A ‘Scholarly black market’
Counterfeit, or hijacked, journals threaten legitimate scholarship. We all need to stay on alert.
Opinion by Marilyn Dyrud
“Hijack” conjures up visions of violent individuals taking over aircraft to achieve their aims. But in the world of academic publishing, the word has acquired a different, though still sinister, meaning: a kind of identity theft.
Every day, the editor of the Journal of Engineering Technology (JET) receives an e-mail from an academic who submitted an article to a website with the URL joetsite.com, thinking it was ASEE’s journal. The writer usually recounts having become suspicious on getting a response with instructions to send an amount ranging from $350 to $500 to a PayPal account.
To the surprise of the JET editorial board, a counterfeit entity has been using the name Journal of Engineering Technology and adopting the same international standard serial number (ISSN). Until recently, it falsely claimed to be published by ASEE. Certain articles on its website bear a banner with the ASEE logo atop every page, and every e-mail from the unnamed “Chief Editor” includes the ASEE website address and phone numbers. (For more details, see Thomas Grose’s “The Dark Side of ‘Open Access’ ” in the February 2017 Prism.)
From a mere seven articles in its inaugural edition in January 2016, joetsite.com (or JoET), grew to include 48 just 18 months later. If every author paid the fee cited in e-mails to JET’s editor—$500 for a 10-page paper and $50 for each additional page—the last issue of JoET would have reaped at least $24,000, with no publication or mailing costs, since it is an online journal.
The growth of joetsite.com reflects international trends. The number of counterfeit or hijacked journals has exploded since 2011, when 10 phony journals went online sharing the URL sciencrecord.com. Iranian information technology specialist Mehdi Dadkhah, who has published extensively on this topic, found one such journal that published 1,500 articles in a single issue.
Counterfeit or hijacked journals and predatory journals—open-access, for-profit journals that accept manuscripts rejected by recognized publishers—represent a threat to real scholarly publications, a “scholarly black market,” as characterized by Shahryar Sorooshian of the Universiti Malaysia Pahang. Jeff Beall, librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, contends of predatory journals: “They threaten research by failing to demarcate authentic science from methodologically unsound science, by allowing for counterfeit science, such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), to parade as if it were authentic science, and by enabling the publication of activist science.” Between 2012 and 2017, Beall kept an ever expanding list of predatory and, more recently, counterfeit or hijacked journals. Now maintained by another scholar, the current list identifies 115 counterfeit websites, including non-English international publications. In addition to JoET, another website, inderscience.org, has adopted the name Journal of Engineering Technology and falsely claims ASEE’s office as its address.
Like predatory periodicals, counterfeit or hijacked journals involve minimal—if any—peer review, and publication is quick: joetsite.com promises three weeks from submission to publication. Because these journals snatch information from a legitimate journal’s website, they advertise indexing that does not exist and impact factors that don’t apply. They have neither registered ISSNs nor copyright. An author’s work is thus unprotected and probably inaccessible.
So why do authors submit their work to bogus journals? A number of writers say their primary reason is speed: Why wait for months when JoET (joetsite.com) accepts papers almost immediately? Publication in such journals also offers, as Beall notes, a convenient way to pad a résumé and pave the road for promotion and tenure, especially in universities with stiff publication requirements.
Yet, academicians who subscribe to the profession’s ethical provisions realize that this is cheating. Before submitting a manuscript for publication, authors—especially newbies—should research the journal to ensure legitimacy. Red flags include unnamed editorial board members, no explanation of the peer review process, and a high publication fee (usually payable through PayPal). Consider (and check) indexing services listed, as well as acceptance rates. Journals with low acceptance rates are probably legitimate. As others have noted, manuscripts without peer review are unreliable, yet the information may be used to formulate “clinical practice and health policy” and, furthermore, may be used as source material for new medical hypotheses.
Finally, hiring and tenure committees should comb publications listed on résumés for counterfeit or predatory journals—and make it known that they’re doing so. The only way illegitimate publishers can be stopped is if they’re seen as impeding, rather than helping, career advancement.
Marilyn Dyrud, professor emerita of communication at the Oregon Institute of Technology, serves on the Journal of Engineering Technology (JET) editorial board and the editorial advisory board of Prism.