The inclusion of predatory journals in the approved list makes a mockery of the entire exercise and gives the predatory journals the UGC stamp of authenticity, which they proudly flaunt on their websites.
For the University Grants Commission (UGC) in India, the problem of predatory journals is proving to be a tough one to crack. In June this year, the UGC published a revised list of 33,112 ‘approved journals’ in which academics can publish their papers. But it has been found that even the new list contains 84 predatory or bogus journal titles, of which 71 are still active.
The revised list was published six months after the UGC first came out with a white list of approved journals. The revised list contains journals recommended by universities in June and covers social science and humanities, and language journals as well. The UGC had compiled the list to end the malaise of researchers publishing in predatory journals.
Predatory journals do not peer-review manuscripts, rarely index papers with standard indexing bodies and are more focussed on article processing fees. As a result, even sub-standard manuscripts and even those that contain plagiarised content and falsified and fabricated data get published for a fee.
But the list published in January this year included many poor-quality and predatory journals and the revised list was supposed to have removed these journals. “The UGC received several complains about inclusion of poor-quality journals… The Standing Committee also identified more than 800 poor quality journal titles based on feedback from individuals and institutions… These 800+ journal titles were also removed from the current list of UGC-approved list of journals. The revised UGC-approved list of journals now consists of 33,112 journal titles,” the UGC says on its website.
The list released in January contained 38,653 journals covering different fields in science and but did not cover journals in social science and humanities. The revised UGC list was compared with librarian Jeffrey Beal’s (University of Colorado, Denver) list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory journals. Notwithstanding the claims made by the UGC, the revised list still contains 84 predatory journals, of which 71 are still active.
The Scopus database is not clean
Besides the Web of Science and the Indian Citation Index, Scopus is another main academic databases from which the UGC had chosen the journals for its list. Incidentally, many papers published in predatory journals are included in Scopus, as a 2017 Institute for Democracy and Economic Analysis (IDEA) study by Machacek, V. and Srholec, M. has revealed. Based on an analysis of papers published between 2013 and 2015 and listed in the Scopus, the two researchers found that 10% or more of the papers from India and Nigeria were published in predatory journals. And between 2004 and 2015, the Scopus database included over 300,000 papers published in predatory journals. “Scopus is therefore surely not resistant to penetration by predatory journals,” they write.
According to a 2015 study in the journal BMC Medicine, more than a quarter of predatory publishers in the world are based in India. “In absolute terms, the number of indexed predatory documents was very similar in China and India, at around 30,000 each. Put together, these two countries account for 35.7% of the world total,” Machacek and Srholec write. Researchers in the U.S. too publish in predatory journals. According to the two authors, about 15,000 papers from researchers based in the U.S. are published in predatory journals.
The root of the problem
The rush by Indian researchers to publish in predatory journals is because “only papers published in the [UGC] approved journal [list] will be recognised at the time of recruitment and for granting points (under the Academic Performance Indicators (API) system) to teachers in colleges and universities at the time of assessment for promotion,” the UGC website says. Since predatory journals give themselves meaningless and fake impact factors, researchers are able to meet the stipulation by publishing questionable and low-quality papers in these journals.
The inclusion of predatory journals in the approved list thus makes a mockery of the entire exercise and gives the predatory journals the UGC stamp of authenticity, which they proudly flaunt on their websites.
“[Compiling the list] is not an easy task. The definition of predatory journals is different from one person to another. We are aware of predatory journals and will remove them from the list if we are provided with details,” says Dr. V.S. Chauhan, who is the Head of the UGC committee that prepared the list.
How to get predatory journals removed
While the UGC is open to removing predatory journals from its list and wants researchers to alert them through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), it needlessly makes the process cumbersome. It wants a complaint about inclusion of predatory, fake or questionable journals to be sent by universities/academic fraternity. It does not want to entertain complaints from students if they fail to identify themselves and their respective university or college and unless the complaints are “routed through universities or through research guide or faculty in a university”.
But why should the UGC make the process so bureaucratic if it is indeed earnest in cleaning up the list? Why would whistleblower students want to expose themselves when faculty in their own college/university are publishing in such predatory journals? When universities recommend journals to be included in the list at the instance of the faulty, which may also include predatory journals, would routing a complaint through the same system ever work?
Inclusion in the UGC’s list gives questionable journals the seal of authenticity and legitimises the business of predatory journal publishing in India, which has become a cottage industry. Papers published in predatory journals have already polluted the scientific literature. Any delay in discouraging or preventing researchers from publishing in such journals will cause irrepairable damage to science. And researchers in elite, national institutions such as IISc, IISERs and IITs cannot be indifferent or apathetic to the problem. They share equal responsibility in alerting the UGC to clean up the list.
The UGC’s mandate should be to take every complaint received seriously and without pre-conditions and investigate every complaint quickly and do the needful. There can’t be two ways about it.
UPDATE — September 14, 2017:
On further scrutiny, 111 more predatory journals have been found in the UGC list. These journals were found by comparing the Directory of Open Access Journal’s (DOAJ) list of journals that have been removed due to “suspected editorial misconduct by publisher” and the UGC list.
Active predatory journals in the UGC list that overlap with Beall’s
|1||Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease|
|2||Australasian Medical Journal|
|3||Al Ameen Journal of Medical Sciences|
|4||Asian Journal of Chemistry|
|5||African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines|
|6||Advances in Biomedicine and Pharmacy|
|7||American International journal of Contemporary Research|
|8||Asia Pacific Journal Of Education, Arts and Sciences|
|9||Asian journal of science and technology|
|11||Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and Life Sciences|
|14||European Journal of Science and Theology|
|15||Eduved Global Management Research|
|16||European Chemical Bulletin|
|17||Genetics and Molecular Research|
|18||HortFlora Research Spectrum|
|20||International Journal of Communication Networks and Information Security|
|21||International Journal of Current Research and Review|
|22||International Journal of Electrochemical Science|
|23||International Research Journal of Pharmacy|
|24||Indian Journal of Scientific Research|
|25||International Journal of Network Security|
|26||International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Phytopharmacological Research|
|27||International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Development|
|28||International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research|
|29||International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research|
|30||International Journal of Renewable Energy Research|
|31||International Journal of Advanced Research and Review|
|32||International Journal of Scientific Research & Management Studies|
|33||International Journal of advances in Engineering & Technology|
|34||Indian Journal of Advances in Chemical Science|
|35||International research journal of Pharmaceutical sciences|
|36||international journal of pharmacy and pharmaceutical research|
|37||International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology|
|38||International Journal of Advanced Research in Electrical, Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering|
|39||International Journal of Innovative and Emerging Research in Engineering|
|40||International Journal of Research Publications in Engineering and Technology|
|41||International Journal of Innovations in Engineering Research and Technology|
|42||International Journal of Emerging Research in Management and Technology|
|43||International Journal of Engineering Technology and Computer Research|
|44||International Journal of Science and Research Methodology|
|45||International Journal of Emerging Trends in Science and Technology|
|46||Journal of Environmental Biology|
|47||Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology|
|48||Journal of Physical Therapy Science|
|49||Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science|
|50||Journal of Clinical and Analytical Medicine|
|51||Journal of Materials and Environmental Science|
|52||Journal of Natural Products|
|53||Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences|
|54||Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment|
|55||Journal of Information Management|
|56||Journal of Computing Technologies|
|57||Journal of Global Research in Computer Science|
|58||Journal of Physical Education Research|
|59||Journal of Advances in Science and Technology|
|60||National Journal of Community Medicine|
|63||Oriental Journal of Computer Science and Technology|
|64||Pharmacie Globale: International Journal of Comprehensive Pharmacy|
|68||The Criterion: an International Journal in English|
|69||Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology|
|70||World Journal of Science and Technology|
|71||World Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research|