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predatory open access journals

"OMICS is a Biological concept which, in combination with other disciplines, provides the basis for Genomics, Proteomics, and Metabolomics." --Dr. Srinubabu, founder of OMICS International

Predatory open access journals "exist for the sole purpose of profit, not the dissemination of high-quality research findings and furtherance of knowledge. These predators generate profits by charging author fees, also known as article processing charges (APCs), that far exceed the cost of running their low-quality, fly-by-night operations."* Jeffrey Beall of the Auraria Library at the University of Colorado, Denver, has compiled a list of these predatory journals. As of April 16, 2016, Beall's list includes over 1,000 such journals. Beall has also compiled a list of predatory publishers, known as Beall's List, and it too contains more than 1,000 names.

Beall's main concern seems to be with academia, where status, tenure, and promotion depend on publishing and to some extent on serving on editorial boards or serving as a peer reviewer. He writes:

This is a list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers. We recommend that scholars read the available reviews, assessments, and descriptions provided here, and then decide for themselves whether they want to submit articles, serve as editors or on editorial boards.  The criteria for determining predatory publishers are here.

We hope that tenure and promotion committees can also decide for themselves how importantly or not to rate articles published in these journals in the context of their own institutional standards and/or geocultural locus.

It's not enough that academic hiring and tenure committees have to concern themselves with such things as positive-outcome bias and the fact that publishing in academic journals, even first-tier journals, is largely based on the honor system. No journal has the resources to police every publication submitted to make sure the authors haven't faked or plagiarized their data or failed to follow the procedures they claim to have followed for their research. These committees now must vet the swell-sounding journals appearing on curricula vitae that sound legitimate but may be fronts for pay-as-you-go publishing.

My concern with these predatory publishers and journals, however, is not with academia. My interest is in their use by alternative reality characters: pseudoscientists, alternative health advocates (especially energy healers), parapsychologists, and supernaturalists. Several decades ago, one of the main complaints made by skeptics of the alternative reality folks was that they relied too heavily on anecdotes. They needed scientific studies in support of their claims if they expected to be taken seriously. Well, they--especially the parapsychologists--responded by publishing many studies in peer-reviewed journals. For example, in 1994 Daryl J. Bem and Charles Honorton published "Does Psi Exist? Replicable Evidence for an Anomalous Process of Information Transfer" in the Psychological Bulletin. Skeptic Ray Hyman spent years evaluating and debunking this "replicable evidence." Prior to that, in 1988, Randolph C. Byrd, M.D., published "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population" in the Southern Medical Journal. Byrd's work was followed by a number of attempts by others to prove that prayer has some sort of healing effect. All have been scrutinized and debunked in detail. In short, the true believers answered their skeptical critics by publishing many scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. Criticizing these articles took up many hours by many skeptics. Most of the important articles and criticisms are taken up elsewhere in The Skeptic's Dictionary. My concern here is not with the wave of peer-reviewed journals that publish studies considered less than adequate by skeptics, but with the tidal wave of predatory journals now full of publications by some of the most unsavory characters I've witnessed in over twenty years of observing and reviewing the literature of the alternative reality folks.

One of the more egregious examples of the use of predatory journals to give the appearance of scientific respectability can be found here. I've written about this litigious fellow elsewhere and don't wish to mention his name here. He presents an impressive list of hundreds of publications in scientific-sounding journals--impressive, that is, if you know nothing about predatory journals and don't bother to read his articles.

You might think that an article entitled "Assessment of Antibiogram of Biofield Energy Treated Serratia marcescens" and published in the swell-sounding European Journal of Preventive Medicine would be legit. Think again. The publisher is Science Publishing Group, which claims it is based in New York City but is actually based in Pakistan.

OMICS International is another predatory publisher whose website makes it sound like a major player in science publishing:

Make the best use of Scientific Research and information from our 700+ leading-edge peer reviewed, Open Access Journals that operates with the help of 50,000+ Editorial Board Members and esteemed reviewers and 1000+ Scientific associations in Medical, Clinical, Pharmaceutical, Engineering, Technology and Management Fields.

Yes. One publisher, over 700 journals! Here's an example of one of OMICS's science publications, published in the strangely named journal Chemistry Environmental Analytical Chemistry: Biofield treatment: A potential strategy for modification of physical and thermal properties of indole. Publications about alleged biofields seem to be popular with the predatory journals. OMICS is based in India. A few years ago it threatened to sue Jeffrey Beall. OMICS's lawyer, Ashok Ram Kumar of the Indian firm IP Markets, claimed he would sue Beall for $1 billion and that he would seek criminal penalties in India based on Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" [sic] or to publish false information. The punishment can be as much as three years in prison.*

Kumar seems like the perfect lawyer to defend OMICS. He publicly claimed that Mr. Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent" and "smacks of literal unprofessionalism and arrogance." He also accused Beall of racial discrimination and attempting to "strangle the culture of open access publications."

"All the allegation [sic] that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment [sic] of your imagination by you and the purpose of writing this blog seems to be a deliberate attempt to defame our client....Our client perceive [sic] the blog as mindless rattle of a [sic] incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure [sic] adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."

Beall doesn't seem to have blinked at the threat. By the way, if you regret having published with OMICS, it will cost you $419 to withdraw your article. As Beall notes: "Legitimate scholarly publishers do not charge withdrawal fees."*

I should note that what makes a journal predatory is not simply the fact that it charges fees to authors. There are reputable open access journals and they may make charges to cover costs. What makes a journal predatory is that its primary purpose is to collect fees well in excess of its operating costs and it has very little, if any, interest in quality scientific research that might advance knowledge. Peer review, for such journals, is a sham and without rigor.

See also diploma mill.

further reading

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) The Directory of Open Access Journals was launched in 2003 at Lund University, Sweden, with 300 open access journals and today contains more than 10,000 open access journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social science, and humanities.

Scholarly Open Access - Jeffrey Beall's Blog

Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too) Welcome to the "parallel world of pseudo-academia, complete with prestigiously titled conferences and journals that sponsor them."

Questionable [Health] Organizations: An Overview by Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Last updated 24-Apr-2016

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