Predatory journals offer ‘authorship for sale’

Exchanging money

Some predatory journals are prepared to add authors to research articles that they had no involvement with in return for payment, a study has found.

Other publishers offered to write and publish an article in return for money, the 18th International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication, held in Chicago last week, heard.

Pravin Bolshete, a medical writer and researcher from India, sent a fake email to more than 320 biomedical publishers and standalone journals that featured on Jeffrey Beall’s now-defunct list of potential, possible or probable predatory publishers.

The sham email explained that it came from an academic who had no time to write or publish research papers but that they now needed these for promotion. It asked whether the journal could add them “as a co-author on any medicine-related article” or if someone could write an article on their behalf and help them to publish it.

More than 150 of the publishers and journals that Dr Bolshete contacted responded to the request. Of these 53 declined to add the fake academic as a co-author on any papers, and 28 gave no clear response.

But 21 agreed to add the academic as a co-author on any papers, and a further 15 said that they could write and publish an article for the academic.

Five said that if the academic wrote something they would publish it, while the replies also included offers to join editorial boards, become a reviewer and get help with writing a paper.

“Several predatory publishers and standalone journals agreed to add a co-author without any contribution,” says a poster presented at the congress. “At least half of predatory publishers and standalone journals were involved in unethical publication practices.”

Among a sample of responses received from publishers, one listed six papers that were “just ready for publication”. It explained that the authors could not pay the publication charges and were looking for a co-author to foot the bill.

Another said that it could ask authors to add the academic’s name to their papers in exchange for $300 (£220) in publication fees for two papers, and one sent seven potential abstracts ahead of negotiations on payment.