Predatory journals in India make desperate bid to gain authenticity

 

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One more evidence that India has a huge and growing number of predatory journal publishers comes from the India office of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Since March 2014, when the new criteria for DOAJ listing were put out, there have been about 1,600 applications from Open Access journal publishers based in India.

Of this, only 4% (74) were found to be from genuine journal publishers and accepted for inclusion in the DOAJ directory. While 18% applications are still being processed, 78% were rejected for various reasons. One of the main reasons for rejection is the predatory or dubious nature of the journals.

Desperate to give websites an air of authenticity, predatory journals try getting indexed in DOAJ and other websites. Being indexed in DOAJ makes it easy to cheat innocent researchers. The business model of predatory journal publishing is based on levying article processing charge (APC) from authors even when offering no editorial services.

The DOAJ India office receives applications from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nearly 70% of applications come from India while the other countries account for 30%.

Giveaways

“Nearly 20% of journals have flashy impact factor and quick publication time, which are quick giveaways,” says Bengaluru-based Leena Shah, DOAJ Ambassador, India. “Under contact address, some journal websites do not provide any address but just a provision for comments. In many cases, we have also written to people who have been listed as reviewers to know if the journal website is genuine.”

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Leena Shah, DOAJ Ambassador, India.

In some cases, even when the website looks fine, DOAJ staff tend to look at papers published in the journals if they suspect the genuineness of the journal. “We are not subject experts but we use certain methods to evaluate a journal,” she says. “Assessing journal websites is not an easy process.”

“We can’t police predatory journals. Can you bring down each and every predatory journal? Instead, we can educate the academic community about the cons of publishing in predatory journals,” says Ms. Shah. “The list of approved journals put out by UGC is one way of rooting out predatory journals.”

The UGC has approved a list of 38,653 journals that are indexed in Web of Science, Scopus and Indian Citation Index. Besides this, journals covered in a selected indexing and abstracting services have been added to the UGC Approved List of Journals. In a recent letter, UGC indicated that the approved list of journals is available as a web-based database with search and browse interface. In a DOAJ blog post, Ms. Shah noted: “In March 2017, DOAJ submitted a request to UGC to include Open Access journals that are listed in DOAJ in the approved list.”

Leader in predatory journals

India not only published the most number of predatory journals, it is also home to most number researchers publishing their papers to such journals; an earlier study found that researchers in India accounted for 35 per cent of publication in bogus journals. A study published in 2016 in Current Science found researchers from national institutes such as IITs, IISERs, and CSIR, ICMR and ICAR labs publishing in such journals.

According to an October 2015 paper in the journal BMC Medicine, from a sample of 262 papers published in predatory journals, 35% of corresponding authors of were from India.

Published in The Hindu on April 20, 2017

IISER Thiruvananthapuram Director: There’s more to it than meets the eye

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In response to the Faulty IISER-Tvm Facebook post that I shared about the lack of action against Prof. V. Ramakrishnan, the Director of IISER Thiruvananthapuram, despite my article pointing out the “copy and paste” content in his papers, Harsh Jog from IISER Pune asked: Can’t the IISER Tvm faculty issue a statement? Why wait for outsiders to clean your home?

Just a few minutes ago Faculty IISER-Tvm  replied saying: “The kind of targeting of individual faculty members that takes place in IISER-TVM under the ‘copycat’ director is enormous. We have had innumerable instances against several faculty members here. In fact, a huge paperwork of fabricated materials was created by this ‘copycat’ director against two of our eminent researchers to remove them from their jobs. The ‘copycat’ director brings his own breed (read: good-for-nothing fellows) from all random places (read: places where research never happens) and takes such decisions as committee-recommended decisions. Research-related purchases are put on hold for several people. Natural pay raises that one should get are denied. The board of governors is aware of certain things. But we don’t know if the board of governors is aware of everything that takes place here.”

It’s sad if it is indeed true.

Prof. A. Jayakrishnan from IIT Madras had cried foul last year right after Prof. Ramakrishnan was appointed as the Director. He said his appointment was “patently wrong”. The faulty members of IISER Thiruvananthapuram had even written a letter to the Prime Minister. 

My experience

But let me share some details that I did not reveal earlier. In an email sent to me on December 4, 2016 he tried persuading me that I was wrong in my assessment saying: “…Your basis of conclusion [of plagiarism] is scientifically baseless and ridiculous.  In view of the same, it is evident that you have deliberately adopted the quantification contrary to the research methodology adopted by the scientific community.

It was then followed by a warning: “If you still persists with your alleged observation of plagiarism being committed by our group on the basis of your own conclusion and publish the so called article of insinuation and defamatory statements which is calculated to injure the reputation of our group or you are acting at the behest of those persons who want to bring disrepute to us and to the institution.

“If you still  write and publish,  it will constitute as a libel and if spoken a slander without any justification, nor a fair comment, nor an absolute privilege, quantified privilege [sic] to justify your illegal acts and  the same will be presumed  to lower our estimation [sic] among the right thinking people generally. It is evident from your conduct that you have deliberately chosen to publish an article not only to defame the institution where I work but also those students who have published the articles.

“If you still publish the article based on your own conclusion which is not all in line with any of the research methodology adopted by the scientific community, you alone will be liable and responsible for all the damages we may suffer on account of your wilful and malicious act and conduct.”

RELATED ARTICLE:

‘Copy and paste’ content spotted in IISER Thiruvananthapuram director’s papers

I am still trying to figure out what my new research agenda will be: Jeffrey Beall

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Contradicting Cabell’s tweet, Jeffrey Beall says he is not working as a consultant

Contrary to what Cabell’s International, a publishing services company, had said in a tweet on January 17 that Jeffrey Beall has been working with them as a consultant since 2015 to develop a B-list of predatory journals and publishers, Prof. Beall denies any connection with Cabell’s in a Facebook chat with me today at around 6.30 pm local time in India.

“I don’t have any connection with Cabell’s. I understand they will be launching a blacklist this spring, but I know very little about it,” Prof. Beall says. He apparently was not aware of the tweet by Cabell’s. When pressed further for details based on Cabell’s tweet he says: “All I can say is that I have not consulted formally with Cabell’s. I have not earned one penny from them. Yes, I have met them at conferences, but there is no formal consulting going on, no money exchanging hands. No! I am not helping them in any way.”

He politely refused to divulge the reasons for shutting down his blog saying:  “I am sorry; I cannot comment on that.” But he did mention that his lists are available on the “Wayback machine”.

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Jeffrey Beall

Responding to my observation that all his expertise on predatory journal publishing would go waste if he stays away, his anger or frustration with the Open Access advocates became amply evident. “Well, the Open-Access advocates always criticised my expertise, so perhaps they can work on solving the problem of predatory publishing,” Beall says.

Future plans

“Yes, I still work at the University [of Colorado Denver]. I am still trying to figure out what my new research agenda will be. I have no plans to return to this work [preparing and updating a list of predatory journals and publishers]. I have no plans to create or publish any lists of publishers. I want it to be something much more quiet than predatory publishers. By “quiet” I mean non-controversial,” he says of his future plans.

Filling the void

To my query on who can fit into his big shoes and match his expertise he says: “It’s clear that my abandoning this work has left a void. How will the void be filled? The publishing industry already has an initiative, called “Think, Check, Submit” that was a response to my work, but I am not sure it is having any effect or really addressing the problem.”

Unlike his list, does he think that “Think, Check, Submit” has any effect at all in exposing and warning people of the dark side of predatory journal publishing and is he aware of any other initiative that matches his? “Think, Check, Submit is having no effect. I know of no other blacklists. Many of my critics argued that anyone could easily identify predatory journals without the need of any list. They said that predatory journals were obviously predatory, and that my work was unneeded,” Beall comments.

To my comment that his lists helped the scientific community, especially people who did not genuinely know which is a predatory journal, his answer is terse:  “Yes, agree.”

The time at Denver was 6.21 am and I had chatted with him for 15-20 minutes.  Though I wanted to ask him many more questions and feared that I might not be able to connect with him again he had to go. “Prasad, sorry, I need to get ready for work. It is 6:21 am here! Thanks,” he says.  But before going signing off he did permit me to share the content of the chat in my blog.

Beall, wherever you are and whatever you do, let me wish you the very best. I saw a good friend in you and professionally you were a huge help to me whenever I wrote about predatory journals. Wonder who would take that place now. I don’t see anyone in the horizon. Many in the scientific community might have disagreed with you on many issues, but many have thoroughly appreciated your selfless, single-minded initiative. Good bye, I’ll miss you, the scientific community too will miss your valiant efforts to call a spade a spade. Take care.

UPDATE – Cabell’s responds

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Jeffrey Beall’s name figures last in the list of panelists at Cabell’s website.

February 4: Cabell’s International responded to the story saying: “We regret to learn in this manner that Mr. Beall viewed our relationship in a different light than we had. The fact remains that Cabell’s has been developing a blacklist for almost two years and on many occasions, our team has sought advice and received resources and guidance from Mr. Beall. Since the inception of our blacklist project, Mr. Beall has regularly provided us with notes, evaluations, evidence, methodology and his personal insights regarding developing and maintaining a blacklist. Our team has exchanged research with Mr. Beall via emails, text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings. Mr. Beall co-presented on a Cabell’s hosted panel about predatory publishing, which is currently on our website (www.cabells.com). It is unfortunate that we have misjudged, until now, the character of these interactions. We look forward to continuing our blacklist in a manner consistent with the actual needs of the scholarly community.”

Will we see Jeffrey Beall’s predatory journal list in a new avatar?

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Jeffrey Beall

Though the actual reason why Prof. Jeffrey Beall, who maintained a list of “potential, possible, or probable” publishers that produced predatory journals and another list of standalone predatory journals, took down his website scholarlyoa.com is not known, RetractionWatch posted saying that it was Prof. Beall’s decision to take down his website. RetractionWatch has posted the statement it received from the University of Colorado Denver:

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has decided to no longer maintain or publish his research or blog on open access journals and “predatory publishers.” CU Denver supports and recognizes the important work Professor Beall has contributed to the field and to scholars worldwide.  CU Denver also understands and respects his decision to take down his website scholarlyoa.com at this time. Professor Beall remains on the faculty at the university and will be pursuing new areas of research.

On Facebook, his last post relating to predatory journals was on January 10, 2017. With his faculty page too taken down, the Facebook posts give a chance to see how he went about exposing the dark side of scientific publishing.

His Facebook post of January 4, 2017 tells how predatory journal publishing has been growing since 2011.beallBut it looks like Cabell’s International, a publishing services company, may soon start providing a black list of predatory journals. And it will start anytime during Spring 2017. Here’s a tweet mentioning that:

The Cabell’s tweet confirms what @Scholarlykitchn had tweeted earlier saying:

Cabell’s International then goes on to say that it is preparing a B-list with Prof. Beall being a consultant.

Does it indicate that it would no longer be a single person but an organisation that would be fighting the battle to expose the publishers of predatory journals and their journals? If the spirit of the organisation and its objectives are the same as what Prof. Beal stood for, it would surely be for the good of science and the scientific community.

And Lacey Earle, Vice President, Business Development of Cabell’s seems to be knowing the reasons why Beall had to take down his website:

Meanwhile, Emil Karlsson has posted the links to the cached copies of Prof. Baell’s lists.

 

India’s white list to curb researchers from publishing in predatory journals

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The UGC’s white list should be adopted by CSIR, IMCR, ICAR, IITs, IISERs and NITs as well.

In a bid to tackle the growing menace of researchers publishing in predatory journals, the University Grants Commission notified on January 10 a list of journals in different disciplines where researcher scholars and teachers can publish their papers. Only papers published in the approved journals 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. “This is a dynamic list which may be reviewed from time to time,” says the notification.

The list was approved by the Standing Committee constituted by the UGC last year. The list contains 38,653 journals (list-1, list-2, list-3, list-4 and list-5). The list of journals in each subject was identified by subject expert committees and sent to the Standing Committee for final approval.

“This is only a tentative list.  The list of journals was taken from Scopus. Lists of journals sent for consideration by different universities are yet to be taken into consideration. We will do it shortly,” says Satish Kumar, Under Secretary, UGC, Delhi. “The list mainly covers different fields in science. Journals in social science and humanities are yet to be included.”

The UGC had taken up the mammoth task of preparing a white list of approved journals to curb researchers from publishing in predatory journals. India is home to the largest number of predatory or bogus journals and growing number of researchers from State and private universities have been publishing in such journals.

Predatory journals rarely peer-review manuscripts and publish even sub-standard manuscripts that contain plagiarised content and falsified and fabricated data. Predatory journals rarely index papers with standard indexing bodies and are more focussed on article processing fees.

predatory-optimizedA recent study in the journal Current Science found that 51 per cent of papers published in predatory journals were by researchers from colleges affiliated to universities and autonomous colleges. Even researches from private universities/institutes (18 per cent), State universities (15 per cent) and national institutes such as ICAR, ICMR, CSIR institutes, IITs and IISERs (11 per cent) had published in predatory journals.

“The main objective of preparing the list is to discourage researchers from publishing in predatory journals,” Mr. Kumar says. “Though government institutions, IITs, IISERs and NITs don’t come under the purview of UGC, it is up to those institutions to adopt this list. If they wish they can use this list at the time of recruitment and promotion.”

While predatory journals have been mushrooming at an alarming rate in India, research scholars and teachers have been publishing their work in such journals to meet the UGC’s stipulation — at the time of recruitment candidates should have published two research papers from his/her Ph.D. work, of which at least one must be in a refereed journal. Similarly, points awarded for publishing papers in journals with different impact factors (between 1 and above 10) are taken into account while considering a person for promotion. With publishers of predatory journals giving themselves meaningless impact factors, those publishing in such journals were able to meet the requirement for recruitment and/or promotion. Predatory journals are by rule open access journals.

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Jeffrey Beall’s blog shuts down

Luckily, the UGC has come up with the list at a time when Prof. Jeffrey Beall’s blog (Scholarly Open Access), which had a long list of confirmed and suspect predatory journals that any serious researcher can stay away from, has shut down. “Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here,” says a message posted on his blog. He has 6,750 followers.

Prof. Beall, who is a Scholarly Communications Librarian at Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver, was the first to coin the term “predatory journals”. He had single-handedly highlighted the ways in which predatory journals have been trapping innocent researchers and providing a platform for dubious manuscripts to be published.

Though many publishers have been bitter with him for exposing them, his efforts have been well appreciated by many in the scientific community, especially those who were genuinely not aware of the ways of predatory journals. The reason why the blog content is missing is not known and I am yet to hear from him?

Meanwhile, it appears that Prof. Beall’s predatory journal list and list of publishers of such journals will soon reappear in a new avatar.

India should show sustained commitment to science: Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

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The  culture of innovation has to be cultivated, says Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramapkrishnan. – Photo: R. Prasad

In an hour-long interview, Nobel Laureate Prof. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, who called the Indian Science Congress a “circus”, discussed the implications of some of the Indian government policies on science and technology. He summarily rejects the idea of scientists needing permission from directors before discussing the results of a public-funded, published work with the media or public. He is optimistic that India can be a science powerhouse by 2030 if it does the right things. He was the chief guest at the Infosys Prize 2016 award ceremony held in Bengaluru on January 7. Excerpts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said India will be among the top three countries in science and technology by 2030. Do you think it is at all possible given the low funding and priority for science in India?

It’s true that R&D funding is low [in India] but I think that these things can be changed. You can invest in R&D and encourage much more private R&D. The government investment may be low but private funding is much lower. I think the culture of innovation has to be cultivated.

I heard many of the talks at the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance. They were of the calibre that scientists could have been at some place in the west for the kind of work they are doing. The government structure of the India Alliance is quite efficient. You get the fellowship money on time and there is flexibility. If scientists want to do innovative work they need flexibility and they need the money to show up on time.

I have heard that the governance of the India Alliance is slowly filtering into other agencies. If this culture spreads administration of science will become efficient. People should be given enough autonomy and they need to be well funded at a young age, when they are creative and bold.

There is no reason why India couldn’t become a stronger science power. Demography is in its favour. So if it does the right things between now and 2030 we don’t have an idea what’s possible. But it requires a sustained commitment to science, requires very good governance of science, flexibility and autonomy for investigators.

CSIR labs have been asked to generate half of their funds. Do you think this will be possible considering the low private R&D spending in India?

CSIR labs have been funded for decades and to make a sudden transition is going to be really quite difficult. I don’t see how that can be done. But they can be encouraged to get more of their funding from the industry. They were originally set up to help the industry. People in the west do it all the time. But the transition cannot be abrupt. Industry also should be open to collaboration. Industry should also take advantage of expertise. A lot of industries in India are still at a stage of implementing technologies developed elsewhere. That’s my impression.

China is still not as innovative as the west. But China was not so innovative 20 years ago. As countries grow economically and start investing in R&D that will help in maintaining economic strengths.

If you are going to be among the top science countries by 2030 it requires sustained commitment. China had sustained commitment. Singapore and especially South Korea have very sustained commitment to R&D. Without that it is not going to happen.

At the same time, CSIR labs have been asked to focus its resources to meet the social and economic objectives of the government. Do you see inconsistency in policy?

In Britain all governments in the last 100 years have subscribed to some extent to what is called the Haldane principle. What that means is that it is the right of the elected government to set overall priorities. However, it is usually done in consultation with scientists to see what’s feasible. Nobody elected scientists so scientists can’t decide whatever they want to do with the money. The government has a right to set an overall priority. But having set priorities, it is not for the government to tell scientists how they should be doing things. They shouldn’t be interfering in the implementation of the goals.

If you want to broad base science, you should spend on basic research. You cannot spend all your money on applied science because applied science depends on the knowledge of basic science. Basic science also develops the knowhow of future.

If you have no basic scientists in India you won’t even be able to take up new technology even if they are developed in the west. So you need a certain amount of basic science.

How do you think the menace of predatory journals can be tackled, especially since India is home to most of these bogus journals and many scientists even from government institutions publish in these journals?

The whole issue of predatory journals is a difficult one. We had a meeting of the Royal Society, the French Academy and the German Academy. The three academies issued a statement on publishing. We have deplored the rise of predatory journals.

It is the job of the [institutional] review committee, heads of departments and senior colleagues to discourage it. It all depends on good governance. It will be difficult to do away with predatory journals. It will be difficult to prove in a court of law. Better would be to have good review process.

On the other end is the pressure to publish in Science, Nature and Cell, what I call as high-impact vanity journals. People are taking shortcuts to publish papers in these journals. So that’s also creating very bad pressures. If you publish in a good, solid journal, if it is a nice piece of work it shouldn’t matter that it is not in some high-impact journals. It’s the failure of the system to evaluate the work rather than where it is published.

Scientists in many government institutions, some IITs and IISERs need the director’s permission before discussing their published work with the media. Do you subscribe to the idea that scientists should be free to communicate the results of a public-funded work to the public?

Some scientists are very poor communicators. And it wouldn’t be a good idea to force every scientist to be a communicator. Some people are best left alone to do their work and some others are good communicators and they should be encouraged. Scientists as a community owe it to the public to explain why public money is spent for various things; it is a duty to communicate to the public. But it is not reasonable to force every scientist to be involved in communication. So we need to be a bit flexible.

But scientists should be free to talk to the media or public about their work. In the U.K., if you are representing your organisation’s views, and it goes for me as well if I am representing the Royal Society’s views, it has to be cleared. But I can certainly talk as an individual about my work, especially published work. There is no reason why someone should give permission for scientists to talk about their work, unless there is some issue like if the information is classified or has security implications. For example, the institute may be in the process of filing a patent. In that case they can’t talk to the press. But if the work is already published then there is no reason why they should not talk freely. In the case of published work, I would have no problem discussing with the press.

You did mention in an interview last July that scientists in leadership positions would convene to work out a coherent response to Brexit even before a new cabinet was in place. How successful has the scientific community been in conveying its the concerns to the government?

We had a number of interactions with the government. We have had some success in that we have managed to make a case to the government on various policies. The first was we were concerned that U.K.-based scientists would be disadvantaged in applying for EU-based programmes for fellowship, grant etc. Because many if these are five-year grants and if Britain were to leave after two years the granting panel may say why should we fund this person as we don’t know what will happen after two years. So very quickly the Chancellor announced that the U.K government ill underwrite all British applicants for the full duration of the fellowship. That was a very positive step. The EU funding agencies don’t have to worry that the person is from the U.K. It can decide the case on merit and the U.K. component will be funded regardless of what happens.

The other thing that happened is in the Autumn statement the Chancellor announced a very significant increase in funding [up to £2 billion a year by 2020] for science and technology. It was one of the largest increases in recent times in science funding. This is really important because if Britain is going to leave the EU then it has to succeed based on an innovation-based economy.

What about the mobility issue, particularly of scientists?

EU citizens based in Britain should simply be allowed to stay. There we don’t have any firm statement because the government doesn’t want to act unilaterally as there are a lot of British in continental Europe. But the government has made it clear that during the negotiation as long as the EU allows British people to stay in the EU then the U.K. government would reciprocate.

I would prefer the government to make a strong unilateral statement right away because 30 per cent of staff are foreigners and half of them come from the EU. A strong statement that they don’t have to worry would reassure them. Otherwise, there is a danger that they might decide to leave. Talking to various government officials, there is a sentiment even among ministers who are pro-Brexit that they definitely want free movement of talent if not a free movement for everybody. They also feel that EU citizens staying in the U.K. will not be a problem.

Will the U.K. continue to be a part of the major EU programmes?

We would argue that the idea of the U.K. science community is to continue participation in the EU programmes. Whether we are able to do so or not depends on how the negotiations go. But the government is taking the views of the science community into account in preparation for the negotiations.

I see several scenarios. One is things continue as they are. Another is we become a third country and bind into these programmes. What we wouldn’t want is to bind the programmes and not lead the consortia. Currently, the U.K. is a strong science country and many consortia are led by U.K.-based scientists. So if we were to only participate and not be leaders that would be suboptimal. The last option if all else fails is we have a U.K. fund that is separate and replicates much of what we get through the EU programmes. We could have programmes for collaboration with EU and we have collaborations worldwide and not just the EU. I wouldn’t say there is all gloom and doom. I think we should be agile and forward thinking about how we go about.

Published in The Hindu on January 15, 2017

Researchers from Indian national institutes publish in predatory journals

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The paper published in Current Science exposes the practice of researchers from CSIR, ICAR, ICMR, IITs and NITs publishing in predatory journals.

India not only publishes the most number of predatory journals in the world but researchers based in India are one of the biggest contributors to such bogus journals; an earlier study found that researchers in India accounted for 35 per cent of publication in bogus journals.

Predatory journals very often trick authors into submitting papers, rarely peer-review manuscripts thus allowing sub-standard papers and even those that contain plagiarised content and falsified and fabricated data to be published, rarely index papers with standard indexing bodies and are more focussed on article processing fees.

Based on 3,300 papers published between September 2015 and mid-February 2016 and randomly chosen from 350 predatory journals, researchers found that 51 per cent of papers in predatory journals were published by researchers from colleges affiliated to universities and autonomous colleges. It was followed by private universities/institutes (18 per cent), State universities (15 per cent) and national institutes (11 per cent).  The results were published in the journal Current Science.

What is more surprising is that researchers from ICAR, CSIR, and ICMR labs, and national institutes such as IITs and NITs too published papers in such junk journals.  Of the 11 per cent publication from national institutes, ICAR labs had the most number of publications (17 per cent). It was closely followed by CSIR at 15 per cent, NITs at 11 per cent, IITs at 9 per cent and ICMR at 6 per cent.

“Among the State universities, Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu has the most number of papers (70) published in predatory journals, while at seven papers Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Varanasi has the highest number among the central universities,” says G.S. Seethapathy from the University of Oslo, Norway and the corresponding author of the paper. “The National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune has 15 papers while the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) has 12 papers. Among the ICAR institutes, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore (17) and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi (12) have the most papers in such journals. In the case of IITs, IIT Bhubaneswar has eight papers.”

Of the 480 researchers who responded to a questionnaire, 20 per cent claimed that they were unaware that their paper was published in a predatory journal. While 10 per cent said they knowingly published papers in these journals, the remaining 70 per cent were not willing to answer the question.

How well the funding bodies that provide research grants monitor the quality of publication comes under cross hairs as 112 research grants were documented in the papers published in these journals. Nodal bodies such as DST, DBT, UGC besides AYUSH had provided most of the 112 research grants.

The publish or perish situation has now turned grave with pressure to publish becoming enormous for researchers both at the stage of appointment and promotion. In the study, 75 per cent of the respondents admitted that they were under “pressure to publish research articles”.

Due to this pressure, quantity and not the quality has become the focal point both for both researchers and for institutions. Predatory journals, which by default publish even the most ludicrous manuscript for a huge fee, have therefore come handy. It’s a win-win situation for researchers who are unable to do quality research and those publishing predatory journals. Little wonder that the number of predatory journals published from India is ever increasing. It is true that some researchers are genuinely cheated into submitting papers to such bogus journals but that number seems to be quite small.

“The introduction of academic performance indicator (API) by the University Grants Commission (UGC), lack of clarity in identifying and evaluating journals, the focus on ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’, unhealthy competition between peers, and overall, a favourable non-scientific publishing environment have led Indian researchers to publish in mediocre journals wherein most manuscripts are published without any peer review. Perhaps it is also the fear of peer review that has nourished predatory journals, making India one of the world’s largest base for predatory open-access publishing,” notes a September 2014 Editorial in Current Science.

“Universities need to re-examine the way they perform academic evaluation. They need to stop counting the number of one’s publications as a method for academic evaluation. This counting leads people to pay for easy publishing in predatory journals, and this, in turn, leads to a proliferation of predatory journals. The same would apply to government laboratories as well,” Prof. Jeffrey Beall, Scholarly Communications Librarian at Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver had told me earlier. Prof. Beall coined the term “predatory journal” and has prepared a long list of such journals which any serious researcher can refer to to avoid getting trapped.

Published in The Hindu on December 15, 2016