‘Nepotistic journals’: a survey of biomedical journals

Authors : Alexandre Scanff, Florian Naudet, Ioana Cristea, David Moher, Dorothy V M Bishop, Clara Locher


Convergent analyses in different disciplines support the use of the Percentage of Papers by the Most Prolific author (PPMP) as a red flag to identify journals that can be suspected of questionable editorial practices. We examined whether this index, complemented by the Gini index, could be useful for identifying cases of potential editorial bias, using a large sample of biomedical journals.


We extracted metadata for all biomedical journals referenced in the National Library of Medicine, with any attributed Broad Subject Terms, and at least 50 authored (i.e. by at least one author) articles between 2015 and 2019, identifying the most prolific author (i.e. the person who signed the most papers in each particular journal).

We calculated the PPMP and the 2015-2019 Gini index for the distribution of articles across authors. When the relevant information was reported, we also computed the median publication lag (time between submission and acceptance) for articles authored by any of the most prolific authors and that for articles not authored by prolific authors.

For outlier journals, defined as a PPMP or Gini index above the 95th percentile of their respective distributions, a random sample of 100 journals was selected and described in relation to status on the editorial board for the most prolific author.


5 468 journals that published 4 986 335 papers between 2015 and 2019 were analysed. The PPMP 95th percentile was 10.6% (median 2.9%). The Gini index 95th percentile was 0.355 (median 0.183). Correlation between the two indices was 0.35 (95CI 0.33 to 0.37). Information on publication lag was available for 2 743 journals.

We found that 277 journals (10.2%) had a median time lag to publication for articles by the most prolific author(s) that was shorter than 3 weeks, versus 51 (1.9%) journals with articles not authored by prolific author(s).

Among the random sample of outlier journals, 98 provided information about their editorial board. Among these 98, the most prolific author was part of the editorial board in 60 cases (61%), among whom 25 (26% of the 98) were editors-in-chief.


In most journals publications are distributed across a large number of authors. Our results reveal a subset of journals where a few authors, often members of the editorial board, were responsible for a disproportionate number of publications.

The papers by these authors were more likely to be accepted for publication within 3 weeks of their submission. To enhance trust in their practices, journals need to be transparent about their editorial and peer review practices.

URL : ‘Nepotistic journals’: a survey of biomedical journals

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.03.429520

Large-scale comparison of bibliographic data sources: Scopus, Web of Science, Dimensions, Crossref, and Microsoft Academic

Authors : Martijn Visser, Nees Jan van Eck, Ludo Waltman

We present a large-scale comparison of five multidisciplinary bibliographic data sources: Scopus, Web of Science, Dimensions, Crossref, and Microsoft Academic. The comparison considers scientific documents from the period 2008-2017 covered by these data sources. Scopus is compared in a pairwise manner with each of the other data sources.

We first analyze differences between the data sources in the coverage of documents, focusing for instance on differences over time, differences per document type, and differences per discipline.

We then study differences in the completeness and accuracy of citation links. Based on our analysis, we discuss strengths and weaknesses of the different data sources. We emphasize the importance of combining a comprehensive coverage of the scientific literature with a flexible set of filters for making selections of the literature.

URL : https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.10732

Large coverage fluctuations in Google Scholar: a case study

Authors : Alberto Martín-Martín, Emilio Delgado López-Cózar

Unlike other academic bibliographic databases, Google Scholar intentionally operates in a way that does not maintain coverage stability: documents that stop being available to Google Scholar’s crawlers are removed from the system.

This can also affect Google Scholar’s citation graph (citation counts can decrease). Furthermore, because Google Scholar is not transparent about its coverage, the only way to directly observe coverage loss is through regular monitorization of Google Scholar data.

Because of this, few studies have empirically documented this phenomenon. This study analyses a large decrease in coverage of documents in the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics that took place in 2019 and its subsequent recovery, using longitudinal data from previous analyses and a new dataset extracted in 2020.

Documents from most of the larger publishers in the field disappeared from Google Scholar despite continuing to be available on the Web, which suggests an error on Google Scholar’s side. Disappeared documents did not reappear until the following index-wide update, many months after the problem was discovered.

The slowness with which Google Scholar is currently able to resolve indexing errors is a clear limitation of the platform both for literature search and bibliometric use cases.

URL : https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.07571

Research data management and data sharing behaviour of university researchers

Authors : Yurdagül Ünal, Gobinda Chowdhury, Serap Kurbanoğlu, Joumana Boustany, Geoff Walton


The aim of this study is to understand how university researchers behave in the context of using and sharing research data in OA mode.


An online questionnaire survey was conducted amongst academics and researchers in three countries – UK, France and Turkey. There were 26 questions to collect data on: researcher information, e.g. discipline, gender and experience; data sharing practices, concerns; familiarity with data management practices; and policies/challenges including knowledge of metadata and training.


SPSS was used to analyse the dataset, and Chi-Square tests, at 0.05 significance level, were conducted to find out association between researchers’ behaviour in data sharing and different areas of research data management (RDM).


Findings show that OA is still not common amongst researchers. Data ethics and legal issues appear to be the most significant concerns for researchers. Most researchers have not received any training in RDM such as data management planning metadata, or file naming. However, most researchers would welcome formal training in different aspects of RDM.


This study indicates directions for further research to understand the disciplinary differences in researchers’ data access and management behaviour so that appropriate training and advocacy programmes can be developed to promote OA to research data.

URL : http://www.informationr.net/ir/24-1/isic2018/isic1818.html

Open Access Initiatives in Western Asia

Authors : Vrushali Sainath Dandawate, M. Dhanmjaya

This paper highlights open access activities and resources from Western Asia. The development of open access journals from this region is analyzed through regional listings in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and information about the development and implementation of open access repositories is taken from the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) platform.

Additional information about OA resources and development projects was found through UNESCO’s Global Open Access Portal. The study’s findings show that, even with support from international groups like EIFL and OpenAIRE, the region’s open access market lags behind that of more developed countries.

Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stand out among Western Asian states, and Cyprus took the important step of instituting a national public open access policy. Awareness projects and workshops will be a vital step in helping the countries of Western Asia to see the value of open access and to build a stronger OA infrastructure.

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1080/15228886.2021.1874349

Decolonizing Scholarly Communications through Bibliodiversity

Authors : Shearer Kathleen, Becerril-García Arianna

Diversity is an important characteristic of any healthy ecosystem. In the field of scholarly communications, diversity in services and platforms, funding mechanisms and evaluation measures will allow the ecosystem to accommodate the different workflows, languages, publication outputs and research topics that support the needs of different research communities.

Diversity also reduces the risk of vendor lock-in, which leads to monopolization and high prices. Yet this ‘bibliodiversity’ is undermined by the fact that researchers around the world are evaluated according to journal-based citation measures, which have become the major currency of academic research.

Journals seek to maximize their bibliometric measures by adopting editorial policies that increase citation counts, resulting in the predominance of Northern/Western research priorities and perspectives in the literature, and an increasing marginalization of research topics of more narrow or local nature.

This contribution examines the distinctive, non-commercial approach to open access (OA) found in Latin America and reflects on how greater diversity in OA infrastructures helps to address inequalities in global knowledge production as well as knowledge access.

The authors argue that bibliodiversity, rather than adoption of standardized models of OA, is central to the development of a more equitable system of knowledge production.

URL : Decolonizing Scholarly Communications through Bibliodiversity

DOI : https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4423996

Influence and management of conflicts of interest in randomised clinical trials: qualitative interview study

Authors : Lasse Østengaard, Andreas Lundh, Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, Suhayb Abdi, Mustafe H A Gelle, Lesley A Stewart, Isabelle Boutron, Asbjørn Hróbjartsson


To characterise and analyse the experiences of trial researchers of if and how conflicts of interest had unduly influenced clinical trials they had worked on, what management strategies they had used to minimise any potential influence, and their experiences and views on conflicts of interest more generally.


Qualitative interview study.


Trial researchers who had participated in at least 10 clinical trials with methodological or statistical expertise. Researchers differed by geographical location, educational background, and experience with different types of funders. Interviewees were identified by searches on Web of Science and snowball sampling. 52 trial researchers were approached by email; 20 agreed to be interviewed.


Interviews conducted by telephone, recorded, transcribed verbatim, imported to NVivo 12, and analysed by systematic text condensation. Semistructured interviews focused on financial and non-financial conflicts of interest.


The interviewees had participated in a median of 37.5 trials and were mainly male physicians who had experience with commercial and non-commercial trial funders. Two predefined themes (influence of conflicts of interest and management strategies) and two additional themes (definition and reporting of conflicts of interest) emerged.

Examples of perceived influence of conflicts of interest were: choice of inferior comparator, manipulation of the randomisation process, prematurely stopping the trials, fabrication of data, blocking access to data, and spin (eg, overly favourable interpretation of the results).

Examples of strategies to manage conflicts of interest were: disclosure procedures, exclusion of the funder from design and analysis, independent committees, contracts ensuring complete access to the data, and no restriction by the funder on analysis and reporting.

Interviewees used different definitions or thresholds for what they considered to be conflicts of interest, and they described different criteria for when to report them. Some interviewees considered non-commercial financial conflicts of interest (eg, funding of trials by governmental health agencies with a political agenda) to be equally or more important than commercial financial conflicts of interest (eg, funding by drug and device companies), but more challenging to report and manage.


This study described how trial researchers perceive conflicts of interest unduly influencing clinical trials they had worked on, and the management strategies they used to prevent these influences.

The results indicated considerable variability in researchers’ understanding of what conflicts of interest are and when they should be reported.

URL : Influence and management of conflicts of interest in randomised clinical trials: qualitative interview study

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3764