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Sting operation highlights the dubious practices of predatory journals


With ambitions of becoming an editor, Dr Anna Olga Szust, an associate professor at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, circulated her CV to 360 biomedical journals with a cover letter requesting a position on their editorial board. Within six months, 48 journals had appointed her as editor with four giving her the top job of editor-in-chief, despite her CV lacking the credentials typically required for such roles. A bigger issue, however, was the fact that Dr Szust and her CV were completely fabricated by researchers at the University of Wroclaw as part of a sting operation to raise awareness of the problem of predatory publishing. The results of this study were recently reported in Nature.

The authors selected legitimate journals from the Journal Citation Reports® (JCR) database and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)  — both of which require that journals meet certain standards of quality to be included. Suspected predatory titles were selected from Beall’s list of potential, possible, or probable predatory journals (since removed by Beall for unconfirmed reasons). All JCR-indexed journals that were approached either rejected the application or did not respond. Eight journals in the DOAJ accepted Dr Szust as editor, although two of these have since been removed from the directory. Forty journals from Beall’s list appointed Dr Szust as editor.

The authors describe the practices of some of these journals and the threat these tactics pose to credible scientific publishing. The researchers also point would-be authors to resources available for judging the quality of a journal, which, with the increasing number of predatory journals that are emerging, is becoming a much more arduous task.


Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

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