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Cover page of the Journal of Health Sciences

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-14

Predatory journals: A threat to evidence-based science

Department of Medical Surgical Nursing, AIIMS, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Date of Web Publication18-Jan-2019

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Mamta Choudhary
College of Nursing, AIIMS, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/kleuhsj.kleuhsj_146_18

Rights and Permissions

One of the latest threats emerged to the integrity of academic publishing is predatory journals. These journals have paved the way for low-quality articles by exploiting gold open-access publishing, threatening standards of evidence-based science. These journals lack the authentication of legitimate scholarly journals such as peer review, editing, editorial boards, editorial offices, and other editorial standards, imposing a number of new ethical issues in publishing research papers. Some of these claim to assess submissions within 72 h and digitally publish them on acceptance and receipt of the fee, showing their only motivation of procurement of evaluation and publication fees. While many of the predatory publications can be easily recognized as such by most in their respective professions, some present them as highly sophisticated and operate websites that mirror prominent mainstream journals. Even experienced professionals sometimes fail to recognize these dubious journals and join the editorial boards of these journals or submit articles, posing a big threat to publication standards and ethics. It is the utmost need of authors, i.e., scientific authors have ample opportunities for publicizing their research. However, they have to selectively target journals and publish in compliance with the established norms of publishing ethics.

Keywords: Open-access journals, peer-review process, predatory nursing journals, publication standards, research ethics

How to cite this article:
Choudhary M, Kurien N. Predatory journals: A threat to evidence-based science. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res 2019;12:12-4

How to cite this URL:
Choudhary M, Kurien N. Predatory journals: A threat to evidence-based science. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 1];12:12-4. Available from: https://www.ijournalhs.org/text.asp?2019/12/1/12/250384

  Introduction Top

Predatory journals are journals that charge an article processing charges (APCs) to authors; however, they lack the authentication of legitimate scholarly journals such as peer review, editing, editorial boards, editorial offices, and other editorial standards, imposing a number of new ethical issues in publishing research papers. Numerous ethical issues such as lack of editorial and publishing standards, misuse of research funding, no reliable research literature, and misrepresentation are linked with these journals.[1] Article publishing fees are not disclosed to the author at the time of submission of manuscript by many of these journals, but eventually, authors are made to pay bills, “without robust editorial or publishing services.”[2] The predatory journals send almost daily solicitations to many academics, inviting them to submit articles in the journals and offering a very fast turnaround time from submission to publication. Unfortunately, the demarcation between these and authorized journals is often difficult, posing risk of authenticated studies being published in such journals. These journals are threatening credibility of science by undermining peer review, are polluting the scientific literature, and are contaminating ethics in scientific publishing.[2]

  Rising Use of Predatory Journal Top

Research publications carry significant importance in Indian universities when considering faculty selection, promotions, and increment. Numerous Indian institutes and universities have made it mandatory to have certain number of publications before submitting Ph.D. thesis and also to be a recognized Ph.D. guide. These provisions compel researchers to publish within stipulated time posing risk to ethical publishing. Furthermore, young researchers lack clarity about the content to be considered as a “research publication” which enhances the desperation to publish by any means. Many a times, people consider International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) as a criterion for selecting a journal, however ISSN is mainly for identification through barcode and library classification, ordering, and distribution purpose. ISSN cannot reflect the quality of any journal.[3]

Beall, a librarian of the University of Colorado, was the first person who coined illegitimate publishers and journals as “predatory.” He blacklisted these journals on his notorious blog called Scholarly Open Access.[4] Savitribai Phule Pune University, India, was one of the first to issue warning to authors against publishing in unreliable journals and formulated “Guidelines for Research Publications.” Few of the Indian universities have well adopted these guidelines; however, overall situation in India has only deteriorated over the last decade. The quality of publication is adversely affected due to desperation of authors to publish and temptation to find out shortcuts. The predatory journals have rapidly increased their publication volume from 53,000 in 2010 to 420,000 articles in 2014, published by around 8000 active journals with an average fee of 178 USD.[5] Thus, predatory publishing has become a big industry luring gullible authors from countries like India.[3],[5]

  Ethical Issues with Predatory Journals Top

Predatory journals possess biggest threat to research ethics as they lack peer review: a hallmark of scholarly publication. Furthermore, content published in these journals may be plagiarized, could be potentially fraudulent, and is impossible to be published in authenticated journals. Some authors may accidentally publish their legitimate research in these journals due to lack of ability to identify them as unauthenticated journals. It also makes difficult for research enterprise to decide whether to rely on the results of studies published in these journals or not, while reviewing literature for further studies. The various ethical issues related to these journals include:

Lack of editorial and publishing standards

Predatory journals lack the editorial and publishing standards such as publishing corrections and retraction, process to deal with plagiarized content, ensuring ethics of research study, and dealing with conflict of interest. Codes of conduct/professionalism to educate editors about their responsibilities given by “The World Association of Medical Editors,” “Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE),” and “Council of Science Editors” are generally denied by these journals.[6],[7],[8] Predatory journals lack the intent of following best practices due to the purpose of making money.

Academic deception

Authors if publishing in predatory journals may try to present them as legitimate peer-reviewed journals while listing those publications on their curriculum vitae. Citing the articles as legitimate publications causes misrepresentation of authors' scholarly effort and academic deception.

Wasting of research funding

Publications of an article in predatory journals, whether intentionally or unintentionally, raise questions regarding legitimacy of the research, leading to wasting of funding used in the research.


Predatory journals generally misrepresent their peer review, editing, and indexing services. Their websites often lack information regarding their editorial office address, contact details, academic appointments, and locations of the editor and editorial board. Many a times, their list of members of the editorial board contains persons, who even do not know that their name is being used by such journals. They may also present false list of indexes and lacks transparency about APCs.

Lack of archived content

Predatory journals generally avoid archiving their content in third-party sites such as PubMed Central.

Undermining public confidence in the research literature

Most of the readers fail to distinguish between predatory and legitimate journals, thus question the scientific process, and undermine the work of all researchers.

  Promotion of Publication Ethics Top

The COPE is a forum of editors and publishers of peer-review journals who work together to promote integrity in research publications. The COPE guidance and tutorials have made immense contribution to promote publication ethics among faculty and students. Authors, editors, and publishers can assess COPE guidelines from www.publicationethics.org. These guidelines emphasize on ethical and responsible research, compliance to relevant guidelines, transparent presentation of results, honesty, and avoiding plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, or data manipulation.

Issuing of approved list of credible indexing agencies from different streams rather than issuing a list of approved journals is becoming the need of the hour. Furthermore, the judgment regarding research article should ideally be made based on the quality of work rather than status of the journal. A set of recommendations is provided by The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) regarding assessment of individuals and institutions, without emphasizing the impact factor. DORA recommendation proposed that while evaluating research performance, the focus should be on scientific content rather than publication metrics.

The success of any journal should be considered primarily on the basis of adherence to publication ethics, reputation of the editorial board, transparent editorial policies, quality of peer review, global readership, and the number of citations. Several indicators such as Impact Factor, Source Normalized Impact per Paper, Scimago Journal Ranking, CiteScore, and h-Index are considered for journal ranking; however, none of these can be taken as a foolproof metric.

  Author's Responsibility to Promote Publication Ethics Top

It is utmost responsibility of authors to promote publication ethics. This can be achieved by describing research methods with clarity, detailed findings so that they can be confirmed by others, and submitting only original work that is neither plagiarized nor published elsewhere. Authors should also keep in mind that an e-mail invitation that assures rapid publication for a wide range of topics is suspicious at best, probably “too good to be true.” A manuscript accepted “as it is” with no reviewer comments and with publication charges bill also indicates a potential problem.

  Conclusion Top

Predatory journals are one of the latest threats emerged to the integrity of academic publishing. These journals have paved the way for low-quality articles by exploiting gold open-access publishing, threatening standards of evidence-based science. It is the utmost need of authors to selectively target journals and publish in compliance with the established norms of publishing ethics.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ferris LE, Winker MA. Ethical issues in publishing in predatory journals. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2017;27:279-84.  Back to cited text no. 1
Gerberi DJ. Predatory journals: Alerting nurses to potentially unreliable content. Am J Nurs 2018;118:62-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
Patwardhan B. Indian science and predatory journals. J Ayurveda Integr Med 2017;8:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
Beall J. Predatory journals: Ban predators from the scientific record. Nature 2016;534:326.  Back to cited text no. 4
Shen C, Björk BC. ‘Predatory’ open access: A longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics. BMC Med 2015;13:230.  Back to cited text no. 5
WAME Professionalism Code of Conduct. Available from: http://www.wame.org/wameprofessionalism-code-of-conduct. [Last accessed on 2018 Feb 22].  Back to cited text no. 6
COPE. Codes of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines. Available from: http://www.publicationethics.org/resources/code-conduct. [Last accessed on 2018 Feb 22].  Back to cited text no. 7
CSE White Paper on Publication Ethics. Available from: https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/resource-library/editorial-policies/white-paper-on-publication-ethics/. [Last accessed on 2018 Feb 22].  Back to cited text no. 8
Seethapathy GS, Santhosh Kumar JU, Hareesha AS. India's scientific publication in predatory journals: Need for regulating quality of Indian science and education. Curr Sci 2016;111:1759-64.  Back to cited text no. 9
Fitzpatrick JJ. Predatory journals: What nurse educators need to know. Nurs Educ Perspect 2015;36:7.  Back to cited text no. 10
Eriksson S, Helgesson G. The false academy: Predatory publishing in science and bioethics. Med Health Care Philos 2017;20:163-70.  Back to cited text no. 11
Bohannon J. Who's afraid of peer review? Science 2013;342:60-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
Clark J, Smith R. Firm action needed on predatory journals. BMJ 2015;350:h210.  Back to cited text no. 13
Habibzadeh F, Simundic AM. Predatory journals and their effects on scientific research community. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2017;27:270-2.  Back to cited text no. 14
Houghton F. Ethics in academic publishing: A timely reminder. J Med Libr Assoc 2017;105:282-4.  Back to cited text no. 15

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