Rising predatory journals threaten research authenticity

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages / Laptop information input - Chainarong Prasertthai
GettyImages / Laptop information input - Chainarong Prasertthai

Related tags Research Evaluation Technology Trust Validation Research and development

It’s a case of “publish or perish” for academics, giving more opportunities to predatory journals, warned a recent webinar hosted by the research database provider EBSCO.

The online seminar titled “Avoiding Pseudoscience while Researching Food and Health” on 24th​ May, focused on the issues faced with predatory publishing practices.

EBSCO​ played host to Carol Hollier, senior information literacy and outreach manager at IFIS Publishing​, the not-for-profit academic publishing organisation providing verified information in the sciences of food.

Hollier explained that academics need to publish in order to progress their careers, and that pressure, combined with the open-access publishing model, has given space for illegitimate techniques in academic publishing. 

She pointed out, that it is a significant problem in the industry, noting “One scholar has estimated the predatory journals currently make up about one-fifth of the global output of scientific research articles.”

She concluded that to mitigate these damaging effects, researchers, institutions, and stakeholders must be aware of predatory publishing practices and adopt rigorous evaluation criteria when considering publication opportunities. 

Predatory journals

predatory journal​ is a publishing outlet that operates on unethical principles, exploiting the open-access publishing model for financial gain rather than promoting genuine scientific research and scholarly communication. 

They are defined​ as organisations that engage in the publication of fraudulent journals, taking advantage of the author-pays open-access model.

The journals can engage in deceptive practices, such as promising quick publication, charging high article processing fees without providing proper editorial services, and lacking transparent editorial boards or affiliations. 

Hollier said that increasing experience in reading academic papers will help hone skills in identifying predatory journals.

However, she did note that there are certain qualities to keep an eye out for, such as transparency from the publisher on its practices; whether access fees are clearly explained; if the copyright is clearly explained; the review process is accurately described; and whether the journal sites look professional and without error. 

The damage

Hollier told the audience that predatory publishers pose several damaging effects on the nutrition industry, as well as on scientific research as-a-whole. 

For one, she explained, it can lead to poor quality and unreliable research. Predatory publishers often lack rigorous peer review processes and editorial standards, leading to the publication of low-quality research, and undermining credibility and integrity.

She also noted that this hinders scientific progress, explaining that it becomes difficult to differentiate between genuine, high-quality research and poorly conducted or fraudulent studies, which can misinform practitioners, policymakers, and the general public.

The main issue is that predatory publishers are driven by profit rather than scientific advancement and prioritise publishing articles solely to collect publication fees without ensuring the scientific accuracy or validity of the research. 

This can result in the dissemination of misleading or false information related to nutrition, leading to potential harm if people rely on such information for making decisions about their health, diet, or treatment options.

Hollier also noted that predatory journals perpetuate a waste of resources. She explained that researchers and institutions pay fees to publish their work in predatory journals, which diverts funds from legitimate scientific endeavours, and instead of investing in high-quality research or other productive scientific activities, resources are wasted on publications that offer little or no scientific value.

She stated that predatory publishing contributes to the erosion of trust in scientific literature, explaining that when there is an abundance of low-quality, poorly vetted research, it becomes challenging to rely on published studies as a reliable source of information. 

She explained that promoting transparency, encouraging open-access publishing through reputable journals, and supporting initiatives that raise awareness about predatory publishing are important steps to safeguard the integrity of the industry.

Related topics Research Regulation & Policy Views

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