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“Sting” operation exposes predatory publisher

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Predatory journals exploit the open-access model, charging authors publication fees in return for fast publication, without the associated editorial and publishing services expected from legitimate journals. The number of articles published in predatory journals rose almost eight-fold between 2010 and 2014, along with a similar rise in the number of journals themselves.

A poor quality website or unknown editorial board may give away the identity of a predatory journal. However, the professional appearance of some of some journals can attract less experienced researchers, who may be vulnerable to their invitations to publish. Beall’s list provides a catalogue of ‘potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers’, to help researchers navigate the predatory publishing phenomenon.

Previously, authors have submitted ‘hoax’ papers in order to expose predatory publishers. In a recent article, Retraction Watch recounts how, in 2014, Hatixhe Latifi-Pupovci, a researcher at the University of Pristina in Kosovo, submitted a previously published paper in order to expose the poor credibility and lack of peer review at Medical Archives. The paper was accepted less than two months after submission and following its publication Latifi-Pupovci was sent a reminder to pay the 250 EUR publication fee, which she never did. After Latifi-Pupovci alerted faculty and students at her university of the situation and her decision to renounce the paper, the editor-in-chief, Izet Masic, found out about the sting operation. He went on to accuse the author of plagiarism in an editorial and it took nearly two years (June 2016) for an official retraction notice to be issued. This notice does not explain any issues with the paper and does not indicate that the author had decided to renounce her submission. In his accompanying editorial, Masic makes a case for the importance of peer-review.

While Retraction Watch acknowledge that this particular case may be ‘uniquely jumbled’, they cite other examples of journals publishing hoax papers online, exposing the problems within academic publishing. However, as the use of stings and hoaxes is controversial, alternative approaches may be required to curb predatory publishing activity in the future.

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Summary by Louise Niven, DPhil from Aspire Scientific.

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