Top biomed researchers caught out by predatory journals


Majority of articles appearing in exploitative biomedical journals hail from mid or high income nations, and the situation is likely to be similar in chemistry

More than half of the journal articles published in predatory biomedical journals come from authors in high or upper middle income countries, according to new analysis led by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Some of the institutions that fell prey to these journals include US Ivy League universities such as Harvard. The study’s authors believe a review of chemistry predatory journals would yield similar findings.

‘I would be very surprised if there is anything different in chemistry,’ states Manoj Lalu,an associate scientist at the Ottawa Hospital and study co-author. This prediction, voiced by several other co-authors, is based on smaller studies of predatory journals in areas like neuroscience and nursing. The Ottawa Hospital-led team examined nearly 2000 biomedical articles – the largest sample of predatory journal articles ever surveyed.

There are currently about 8000 predatory journals in operation, which publish articles quickly and cheaply with little or no quality control. Together, they are estimated to churn out more than 400,000 studies annually.

One key problem is that predatory journals are not typically indexed, so research that appears in these outlets is unlikely to be widely disseminated. Not only does a significant amount of the work published in these predatory journals emanate from researchers at prestigious universities in the developing world, it is also funded by major government agencies. Out of the 1907 articles that were examined, roughly 320 acknowledged government funding – almost 13%.

There appears to be a lack of awareness among researchers about how to identify a potentially predatory journal. When the Ottawa Hospital team contacted those publishing in the predatory journals, only two of those who responded said they were aware that the journal they published in might be predatory.

‘People are getting duped, especially young researchers and new investigators,’ says Lalu. ‘There is a lot of pressure to publish or perish, and people may be letting their guard down and not recognising what they are submitting to.’