Prevalence of publishing in predatory journals
Objectives: In 2017 the journal Nature published challenges to the assumption that research intensive U.S. institutions are immune to the hazards of predatory publishing. Sample articles from hundreds of potentially predatory journals were analyzed: the NIH was the most frequent funder and Harvard was among the most frequent institutions. Our study was designed to identify the publication prevalence at our institution.
Methods: Predatory publishers were defined using an archived version of Beall’s list, a now defunct website that was widely recognized as the only comprehensive black list for potential predators. The archive was collected January 15, 2017 and reflects updates made 1-2 weeks prior. To identify our NIH publications, records were collected from PubMed Central using an institution search and limiting to 2011-2016 to reflect a five-year period covered by Beall’s last update. PMC was selected under the assumption that direct journal inclusion in PubMed/MedLine serves as a proxy for quality. Journal and ISSN data were referenced against Ulrich’s Periodical Directory to determine publishers. Data were then compared against the Beall’s listing of potentially predatory publishers and standalone journals. The publication costs for the predatory journals were used to determine the total amount of NIH funding used to pay for publications in predatory journals.
Results: The review of the University’s Publications submitted to PubMed Central from 2011 to 2016 revealed 15090 publications. Of those 15090 articles 218 publications (1.4%) were from publishers that fell in Beall’s list of predatory publishers. A review of publication fees for the publishers that University faculty published in revealed that approximately $300,000 dollars of Federal grant money was spent over the 5 year period publishing in predatory publications.
Conclusions: Previously, it was thought that publishing predatory journals was primarily a problem in developing countries. However, like the 2017 Nature study, we found that researchers publishing at Emory are publishing in journals that are considered predatory. While the rate of publication in predatory journals is low (1.4%) it did cost approximately $300,000 of Federal tax payer money, which amounts to approximately 70% of the funds of one year of the average NIH R01 grant.