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To meet thresholds for career advancement, researchers and scholars are under constant pressure towards the attainment of outstanding publication metrics. This situation has led to coin the well-known “Publish or perish” motto, which revealed to have potential for threatening the integrity of scholarly publishing [Kiai, 2019]. Increasingly, we - as scientists - are heavily solicited via daily emails to submit one or more manuscripts to grand-sounding, often unknown journals, with the promise of a fast publication process [Moher and Srivastava, 2015]. In most of the cases, emails come from the so-called “predatory journals.” According to Wikipedia, predatory publishing “is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_publishing].
Retired professor Jeffrey Beall from the University of Colorado was the first to introduce the term predatory journal [Beall, 2010], and to launch an initiative consisting of an online, daily updated blacklist of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers and journals. Although such a tool proved useful in detecting and keeping track of questionable journals, it was shut down in January 2017 for undisclosed reasons. Since then, several initiatives have been launched to monitor the phenomenon. A wide body of knowledge has outlined the main characteristics of predatory journals. Among these, the most recurrent features are the unprofessional websites, poor or no peer review, use of clumsy impact factors, ambiguous policy about publication fees, promises of quick turnaround and prompt publication, no retraction policy, etc. [Moher et al. 2017; Shamseer et al. 2017]. To date, it is estimated that since 2012, approximately one million articles have been published in predatory journals. It has been claimed that such a non-negligible body of pseudoscience has potential for polluting the scientific record and its integrity [Beall, 2016]. Relatedly, the most popular biomedical database, PubMed, and the largest citation index, Scopus, have been recently found permeable to the infiltration of predatory journals [Manca et al. 2017; Cortegiani et al. 2020]. Consequently, articles published in these counterfeit outlets are not only displayed among the records of the US National Library of Medicine and of the National Institutes of Health, but they also receive citations that contribute to their authors’ metrics [Manca et al. 2018; Cortegiani et al. 2020].
Awareness of such infiltration and of the threats posed by predatory publishing to the scientific community has prompted several international initiatives devised to eradicate this phenomenon. Among these, the most structured are the Directory of Open Access Journals [https://doaj.org/], which maintains a whitelist of open access journals that have met a set of criteria for minimum editorial standard, and the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association [https://oaspa.org/], which maintains a registry of open access publishers and develops rigorous criteria and solutions that advance open access. Another initiative, THINK-CHECK-SUBMIT, [https://thinkchecksubmit.org/] is a campaign introduced to help researchers identify trusted journals to submit their research. This is a simple checklist that researchers can use to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher. More recently, THINK-CHECK-SUBMIT has been paralleled by the THINK-CHECK-ATTEND project [https://thinkcheckattend.org/] to neutralize the emerging phenomenon of predatory conferences, i.e., fake conferences that employ deceptive practices used to trick researchers to present at conferences in exchange for money.
- Beall J. Predatory journals: Ban predators from the scientific record. Nature. 2016 Jun 16;534(7607):326.
- Beall J. Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature. 2012 Sep 13;489(7415):179.
- Cortegiani A, Manca A, Lalu M, Moher D. Inclusion of predatory journals in Scopus is inflating scholars' metrics and advancing careers. Int J Public Health. 2020 Jan;65(1):3-4.
- Kiai A. To protect credibility in science, banish "publish or perish". Nat Hum Behav. 2019 Oct;3(10):1017-1018.
- Manca A, Cugusi L, Dvir Z, Deriu F. PubMed should raise the bar for journal inclusion. Lancet. 2017 Aug 19;390(10096):734-735.
- Manca A, Moher D, Cugusi L, Dvir Z, Deriu F. How predatory journals leak into PubMed. CMAJ. 2018 Sep 4;190(35):E1042-E1045.
- Moher D, Shamseer L, Cobey KD, Lalu MM, Galipeau J, Avey MT, Ahmadzai N, Alabousi M, Barbeau P, Beck A, Daniel R, Frank R, Ghannad M, Hamel C, Hersi M, Hutton B, Isupov I, McGrath TA, McInnes MDF, Page MJ, Pratt M, Pussegoda K, Shea B, Srivastava A, Stevens A, Thavorn K, van Katwyk S, Ward R, Wolfe D, Yazdi F, Yu AM, Ziai H. Stop this waste of people, animals and money. Nature. 2017 Sep 6;549(7670):23-25.
- Moher D, Srivastava A. You are invited to submit…. BMC Med. 2015 Aug 4;13:180.
- Shamseer L, Moher D, Maduekwe O, Turner L, Barbour V, Burch R, Clark J, Galipeau J, Roberts J, Shea BJ. Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Med. 2017 Mar 16;15(1):28.