities, libraries, and indexing services. With IAP as a conduit to academies and research communities throughout the world, we will focus on awareness-raising, training, and mentoring resources, and mobilising governments, multilateral and intergovernmental organisations.