Who should fix poorly reviewed predatory journals? (2)

9 June, 2018

This is an area where the academics and researchers themselves have to rise up and take responsibility and they have to do so on several fronts. I have been giving talks on this for several years, mainly in conjunction with the Society for the Advancement of Science in Africa (SASA). I will try to bullet point several of the key issues and problems. They go beyond the excellent advice of "Think, Check, Submit".

One problem is vanity. Look at the predatory journals and you will find dozens, nay, hundreds of academics who have signed on as editors, as advisers, or in various other fashions that seldom involve actual work. This is mainly to pad CV's. Universities and departments, as part of a due diligence effort, can hold those colleagues accountable for the actions of the journals they have opportunistically associated themselves with. In some cases the unfortunate colleagues don't even know that their names have been co-opted as part of the predatory enterprise.

Another problem is the refusal (or reluctance) to support local faculty who wish to invest the time and effort to produce a new journal, especially an open source journal, that has integrity with regard to its peer review and cost-of-submission processes. In particular, for a developing region, how is quality and relevant research to be published, shared and used, if there is no growth of quality local journals. The criteria for a quality online open source journal are the same as for a long standing hard print journal, but the open source journal is better at knowledge diffusion and knowledge translation. However, universities are reluctant to recognize the work in publishing, editing, or reviewing articles, for a younger open source journal, and frequently reluctant to do the due diligence, or recognize the due diligence of others, with regard to quality assessment of both published content and publishing practices.

Fundamentally this needs to be addressed by academics and researchers on a discipline by discipline basis. If governments were to try to do it, they would need the knowledge and wisdom of the discipline specific academics and researchers if they are to avoid resorting to seriously flawed selection algorithms. Professional associations might be able to do it but rather than making good/bad lists they could they assigned rankings in terms of quality of submission process (prices, peer review, etc.) with commentary and transparent criteria. There was a time when some individual academics tried to publish lists of questionable journals, but most found that they ran the risks of lawsuits. We have seen the challenge and the challenge is us!

To keep this short I will end with the problem of the tenure and promotion process. In many cases it works against young academics putting in the time and work to help germinate a crop of quality online open source publication sources operating with integrity, or even publishing in such journals when they are struggling to secure a foot hold in the journals ecosystem. Academics and researchers should take responsibility for not just the integrity of their own work, but the integrity of the research publication and knowledge translation process in their own disciplines.

Dr Sam Lanfranco (Prof Emeritus), Econ, York U., CANADA

Visiting Prof, Xi'an Jaiotong-Liverpool Univ, Suzhou, China

HIFA profile: Sam Lanfranco is Professor Emeritus & Senior Scholar at York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. http://samlanfranco.blogspot.com . He was formerly chair of the Canadian Society for International Health, and runs the health promotion list CLICK4HP. Lanfran AT Yorku.ca