Who reviews for predatory journals? A study on reviewer characteristics

Authors : Anna Severin, Michaela Strinzel, Matthias Egger, Marc Domingo, Tiago Barros

Background

While the characteristics of scholars who publish in predatory journals are relatively well-understood, nothing is known about the scholars who review for these journals.

We aimed to answer the following questions: Can we observe patterns of reviewer characteristics for scholars who review for predatory journals and for legitimate journals? Second, how are reviews for potentially predatory journals distributed globally?

Methods

We matched random samples of 1,000 predatory journals and 1,000 legitimate journals of the Cabells Scholarly Analytics’ journal lists with the Publons database of review reports, using the Jaro-Winkler string metric.

For reviewers of matched reviews, we descriptively analysed meta-data on reviewing and publishing behaviour.

Results

We matched 183,743 unique Publons reviews that were claimed by 19,598 reviewers. 6,077 reviews were conducted for 1160 unique predatory journals (3.31% of all reviews). 177,666 were claimed for 6,403 legitimate journals (96.69% of all reviews).

The vast majority of scholars either never or only occasionally submitted reviews for predatory journals to Publons (89.96% and 7.55% of all reviewers, respectively). Smaller numbers of scholars claimed reviews predominantly or exclusively for predatory journals (0.26% and 0.35% of all reviewers, respectively).

The two latter groups of scholars are of younger academic age and have fewer publications and fewer reviews than the first two groups of scholars.Developing regions feature larger shares of reviews for predatory reviews than developed regions.

Conclusion

The characteristics of scholars who review for potentially predatory journals resemble those of authors who publish their work in these outlets. In order to combat potentially predatory journals, stakeholders will need to adopt a holistic approach that takes into account the entire research workflow.

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.09.983155

Prevalence of Potentially Predatory Publishing in Scopus on the Country Level

Authors : Tatiana Savina, Ivan Sterligov

We present the results of a large-scale study of potentially predatory journals (PPJ) represented in the Scopus database, which is widely used for research evaluation. Both journal metrics and country, disciplinary data have been evaluated for different groups of PPJ: those listed by Jeffrey Beall and those delisted by Scopus because of “publication concerns”.

Our results show that even after years of delisting, PPJ are still highly visible in the Scopus database with hundreds of active potentially predatory journals. PPJ papers are continuously produced by all major countries, but with different shares. All major subject areas are affected. The largest number of PPJ papers are in engineering and medicine.

On average, PPJ have much lower citation metrics than other Scopus-indexed journals. We conclude with a brief survey of the case of Kazakhstan where the share of PPJ papers at one time amounted to almost a half of all Kazakhstan papers in Scopus, and propose a link between PPJ share and national research evaluation policies (in particular, rules of awarding academic degrees).

The progress of potentially predatory journal research will be increasingly important because such evaluation methods are becoming more widespread in times of the Metric Tide.

URL : https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.08283

Demarcating Spectrums of Predatory Publishing: Economic and Institutional Sources of Academic Legitimacy

Author : Kyle Sile

The emergence of Open Access (OA) publishing has altered incentives and opportunities for academic stakeholders and publishers. These changes have yielded a variety of new economic and academic niches, including journals with questionable peer review systems and business models, commonly dubbed ‘predatory publishing.’ Empirical analysis of the Cabell’s Journal Blacklist reveals substantial diversity in types and degrees of predatory publishing.

While some blacklisted publishers produce journals with many severe violations of academic norms, ‘grey’ journals and publishers occupy borderline or ambiguous niches between predation and legitimacy.

Predation in academic publishing is not a simple binary phenomenon and should instead be perceived as a spectrum with varying types and degrees of illegitimacy. Conceptions of predation are based on overlapping evaluations of academic and economic legitimacy.

High institutional status benefits publishers by reducing conflicts between – if not aligning – professional and market institutional logics, which are more likely to conflict and create illegitimacy concerns in downmarket niches.

High rejection rates imbue high-status journals with value and pricing power, while low-status OA journals face ‘predatory’ incentives to optimize revenue via low selectivity.

Status influences the social acceptability of profit-seeking in academic publishing, rendering lower-status publishers vulnerable to being perceived and stigmatized as illegitimate.

URL : https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6r274/

How Frequently are Articles in Predatory Open Access Journals Cited

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk, Sari Kanto-Karvonen, J. Tuomas Harviainen

Predatory journals are Open Access journals of highly questionable scientific quality. Such journals pretend to use peer review for quality assurance, and spam academics with requests for submissions, in order to collect author payments.

In recent years predatory journals have received a lot of negative media. While much has been said about the harm that such journals cause to academic publishing in general, an overlooked aspect is how much articles in such journals are actually read and in particular cited, that is if they have any significant impact on the research in their fields.

Other studies have already demonstrated that only some of the articles in predatory journals contain faulty and directly harmful results, while a lot of the articles present mediocre and poorly reported studies.

We studied citation statistics over a five-year period in Google Scholar for 250 random articles published in such journals in 2014, and found an average of 2,6 citations per article and that 60 % of the articles had no citations at all.

For comparison a random sample of articles published in the approximately 25,000 peer reviewed journals included in the Scopus index had an average of 18,1 citations in the same period with only 9 % receiving no citations. We conclude that articles published in predatory journals have little scientific impact.

URL : https://arxiv.org/abs/1912.10228

Defining predatory journals and responding to the threat they pose: a modified Delphi consensus process

Authors : Samantha Cukier, Manoj M. Lalu, Gregory L. Bryson, Kelly D. Cobey, Agnes Grudniewicz, David Moher

Background

Posing as legitimate open access outlets, predatory journals and publishers threaten the integrity of academic publishing by not following publication best practices. Currently, there is no agreed upon definition of predatory journals, making it difficult for funders and academic institutions to generate practical guidance or policy to ensure their members do not publish in these channels.

Methods

We conducted a modified three-round Delphi survey of an international group of academics, funders, policy makers, journal editors, publishers and others, to generate a consensus definition of predatory journals and suggested ways the research community should respond to the problem.

Results

A total of 45 participants completed the survey on predatory journals and publishers. We reached consensus on 18 items out of a total of 33, to be included in a consensus definition of predatory journals and publishers.

We came to consensus on educational outreach and policy initiatives on which to focus, including the development of a single checklist to detect predatory journals and publishers, and public funding to support research in this general area.

We identified technological solutions to address the problem: a ‘one-stop-shop’ website to consolidate information on the topic and a ‘predatory journal research observatory’ to identify ongoing research and analysis about predatory journals/publishers.

Conclusions

In bringing together an international group of diverse stakeholders, we were able to use a modified Delphi process to inform the development of a definition of predatory journals and publishers.

This definition will help institutions, funders and other stakeholders generate practical guidance on avoiding predatory journals and publishers.

URL : Defining predatory journals and responding to the threat they pose: a modified Delphi consensus process

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/19010850

“Blacklists” and “whitelists” to tackle predatory publishing : A cross-sectional comparison and thematic analysis

Authors : Michaela Strinzel​, Anna Severin, Katrin Milzow, Matthias Egger

Background

Despite growing awareness of predatory publishing and research on its market characteristics, the defining attributes of fraudulent journals remain controversial.

We aimed to develop a better understanding of quality criteria for scholarly journals by analysing journals and publishers indexed in blacklists of predatory journals and whitelists of legitimate journals and the lists’ inclusion criteria.

Methods

We searched for blacklists and whitelists in early 2018. Lists that included journals across disciplines were eligible. We used a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative analyses.

To quantify overlaps between lists in terms of indexed journals and publishers we employed the Jaro-Winkler string metric and Venn diagrams. To identify topics addressed by the lists’ inclusion criteria and to derive their broader conceptual categories, we used a qualitative coding approach.

Results

Two blacklists (Beall’s and Cabell’s) and two whitelists (DOAJ and Cabell’s) were eligible. The number of journals per list ranged from 1404 to 12357 and the number of publishers from 473 to 5638. Seventy-three journals and 42 publishers were included both in a blacklist and whitelist. A total of 198 inclusion criteria were examined.

Seven thematic themes were identified: (i) peer review, (ii) editorial services, (iii) policy, (iv) business practices, (v) publishing, archiving and access, (vi) website and (vii) indexing and metrics.

Business practices accounted for almost half of blacklists’ criteria, whereas whitelists gave more emphasis to criteria related to policy and guidelines. Criteria were grouped into four broad concepts: (i) transparency, (ii) ethics, (iii) professional standards and (iv) peer review and other services.

Whitelists gave more weight to transparency whereas blacklists focused on ethics and professional standards. The criteria included in whitelists were easier to verify than those used in blacklists. Both types of list gave relatively little emphasis to the quality of peer review.

Conclusions

There is overlap between journals and publishers included in blacklists and whitelists. Blacklists and whitelists differ in their criteria for quality and the weight given to different dimensions of quality. Aspects that are central but difficult to verify receive insufficient attention.

URL : “Blacklists” and “whitelists” to tackle predatory publishing : A cross-sectional comparison and thematic analysis

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.27532v1

Knowledge and motivations of researchers publishing in presumed predatory journals: a survey

Authors : Kelly D Cobey, Agnes Grudniewicz, Manoj M Lalu, Danielle B Rice, Hana Raffoul, David Moher

Objectives

To develop effective interventions to prevent publishing in presumed predatory journals (ie, journals that display deceptive characteristics, markers or data that cannot be verified), it is helpful to understand the motivations and experiences of those who have published in these journals.

Design

An online survey delivered to two sets of corresponding authors containing demographic information, and questions about researchers’ perceptions of publishing in the presumed predatory journal, type of article processing fees paid and the quality of peer review received. The survey also asked six open-ended items about researchers’ motivations and experiences.

Participants

Using Beall’s lists, we identified two groups of individuals who had published empirical articles in biomedical journals that were presumed to be predatory.

Results

Eighty-two authors partially responded (~14% response rate (11.4%[44/386] from the initial sample, 19.3%[38/197] from second sample) to our survey. The top three countries represented were India (n=21, 25.9%), USA (n=17, 21.0%) and Ethiopia (n=5, 6.2%).

Three participants (3.9%) thought the journal they published in was predatory at the time of article submission. The majority of participants first encountered the journal via an email invitation to submit an article (n=32, 41.0%), or through an online search to find a journal with relevant scope (n=22, 28.2%).

Most participants indicated their study received peer review (n=65, 83.3%) and that this was helpful and substantive (n=51, 79.7%). More than a third (n=32, 45.1%) indicated they did not pay fees to publish.

Conclusions

This work provides some evidence to inform policy to prevent future research from being published in predatory journals.

Our research suggests that common views about predatory journals (eg, no peer review) may not always be true, and that a grey zone between legitimate and presumed predatory journals exists. These results are based on self-reports and may be biased thus limiting their interpretation.

URL : Knowledge and motivations of researchers publishing in presumed predatory journals: a survey

DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026516