In a preliminary injunction, a U.S. federal court has ordered Hyderabad-based OMICS to remove all misleading claims from its websites. This includes removing the names of eminent scientists who never consented to join the editorial boards of its journals, stating the research is peer reviewed when it is not and claiming its journals are included in PubMed, and papers undergo peer-reviewing. The order does not stop OMICS from continuing its operations.
On November 22, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) won the first court battle against the Hyderabad-based OMICS Group, which publishes over 700 journals. A federal district court in the District of Nevada granted a preliminary injunction temporarily halting the deceptive business practices of OMICS. The FTC had charged that OMICS with making false claims about their journals and academic conferences. OMICS has an office in the U.S.
The OMICS Group was included in Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. Beall is a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver who maintained a list of predatory journal publishers and predatory journals. The list is no longer available.
What OMICS has been ordered to do
The “preliminary injunction prohibits the defendants from making misrepresentations regarding their academic journals and conferences, including that specific persons are editors of their journals or have agreed to participate in their conferences. It also prohibits the defendants from falsely representing that their journals engage in peer review, that their journals are included in any academic journal indexing service, or any measurement of the extent to which their journals are cited. It also requires that the defendants clearly and conspicuously disclose all costs associated with submitting or publishing articles in their journals”.
The lawsuit against OMICS Group and Chief Executive Officer Srinubabu Gedela was filed in August 2016 accusing the defendants of deceptive business practices.
The FTC had alleged that the defendants deceptively claim that their journals provide authors with rigorous peer review and have editorial boards made up of prominent academics. In fact, many articles are published with a little or no peer reviewing and many individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals.
The FTC also alleged that the defendants seldom tell authors about publishing fees, which is significantly high, and once submitted, OMICS does not allow authors to withdraw their manuscripts making it nearly impossible to submit to other respected journals for publication. The FTC also alleged about misleading claims made by OMICS about impact factor and indexing in PubMed.
Denies all allegations
“Papers published in OMICS journals are peer reviewed as per international standards,” claims Mr. Gedela in an email to me and over phone. But contrary to his claims, a couple of sting operations have revealed how poor or non-existent the peer-reviewing process of papers is in journals published by OMICS.
“The Court ordered [that] if OMICS is following any deceptive practice identified by FTC then OMICS should stop that deceptive practice. But as communicated [to you over phone], FTC has failed to prove any allegations or deceptive practices of OMICS even after two years’ of investigation. We are not misrepresenting anything,” he claims. “In my opinion, the FTC team is trying its level best to support its stand as it has become a prestige issue.”
In response to my question whether the order to remove all misleading claims from its websites is proof that OMICS has such information, Mr. Gedela says: “Yes, Court [has given a] preliminary injection order to remove any misrepresentation or misleading claims. OMICS is following that and not [putting out] any misleading information or claims.” The claims made by OMICS about impact factor, indexing and peer-reviewing are nothing but misleading.
Mr. Gedela claims that PubMed is restricted to the U.S! “There are so many indexing databases for different countries and for different subjects,” he says. Unfortunately the indexing databases that Mr. Gedela is referring to such as the Index Copernicus is treated with scorn by the scientific community.
Can still continue operations
“The lawsuit and judge’s order were not an attempt to regulate the journals or conferences themselves. We want to make clear that this has nothing to do with the content. Nothing in this order goes to what they can or can’t publish in terms of content. This is about how they are soliciting would-be academics to publish in their journals,” Gregory Ashe, a senior attorney for the FTC’s division of financial practices told Retraction Watch.
“The intention behind the preliminary injunction is to stop misrepresentation and to get the required information from us. It is not to halt any of our operations in the United States,” Mr. Kishore Vattikoti, senior legal counsel for OMICS International tells me in an email.
According to a Bloomberg report, OMICS declared $11.6 million in revenue and about $1.2 million in profit in 2016. Besides researchers, pharmaceutical companies have become the biggest patrons of OMICS journals to publish questionable research, the Bloomberg report says.