Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Predatory Journals. Academics Are as Much a Part of the Problem.

Medical doctors in academia are gullible. They are so gullible that they are amongst a number of groups, the perfect target for predatory publishing companies. The definition for a predatory journal or publishing company can be found on this link.  They appear to be growing in numbers at a seemingly exponential rate.  It is obviously worth the effort for the creators of these on line publishing companies who try every tactic to trick academics into paying excessive fees to publish.  In other words, there are always enough gullible individuals to make if worth the effort. This is all well documented and whilst there is growing awareness of these scams, it is disappointing to see how academics are quick to give up their credibility by becoming a part of the problem.  They allow themselves to become the bait to attract other academics to submit their manuscripts to the journal.

I get these emails all the time. These are invitations to join the editorial boards of these junk journals.  This one gives the impression of being US based but when you visit the website, it is obvious that the authors of the website are not native English speakers and most people would be able to work out that it is really based in India.

The emails often butter up the recipient with glorified praise about their eminence in the field. That aside, being invited to be a member of an editorial board is generally considered to be something of value and the more editorial boards one can boast the better. Without much thought, academics respond in the affirmative and their picture and bio soon appears on the ‘journal’ website.  These predatory journals have also been in the habit of placing academics on their editorial boards without permission but from my own investigations, it appears that the vast majority have actually consented to the process without having given a thought to where they have gifted their own good name as well as the good name of their university.

We are all keen to see these journals run out of business. It is not only the gullible academics who support them by submitting manuscripts but also our gullible academics who provide some resemblance of credibility to these journals. We are very much part of the problem.

(Related post:-

Disclosure - Henry Woo is on the editorial boards of Prostate Cancer Prostatic Diseases, Prostate International and World Journal of Men's Health which are all Pubmed/Medline indexed.  He is also the Editor in Chief of BJUI Knowledge, a new CME portal of the reputable BJUI Company.


  1. You are absolutely right. I believe that academics ( especially deans and members of promotion and tenure committees) should not be allowed to serve editorial boards as they would advocate policies that benefit their journals.

  2. Dr. Woo: Your credibility notched up when I saw your disclosure at the end. Sadly, there are many of these predatory journals and vanity publishers in all fields of study. They are the dark side of open access.

    Keep up the good work on @realscientists on Twitter! That is how I found my way here to your pleasant blog.

  3. Thanks Anonymous and Ellie for your comments. Sorry for the delayed response.

    Anon, are not academics also the best people to serve on editorial boards? Ellie, thanks for your interactions with the @realscientists account when I was in the #rocur hotseat and especially thanks for tracking me down all the way over here.

  4. A large part of the problem is the pressure on young academics to get lots of publications to be competitive on the job market - application triage is often done by people outside the field who cannot recognise duff journals. We have to keep pressure on university selection and promotion committees to judge scientists by the quality of their science not just metrics that can be gamed and encourage bad practices. Publications in OMICS journals (and similar) should get you negative points if metrics must be used. Everyone should retract their papers due to lack of peer review and then resubmit them somewhere else - if legally allowed. The sooner these outfits are eradicated, the better.