Only 112 of the 1,009 randomly chosen university-recommended journals included in the UGC white list were found to be standard. The remaining 897 journals were found to dubious or predatory. About 350 (34.5%) journals examined either did not provide verifiable postal address or email address of the chief editor and editors, the basic criterion to be included in the list.
A systematic study of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approved list of journals has confirmed what scientists have long suspected. The white list contains a huge number of dubious or predatory journals which publish sub-standard papers for a small fee with very little peer-reviewing, if at all.
A team led by Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan from Savitribai Phule Pune University found 89% of 1,009 journals recommended by universities and included in the white list were dubious journals. Only 112 journals met the criteria set by UGC to be included in the list. The results were published in the journal Current Science.
According to an earlier study published in 2015 in the journal BMC Medicine, 27% of predatory journal publishers are based in India and about 35% of authors in such journals are from Indian institutions.
The researchers had randomly selected 1,336 journals from 5,699 university-recommended journals that were included in the UGC list. The journals included were representative of science, arts and humanities, and social science. After excluding 327 journals that were indexed in Scopus/Web of Science, the researchers took up 1,009 journals for critical examination.
For a journal to be included in the list, it should first meet the basic criterion of providing verifiable postal address and email address of the chief editor and editors on their website. But 349 (34.5%) journals examined either did not provide these details or the details provided were incorrect and therefore rejected. Of the remaining 660 journals, 528 were removed owing to false claims about impact factor, being indexed in dubious indexing databases, incorrect ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) and poor credentials of editors.
“Unfortunately, academic institutions which have recommended such journals have not really examined them with care. And the UGC committee appears to have taken the recommendation at face value,” says Prof. Subhash C. Lakhotia from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and one of the authors of the paper.
Only 132 journals reached the secondary level of scrutiny for analysis. The secondary level of scrutiny looked for misleading journal names such as international and global in journal titles, editorial policies and nature of charges levied on authors. Twenty journals were rejected at the secondary level and only 112 journals out of 1,009 were found to be genuine in all.
“The dubious or predatory journal publishing in India parallels the Nigerian lottery scam,” says Prof. Patwardhan, who is the corresponding author of the Current Science paper. “It makes a mockery of scientific publishing and has tarnished the image of India.”
“We visited the website of every journal and checked the details. Whenever doubtful, we wrote to the publisher to get more information and confirmation. I many cases we did not get any reply,” says Prof. Patwardhan.
“Honestly, I was not surprised by the huge number of journals turning out to be dubious. Researchers have been receiving mails from journal publishers inviting us on editorial boards and to contribute special articles. It’s a depressing scenario,” says Prof. Lakhotia.
“We wanted to look at the most suspicious part of the list provided by universities to UGC. And we found what we strongly suspected,” says Prof.Lakhotia when asked the reason for carrying out this exercise. “I believe the UGC has filtered some journals that were recommended by universities. But apparently the filter has not been strong enough.”
“I think the UGC should not maintain the white list. It is simply not equipped to do it efficiently. It should instead issue advisories on quality of research publication,” says Prof. Lakhotia. “It is obvious that many of the dubious journals have emerged because of the Academic Performance Indicators (API) system introduced by the UGC.”
“I am confident that the UGC will remove the dubious journals from the list very soon,” says Prof. Patwardhan. “Researchers should realise that publishing in such dubious journals for short-term gain, be it for promotion or for a PhD degree will in the long-term bound to have major repercussions. Papers published in such journals may serve as a roadblock in their academic career. Sooner Indian academicians realise this and stop publishing in such journals the better it would be both for themselves and the country.”