With predatory publishing continuing to escalate, there is a need to evaluate the extent to which it has infiltrated academic practice. In a recent analysis of Scopus, a leading scholarly database, researchers found that almost 3% of indexed studies had been published in potentially predatory journals.
As highlighted in a recent Nature news article, researchers searched Scopus for the names of “potential, possible or probable” predatory journals and publishers identified by Beall (2016). A total of 324 suspected predatory journals were identified; these titles published over 160,000 articles between 2015–2017, accounting for 2.8% of the studies indexed during this period.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated problem — predatory journals have previously been found to be indexed on other databases such as PubMed. It is widely recognized that predatory publishing threatens research integrity, however defining “safelists” and “watchlists” isn’t easy and they are difficult to maintain as these journals constantly evolve their practices.
Although a spokesperson for Scopus told Nature that it has stopped indexing new content for 65% of flagged journals, old content remains. This means that their citation counts still increase, and may continue to misinform important institutional decisions such as employee evaluation and funding. The authors of the analysis suggest that the current filters used to assess journals are proving ineffective against the more convincing predatory journals, and call for fact checking and upgraded selection criteria to address the issue.
They warn that “unless the selection criteria are upgraded and/or the bar for inclusion is raised significantly, fake scientific journals will keep creeping in the database”.
We look forward to seeing how scholarly databases adapt to this evolving threat.
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