Since COPE drafted a discussion paper on the topic of predatory publishing in 2019, many more scholarly papers have been published on various aspects of this issue so there is no lack of research into the practice. However, while research may be necessary, it is not a sufficient response to the problems associated with predatory publishers. Consequently, and more recently, the dialogue has turned to more practice based solutions.
What are the next steps that COPE, or other industry organisations, might consider as a response to the continued flourishing and growth of predatory journals, conferences, and publishers?
Questions for discussion
Should COPE use its criteria for membership as an instrument to evaluate standards of scholarly publishing vehicles for the purpose of informing authors, peer reviewers, readers, scholars invited to serve on editorial boards, and universities evaluating scholarly productivity?
Should COPE and/or other industry organisations form a global compact of signatories to commit to the practice of research and publication integrity and further to the active marginalisation of predatory publishing within the scholarly communities of universities, editors, and publishers? The Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing may be considered the de facto standards for membership among organisations, such as COPE, OASPA, DOAJ, and WAME, but this would be a proactive advancement of these principles, not just as membership criteria but as global standards for publication integrity.
Should COPE and/or other industry organisations act as a third party retraction service for authors who have unknowingly published with a predatory publisher which will neither withdraw nor retract the articles at the request of the authors? This would include publishers who commit to publications which never appear.
This was discussed at the start of the COPE Forum on Tuesday 15 December 2020, with guest speaker Dr Kelly Cobey. Kelly described the Authenticator Project, being developed by the Centre for Journalology, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Canada. Kelly presented the centre’s approach to educating the scholarly community about the nature of journal quality and transparency practices.
Digital journal authenticator project
“The objective of the project is to develop a ‘Digital Journal Authenticator’ tool that can help stakeholders discern journal quality and transparency practices. We will employ a ‘user centred design strategy’, in which stakeholders such as researchers, journals, publishers, research institutions, and the public work with the research team to iteratively develop a tool that best meets their needs. The tool will provide users with a description of how a journal operates and empower them to use this information to determine whether they should interact with the journal (eg, read content, submit to the journal, or reference articles published there). The tool will be disseminated for free and will be open for others to build upon. This tool will help to safeguard against interactions with low quality journals.”
Comments from the Forum, 15 December 2020
Note, comments do not imply formal COPE advice or consensus
- COPE using its criteria for membership as an instrument to evaluate standards of scholarly publishing could be a good idea. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) host a list of open access journals. COPE member journals are open access and non-open access.
- What would the adjudication process for COPE be in looking at this problem? How should COPE, or other organisations, educate researchers on this issue?
- COPE’s membership list becoming a list of acceptable journals for capturing legitimate journals could be really challenging. The membership criteria would need to transparent and a strong community driven consensus on what those criteria are would be needed.
- It is not feasible on a practical level for COPE to develop a process to announce the equivalence of retractions for authors who have unknowingly published with a predatory publisher. There may also be legal issues.
- COPE could be involved in developing a global compact for journals/publishers to sign to commit to best practices and oppose the work of predatory publishing. This could be done over the long term, encouraging journals and publishers to follow best practices.
- Predatory publishing is more prevalent in the global south. Predatory publishing is "fed" and kept alive by researchers who want to inflate their CV. There should be punitive measures for those who knowingly publish in predatory journals. So, researchers and authors are culpable for submitting their work to predatory journals and should take some responsibility.
- All stakeholders need to take responsibility for this issue. Some researchers unknowingly submit their work to predatory journals—they may know the journal is not good quality but they may not be aware that it is a predatory journal. The pressure on researchers to publish and the system of incentives and rewards means that researchers are evaluated on quantity not quality, and this is a driver for predatory publishing.
- It is hard to know when predatory publishing is done intentionally. People are unlikely to admit to this. We need to educate scholars and audit institutions’ publications to provide annual feedback to scholars. Institutions have an important role to train and support researchers on publication best practices.
- Predatory publishing is a huge problem for people who work with systematic reviews in medicine. How should articles from predatory journals that are included in systematic reviews published in legitimate journals be handled? These papers might be affecting the final conclusions.
- Is COPE considering a flowchart on predatory publishing, and if so, would predatory conferences, videos, and other derivatives be included?
- IAP (The Interacademy Partnership) is calling all researchers to complete an online survey (available in seven languages) to "Help combat predatory academic journals and conferences". The deadline is 31 December 2020.
Questions with answers from Kelly Cobey
We had time for questions at the end of the Forum, some of which you can see above, some of which we didn't have time to answer. Kelly was kind enough to answer some of those we couldn't get to, after the Forum.
- Predatory publishing is a huge problem for people like that works with systematic reviews in medicine as author and as an Editor. Any discussions or thoughts on how to handle articles from Predatory journals that are included in systematic reviews published in legitimate journals. These papers might be affecting final conclusions. Although we need to include unpublished literature in Systematic reviews, we are not sure whether information from these papers are legit. What are your thoughts?
I would suggest that when conducting a systematic review authors consider the potential that they may encounter predatory journals. They should develop a method to address this potential in their study protocol. I would suggest that all included articles be analysed. Of course, risk of bias for all articles should also be done. A second analysis could then be conducted where predatory journals are removed. The authors could then discuss their findings. In terms of identifying predatory journals, this is quite challenging in the current scholarly landscape. The key is to establish this criteria at the protocol stage. My advice would be to check all open access journal of included articles to see if they are in the DOAJ or not (if claiming to be open access); or in COPE’s membership or not. A caveat of this approach is that new journals will not yet be members.
- Will the tool also take enough consideration for the fact that there are also subscription journals which are predatory as seen by applying the definition? The group really has to convene the message that oa is not linked to predatory.
This is an important point. Our consensus definition does not require that a journal be open access to be considered predatory. Our journal authenticator tool will be developed to include all journals, no just those that are open access.
Anyone (members and non-members) can comment.
Comments are reviewed and, on approval, added below.
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21 January 2021
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