The mentality of “publish or perish” in academia is a theme that embodies “brokeness” in academic and scholarly publishing, and coupled with the concept of Open Access, which refers to online research that is free of all restrictions on access and free of many restrictions on use, has led to the steady rise of predatory open access publishers. Predatory publishing is an exploitative business model that charges publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals. Due to the rising number of predatory publishers, a librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado-Denver, Jeffrey Beall, began compiling a list of predatory publishers from around the world and annually issues Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers. Predatory publishers as those who meet the following characteristics:
- Accepts articles quickly and with little to no peer review or quality control.
- Notifies academics of article fees only after papers are accepted.
- Does not permit an author to withdraw a paper after it has been accepted.
- Lists academics as members of editorial boards without their permission and does not allow academics to resign from editorial boards.
- Appoints fake academics to editorial boards.
- Mimics the name and/or website style of more established legitimate journals.
“Published research can have a huge influence in science, technology, and medicine, so it’s crucial that research is scientific and has been properly vetted through peer review, but the predatory publishers are completely breaking down that whole peer review system and just publishing pretty much anything for money.” ~ Jeffrey Beall
Beall’s 2016 list includes 923 predatory publishers and 882 standalone predatory journals. This year Beall also added two lists that track new areas of questionable practices: A Misleading Metrics list that includes companies that “calculate” and publish counterfeit impact factors that trick scholars into thinking predatory journals are legitimate and Hijacked Journals that list legitimate journals for which a counterfeit website has been created, soliciting article submissions through spam email.
In 2014, it was discovered that predatory journals had published over 400,000 papers at an average cost of $178 per paper. The Federal Trade Commission took this staggering statistic as an opportunity to intervene and opened an official investigation against predatory open access publishing. On August 25, 2016, in an unprecedented move, the FTC filed a lawsuit against one of the largest publishers accused of predatory practices, OMICS International, charging the company with
“deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”
OMICS International is an open access academic publishing group that was founded in 2007, with offices in Los Angeles and Hyderabad, India. The company’s website boasts over 700 journals and over 50,000 editorial board members. FTC staff attorney, Gregory Ashe, alleges that
“OMICS made a number of misrepresentations on how they market their journals and once a researcher publishes their article in a journal, even if it’s not a legitimate one, they can’t publish it elsewhere.”
OMICS International has been on the government’s radar since 2013 when the Department of Health and Human Services accused the company of improperly listing National Institutes of Health scientists on the mastheads of many of the company’s bogus journals. Several researchers have also accused OMICS of having an “open door” policy on plagiarism, proving that many published papers have large sections of text that have been copied verbatim from Wikipedia without citing Wikipedia as a source.
In response to the lawsuit filed by the FTC, OMICS lawyers posted a letter to the company website denying all allegations and maintaining that all of their processes are legal, as their “author pays” model is the same one used by other (legitimate) open access publishers.
Despite the outcome of the lawsuit, the FTC says it is unlikely that they will attempt to go after all predatory publishers, as they are
nimble and quick and most of the Asia- and Africa-based operations will figure out ways to remove the standing that Western countries have to prosecute them.
The FTC’s lawsuit, despite its success, will at the very least put the United States based predatory publishers on notice and slow, if not completely stanch, the flow of newly forming predatory open access publishers.
Article by Anna Miller