Taxpayers finance a large part university research in the United States, and these results published in school newspapers often produce major advances in medicine, vehicle safety, food safety, criminal justice, human rights, and other topics that benefit the general public.
The bar for publishing in a scientific journal is often high. Independent experts diligently review and comment on submitted research – without knowing the names of the authors or their affiliated universities. They recommend whether a journal should accept an article, revise it, or reject it. The article is then carefully edited before being published.
But in a increasing number of casesthese standards are not respected.
Some journals charge academics to publish their research – without first editing or reviewing the work to ethical or editorial standards. These for-profit publications are often called predatory journals because these are publications that claim to be legitimate scholarly journals, but prey on unsuspecting academics to pay to publish and often misrepresent their publishing practices.
There was a around 996 publishers which published more than 11,800 predatory journals in 2015. This represents roughly the same number of legitimate, open access academic journals – freely available to readers and archived in a government-supported library or academic institution – published around the same time. In 2021, another estimate was 15,000 predatory newspapers.
This trend could weaken public confidence in the validity of research in everything from health and agriculture to economics and journalism.
We are journalism specialists And media ethics who see the negative effects of predatory publishing on our own fields of journalism and mass communication. We think it’s important for people to understand how this issue affects society as a whole.
In most cases, research published in these journals is commonplace and is not cited by other academics. But in other cases, poorly executed search – often about science – could mislead scientists and produce false conclusions.
Publishing in journals is considered an essential part of being an academic, as professors’ responsibilities typically involve contributing new knowledge and finding ways to solve problems in their areas of research. Publishing research is often a key to academics keeping their jobs, getting promoted, or gaining tenure – there’s an old academia expression, you publish or you perish.
Predatory publishers often use deception to trick academics into submitting their work. This includes fakes peer review promises, it is a process in which independent experts review the research. Other tactics include a lack of transparency regarding charging authors for publishing their research.
Although fees vary, one publisher told us during our research that their going rate is $60 per printed page. One author reported paying $250 to publish in the same media outlet. In contrast, legitimate journals charge a very small fee, if any, to publish manuscripts after editors and other independent experts have closely reviewed the work.
This type of journals – around 82.3% of which are located in poor countries, notably India, Nigeria and Pakistan – can prey on young professors who are under intense pressure from their universities to publish research.
Young, poorly paid professors and doctoral students, who may have limited English proficiency and poor research and writing skills, are also particularly vulnerable to publishers’ aggressive marketing, primarily through email.
Authors who publish in fraudulent journals may add these articles to their resumes, but these articles are rarely read and cited by other researchers, as is the norm for articles published in legitimate journals. In some casessthe articles are never published, despite payment.
Predatory publishers may also cover an unusually wide range of topics. For example, we looked at a Singapore-based company called PiscoMed Publishing, which has 86 journals in areas ranging from religious studies and Chinese medicine to pharmacy and biochemistry. Non-predatory publishers tend to focus more on the breadth of their topics.
The Conversation contacted all journals cited in this article for comment and received no response regarding their work standards and ethics.
Another newspaper, the International journal of human and social sciences, claims to publish in approximately 40 fields, including criminology, business, international relations, linguistics, law, music, anthropology and ethics. We received an email from this journal, signed by its editor-in-chief, listed as being affiliated with an American university.
But when we called this university, we were told that they did not employ anyone with that name. Another person in the school’s art department said the editor in question no longer worked there.
It is extremely difficult for people who read a study or watch a news report about a particular study to recognize that it appeared in a predatory journal.
In some cases, the titles of these journals are almost identical to the titles of authentic journals or have generic names like “Academic Sciences” and “BioMed Press”.
In a 2021 studyWe surveyed and interviewed academics in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe, listed as editorial board members or reviewers of two predatory journalism and mass communication newspapers.
A company, David Editions, lists a shipping and mailbox store in Delaware as its address and uses a telephone number in southern California. It claims to publish 52 journals in 36 disciplines, including philosophy, sports science and tourism.
Some researchers told us that they were listed as authors of these journals without permission. A name still appeared as an author several years after the death of the scholar.
Our latest and upcoming study conducted in 2023 surveyed and surveyed a sample of authors of 504 articles in one of these predatory journals focused on journalism and mass communication.
We wanted to know why these authors – ranging from graduate students to full professors – chose to submit their work to this journal and what their experience was like.
While most of the authors come from poor countries or other countries like Turkey and China, others mentioned their affiliations with top American, Canadian and European universities.
Many of the people we contacted were unaware of the predatory nature of the magazine. One author told us that he only became aware of the journal’s questionable practices after reading an online article that “warned people not to pay.”
A lack of worry
Some people we spoke with expressed no concern about the ethical implications of publishing in a predatory journal, including dishonesty toward authors’ peers and universities and potential deception of research funders. We’ve found that some authors invite colleagues to help pay fees in exchange for putting their name on an article, even if they haven’t done any research or writing.
In fact, we have heard many reasons to publish in such journals.
In other cases, academics said their universities were more concerned with the quantity of publications than the quality of the publication featuring their work.
“It was very important for me to have it at that time. I never paid again. But I got my promotion. It has been recognized by my institution as a comprehensive publication. I took advantage of it…and it did the trick,” one Middle Eastern author told us in an interview.
Why is this important
Predatory publishing poses a major obstacle to ensuring that new research on critical topics is well-founded and truthful.
This may have implications in health and medical research, among other areas. Like a healthcare specialistthere is a risk that scientists will incorporate erroneous results into their clinical practices.
High standards are essential in all areas of research. Policymakers, governments, educators, students, journalists and others should be able to rely on credible and accurate research findings in their decision-making, without constantly checking the validity of a source that falsely claims to be reputable .