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Tracking fake science journals that don't play by the rules

Bradley Allf, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Science & Technology News

“I have been invited to publish in medical journals,” said Gunn, who has a doctorate in rhetorical studies. “I have absolutely no background in these fields. If I wrote something for these fields I would worry someone might take it seriously.”

Berryman agreed.

“It’s so dangerous,” she said. “If articles aren't being peer-reviewed then we don't know for sure if this is good research, if it was done correctly.”

Berryman confirmed that the “Open Access Library Journal” was in their database of predatory journals for violating a number of their 74 different indicators that suggest that a journal is predatory, including hiding information about their parent company and publishing articles by the same author over and over again.

“It's amazing the trash that the journals will publish,” she said.

While it’s uncommon for a predatory journal article to be shared widely online, it does happen. Berryman said that checking who is associated with a particular publication can help you root out a predatory journal. Because genuine scientists want nothing to do with these publications, the journals often make up members of their editorial boards, or use scientists that are no longer alive.

“We found ‘Yosemite Sam’ who is ‘a Professor at Yale’ on an editorial board once. That was fun,” Berryman said.

Still, sorting the good from the bad— the dubious journals from the legitimate tomes — takes practice, which is where Berryman and her team come in. The job affords a certain romantic satisfaction in a world that’s rarely so cut-and-dry.

“I love my job. And, and it really makes me feel like I'm contributing to making research better,” Berryman said. “Maybe if I can warn people away from submitting to predatory journals then there won't be as much garbage out there.”

 

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RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR

Cabells offers a list of signs that can be red flags for a source of information that is not credible.

— The journal is falsely claiming to be included in any academic journal indexing service or citation database such as Cabells, Scopus, Journal Citation Reports, DOAJ, etc.

— The editorial board contains fake names or names with credentials/affiliations that are made up or falsified.

— Editorial board members are unaware of their position on the journal’s editorial board.

— The journal promises very rapid publication or unusually quick peer review (e.g., publication in less than four weeks of submission).

— There is no peer review policy or the peer review policy does not clearly define who reviews submissions, how many reviewers read each submission, and the possible outcomes of the peer review process.

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