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UG/UMCG authors falling prey to fraudulent/predatory publishing practices

Date:21 June 2021
Author:Giulia Trentacosti & Peter Braun
Image: ©David Parkins 
Image: ©David Parkins 

The open access support teams of the University Library and Central Medical Library have recently come across four cases of predatory/fraudulent publishing behaviour at the expense of UG/UMCG authors. We outline the cases below (anonymously and with permission of the authors involved) in the hope that this will help others avoid similar circumstances in the future. 

Case 1 - Misleading journal name

The researchers received an invitation to submit a manuscript for a theme issue to be published in a quality journal in their field. The invitation was signed by the ‘editor-in-chief’ of the journal. The authors don't usually respond to similar invitations, but this time the journal mentioned in the email was known to them and a reputable one so they decided to accept. At this stage, the authors failed to notice a small misleading detail in the invitation: the editor said ‘I am organizing a theme issue on Trends in Immunology’. The authors instead read this as ‘a theme issue in Trends in Immunology’ (Trends in Immunology being the title of the reputable journal the authors thought they were invited to contribute to). 

The authors finished the article and went to submit the manuscript to the website of the journal they thought they were invited to. However, the website did not work so the editor-in-chief offered to take care of the submission process personally.

The authors then contacted the journal (the ‘real’ one to which they thought they were submitting) to inquire about their submission. It appeared that the submission website was open for invited authors only and… it turned out that they hadn’t been invited. At this point, they were also informed that the presumed editor-in-chief is not affiliated with the journal and that the journal was aware of several other cases in which the same person (or at least a person using the same name) convinced authors to submit manuscripts by faking an affiliation with the journal. The authors realized at this point that the name of the journal was Medical Research Archives (published by the European Society of Medicine - ESMED) and not Trends in Immunology as previously thought.

The authors contacted the ‘fake’ editor urging not to publish or otherwise use any parts of the manuscript. The ‘editor’ answered the email and promised not to do so.

A financial argument was underlying this misleading practice. The authors were asked to pay a substantial publication fee. After indicating that such a huge fee was a bottleneck, the authors immediately received a discount of approx. 90%, which they didn’t pay. 

Case 2 - Plagiarism  

The researchers came across an article which was almost identical to an article they previously published in another journal. The authors contacted the publisher of the plagiarised article and, following a plagiarism check carried out by the Central Medical Library, the plagiarised work was retracted. The same authors found a second case of plagiarism of their work in the same journal. The journal is most likely a predatory one that doesn’t run plagiarism checks, nor carries out rigorous peer-review. 

Case 3 - Predatory journal #1

The researchers received an invitation to submit an article to a journal published by Hilaris, an alleged predatory publisher that is associated with the notorious predatory publishing group OMICS. Unaware of the bad reputation of the journal, the researchers submitted the manuscript via email and received an invoice of €1,219. The authors then contacted one of the members of the editorial board to inquire about the reputation of the journal; it turned out that the editor had never consented to be included in the editorial board of the journal. After realizing the predatory nature of the journal, the authors contacted the UG’s legal department which sent a formal letter to the publisher prohibiting them from publishing the article. Following this, the publisher informed the authors that the article had been withdrawn and that they had removed it permanently from their database. Recently, similar cases involving Hilaris journals have occurred at Wageningen University & Research and Leiden University.

Case 4 - Predatory journal #2 

The researchers submitted an article to an open access journal titled Trauma Cases and Reviews published by ClinMed International Library. The journal is not indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or in PubMed. Despite this, the authors decided to go ahead with the submission because the website didn’t mention any fees. This was appealing to them since they didn't have a budget for open access. However, upon submission of the manuscript an invoice was issued. The authors managed to easily negotiate a 50% discount on the fee, which felt suspicious. The peer review process did not result in any comments and the publisher’s emails contained several grammatical errors, which also felt suspicious. The authors then contacted the open access support team who recognized the journals as predatory. Unfortunately, by that point the fee had been paid and the article had been published in the predatory journal. At present, the article is online and has not been retracted by the authors. 

How to recognize predatory publishers? 

Predatory publishers can usually be recognized by their aggressive marketing strategies and spam emails. Yet, these journals and their invitations may look legitimate at first sight. The following questions can help you assess whether you are dealing with a predatory journal:

  • Do you or your colleagues know the journal? Have you read any articles in the journal before?
  • Is the journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? Journals listed here have to meet a range of ethical and quality standards.
  • Can the journal be found in a reliable database such as Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed or another database in your specific field of research?
  • Does the publisher offer clear information about peer review and the costs of open access?
  • The Think, Check, Submit initiative provides a checklist which can help you identify trusted journals.

If you have questions or are uncertain about the quality of a journal, please get in touch with the open access support team for advice.

UG authors: openaccess rug.nl 

UMCG authors: openaccess umcg.nl 

About the author

Giulia Trentacosti & Peter Braun

Giulia Trentacosti is Open Access and Scholarly Communication Specialist at the University of Groningen Library and Peter Braun is Open Access Officer at the Central Medical Library, UMCG. 

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