Scopus is the largest bibliometric database of its kind, containing the greatest number of abstracts and articles from peer-reviewed academic journals. It also provides a range of journal, article, and author metrics. The quality of journals indexed in Scopus is reviewed at regular intervals or when publication concerns are raised. If a journal is found to fall below a specified standard, or the publication concerns are valid, the journal may be removed from the database. However, articles from these journals published prior to discontinuation remain part of Scopus and can, therefore, be cited. In their recent article published in F1000Research, Dr Cortegiani and colleagues scrutinised the citation metrics and other features of journals that had been discontinued by Scopus due to publication concerns.
The authors looked at 317 journals (from 135 publishers) that had been discontinued. Key findings included:
- The mean number of citations per year and per document were both significantly higher after journal discontinuation compared with before.
- Publishers with the most discontinued journals were Academic Journals Inc. (39 titles), Asian Network for Scientific information (19 titles), and the OMICS Publishing Group (18 titles).
- Subject areas with the most discontinued journals were medicine (16%), agriculture/biological science (11%), and pharmacology, toxicology and pharmaceutics (10%).
- Open access publication models were used by 93% of discontinued journals.
- Twenty-three percent of discontinued journals were included in Cabell’s blacklist and 2% in Cabell’s whitelist, while 77% were included in Beall’s list of predatory journals or publishers.
- Nineteen percent had also been discontinued from the Directory of Open Access Journals.
The authors discuss how the metrics provided by Scopus may be used by institutions to rank journals in order to evaluate the publishing performance of current or potential employees, allocate financial bonuses, or evaluate funding applications. Rigorous quality control of content in Scopus is therefore important to ensure the accuracy of these activities.
The authors note that many of the discontinued journals displayed predatory behaviours, and it is right that they are no longer indexed in Scopus. They also feel that it would be unfair to remove articles published prior to discontinuation as this would punish researchers who chose to publish in these journals unaware of the quality issues or before a deterioration in journal performance. However, the authors conclude that clearer warnings to highlight whether articles have come from discontinued journals, alongside other creative solutions, are required to ensure the reliability of Scopus metrics both at the journal and author level.