‘Journal’ publisher in the dock for duping researchers

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The home page of OMICS Group, which has Hyderabad, India as its principal place of business. – Photo: R. Prasad

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has charged OMICS Group Inc, a Nevada corporation with Hyderabad, India, as its principal place of business, the publisher of “hundreds of purported online academic journals with deceiving researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundred to thousands of dollars”. The complaint is also against two other affiliated companies.

The FTC, which is an independent agency of the U.S. government and created by statute, has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada for permanent injunction and other equitable relief. “The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest,” a FTC press release says. The OMICS Group has since at least 2009 published online publications “styled as academic journals”.

Mr. Kishore, a lawyer at OMICS’s Hyderabad office, told me that the group has already responded to the complaint. Citing confidentiality, he refused to divulge further details.

In many instances, articles published by OMICS Group are not peer-reviewed, journals’ impact factors are not calculated by Thomson Reuters, nor are their journals included in PubMed Central. In order to solicit articles and manuscripts from consumers, the publishers claim that “various academic experts serve as editors, are members of the editorial boards, and consumers’ articles are subject to industry-standard peer review before publishing. They also represent that their journals have high impact factors”.

But “in reality, in many instances, the academic experts identified by Defendants [OMICS Group] lack any connection with Defendants’ journals. Further, in many instances, articles submitted for publishing do not undergo standard peer review before publishing. And journals’ impact factors are not calculated by Thomson Reuters, nor are their journals included in PubMed Central” the FTC’s complaint says.

In April 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Division had sent a cease-and-desist letter to OMICS Group as it had claimed that their “journals are indexed in PubMed Central and for using quotes from and photographs of NIH employees on its websites without permission”.

The Group “fails to disclose, or disclose adequately, that consumers must pay a publishing fee for each published article. In many instances, consumers only discover that their articles will not be peer-reviewed and that they owe fees ranging from several hundred to several thousands of dollars after Defendants inform them that their articles have been approved for publication. Consumers’ attempts to withdraw their articles are frequently rejected, thereby preventing them from publishing in other journals,” the complaint states.

Various enticements

To entice researchers to submit manuscripts to their journals, the Group resorts to “email solicitations regarding the reputation and credibility of their journals and their publishing process”. As in the case of all predatory journals, in numerous instance, editors, members of editorial boards, or otherwise associated with the Group’s journals “either have not agreed to be associated with the journals or initially agreed to serve as editors, but later changed their minds and asked to be removed from its websites, with no success”.

In numerous instances, peer reviewers “either never receive any manuscripts to review” or discover that “the articles have already been approved for publication”.

When researchers wish to withdraw their articles “either because they were unaware of the publication fees or because they doubt the journal’s legitimacy due to its questionable review practices, Defendants nonetheless publish the article over consumers’ objections” thereby preventing researchers from publishing their work in other, more reputable publications.

Related stories and links:

Fake journal publishing flourishes in India

On the Net, a scam of the most scholarly kind

Published in The Hindu on August 28, 2016

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