Mad rush towards predatory journals

Mediocre papers being published without peer review

Updated - December 10, 2019 11:04 am IST

Published - December 09, 2019 11:32 pm IST - Kozhikode

 Representational image.

Representational image.

The young researcher was in a hurry to publish a paper when he was approached by someone who claimed to be running a “science journal”. The offer was to get it done within 72 hours, without any peer review by expert academics, if he deposited an amount in a bank account.

“Though the web address of that journal was in a foreign country, their bank account was in Hyderabad! Only later I came to know that such a journal did not even exist,” said the researcher who now works in an aided college affiliated to Calicut University.

Welcome to the world of ‘predatory journals’, publications that seek manuscripts from researchers, publish mediocre or worthless papers without the mandatory review by academic experts, and often charge a huge amount for the process.

The term was coined by Jeffry Beall, Librarian at the University of Colarado Denver, United States, who came up with a list of hundreds of such publications on his blog some time ago. Mr. Beall withdrew the list after reported pressure from his employer. Hundreds of such journals had their address in Thiruvananthapuram.

A senior professor in a Kozhikode college said that publication of predatory journals was a mushrooming business in the sub-continent as most of them were based in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Medical science could be its biggest hit as there are journals now entirely devoted to unscientific medicines.

“The main attraction for predatory journals is that they promise to publish papers very fast. Normally, publication of any peer-reviewed article may take around six months as it requires rigorous cross-checking. If you compromise on that, what gets lost is quality,” A.K. Pradeep, Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, Calicut University, told The Hindu .

Senior academics point out that the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) stipulation for hiring and promotion in colleges and universities was one of the main reasons for the rush towards predatory journals.

For appointment, the candidates should have published at least two research papers from their PhD work, of which at least one should be in a referred journal.

Promotions are based on points awarded for publishing papers in research journals with different impact factors — a measure of the frequency with which an article in a journal is cited in a year. Some people fall into the trap unknowingly, but many others do it otherwise too.

To address the issue, the UGC had come up with a ‘White List’ of proper research journals. Many academics, however, pointed out that the list had the names of many predatory journals too. It was alleged that some members of the team which prepared it had earlier “benefited” from the unauthorised practice.

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