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.