Feds go after science journals for deceptive practices

FTC Charges Academic Journal Publisher OMICS Group Deceived Researchers

Complaint Alleges Company Made False Claims, Failed To Disclose Steep Publishing Fees

FOR RELEASE August 26, 2016

The Federal Trade Commission has charged the publisher of hundreds of purported online academic journals with deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that OMICS Group, Inc., along with two affiliated companies and their president and director, Srinubabu Gedela, claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices and have editorial boards made up of prominent academics. In reality, many articles are published with little to no peer review and numerous individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals.

According to the FTC’s complaint, OMICS does not tell researchers that they must pay significant publishing fees until after it has accepted an article for publication, and often will not allow researchers to withdraw their articles from submission, thereby making the research ineligible for publication in another journal. Academic ethics standards generally forbid researchers from submitting the same research to more than one journal.

“The defendants in this case used false promises to convince researchers to submit articles presenting work that may have taken months or years to complete, and then held that work hostage over undisclosed publication fees ranging into the thousands of dollars,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It is vital that we stop scammers who seek to take advantage of the changing landscape of academic publishing.”

Among the deceptive statements OMICS made to researchers, according to the complaint, were descriptions of its journals as having a high “impact factor,” a term that describes approximately how frequently articles in a particular journal are cited in other research. Thomson Reuters’ proprietary measure of journals’ impact factors is the widely accepted standard, but OMICS allegedly calculated its own impact scores and did not clearly disclose that fact to consumers.

The defendants also tell researchers that their journals are indexed by federal research databases, including the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed and MEDLINE services, when in fact that is not true, according to the complaint.

In addition to misrepresentations related to their journal publishing services, the FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants regularly deceive consumers while promoting academic conferences they organize. The defendants allegedly include the names of prominent researchers as participants and presenters at the conferences, which charge registration fees that can cost more than $1,000, when in fact many of those researchers often did not agree to participate in the events.

The FTC’s complaint charges the defendants, OMICS Group Inc., iMedPub LLC, Conference Series LLC, and Srinubabu Gedela, with multiple violations of the FTC Act’s prohibition on deceptive acts or practices.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

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60 thoughts on “Feds go after science journals for deceptive practices

  1. WHAT Journal? This seems like a self fulfilling prophecy. I.e. “Publish in our UNKNOWN, UNREAD publication” and we will RIP YOU OFF TOO! Maybe someone could list some of the JOURNALS they publish?

  2. Loved the statement about “Academic ethics standards generally forbid researchers from submitting the same research to more than one journal.”

    ACADEMICS HAVE ETHICS ? WHO KNEW?

    • It may be news to you, but academics are people. Some have higher ethical standards than others. Kind of like policemen, politicians, blog trolls … actually, I take back the last one. Blog trolls are too dumb to even lack ethical standards.

      • Yes, some have higher ethical standards (except trolls) but the problem occurs when those with ethical standards are outnumbered by the ones who lack ethical standards. I don’t know that we have reached that point, but dismissing unethical behavior on the premise that “some do it, some don’t” allows fraud and misconduct to flourish. One would think that scientists would want to remove the fraud, but based on your fireman, politician comparison, that probably is not true. People tend to cover for their buddies and that is the problem. If the 90% ethical just ignore or try to somehow dismiss the unethical behavior as “people do that”, then the 90% shrinks and the discipline became known for its fraud and lack of ethics.

      • That’s wrong.
        Policemen and politicians swear an oath which is a form of ethics…teachers, not so.
        Do teachers promise to educate your children?
        Do teachers promise to protect and defend the constitution of our country?
        I spent 23 years in the military…
        I see a difference even if you don’t.

      • Michael Palmer

        You need a rabies shot.

        I’ve been watching “Academia” prostitute themselves for the last 10 years on “climate science” and the ever popular “97% consensus”. Also George Mason’s J. Shukla et al and the RICO request. Not to mention the Duke faculty rushing to judgement on the soccer team accusations. And the current state of so-called peer review.

        I’m a taxpayer – I help pay for this crap, and I’m entitled to an opinion, which I restate for your edification: ACADEMICS HAVE ETHICS ? WHO KNEW?

        Academia is wallowing in an ethical pig sty, and for a dainty flower such as you to be shocked SHOCKED that someone might point this out is precious, as is your ad hominem attack on me. You come across like the piano player at Rick’s place who was surprised there was gambling going on upstairs.

      • Some academics may well have ethical standards but unfortunately a large proportion do not but are in it for persoanla gain and advancement. In some respects they have no choice since the notion of tenure went out the door. Academia has been cross bred with managerialism and media ‘communication’ and the result is ‘corn syrup science’ – preprocessed junk thought made to be marketed but of limited intrinsic value to society other than as a media op.

    • @mikerestin
      August 27, 2016 at 9:48 am
      Good post; exactly on point.
      Covers much of what is wrong in our country.

    • here, here old bean.
      I had my urine brought to boiling point by an unrelated article in the lame-stream media during the week (about how Australia Day should be celebrated) following which it took a school teacher to post the most idiotic quote of the day; going so far as to label the majority opinion (that is, the opinion of all but two other commenters which nturally failed to agree with his ‘enlightened’ view) as coming from a ‘racist nutter fringe’ before then incoherently losing the plot completely. And this guy is responsible for educat… filling our kids’ heads with bullshit.
      Any wonder millenials receive so much criticism for being generally useless? They’d be the first generation indoctrinated by modern ‘academic ethics standards’ after all.

    • What the article says is that the fees demanded are not disclosed until the article has been accepted. Once that has been done, the publisher can argue there is a contract between the author and the publisher. The majority of researchers are 1) not well funded, 2) can’t afford a lawyer, and 3) have no clear idea of their rights. The result is that if the publisher has a friendly court (rather like the way patent trolls run their lawsuits through specific Texas courts), they can block the author(s) from re-submitting the paper elsewhere. The result would be that the paper would have to be substantially rewritten to avoid any conflict. Most journals do not pay the authors of papers anything. Curiously, an academic author can be accused of “plagiarizing” him- or herself, if they use substantial “unattributed” portions of their own work in multiple papers.

      Paper publishing is a form of CVA construction and the authors hope that longer lists of publications will lead to better job prospects. You generally aren’t informed until after “they” hand you your sheepskin that your college fees and tuition aren’t the end of paying for your job. So, when you meet an academic, the odds are that like Eliza Doolittle’s dad says to Henry Higgins, “[c]an’t afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me.” One of the problems with academics is that when the occupation “emerged’ academics were mostly teachers. However, their work in education and that of “academics” like da Vinci, Newton (who technically really was an academic), and Archimedes who did more research and invention is generally confused by the rest of us. Universities hire their staff partially on the hope that one of the more important outputs of their staff are patents and publications that generate income for the schools. “Star” quality staff also attract students, meaning they generate tuition, fees, and all the other costs a student or student’s parents face. Thus comes “publish or perish.” Darwin in Academia. Survival of the Glibbest.

    • The news is that they are being prosecuted, not that they exist or that they are crooked.

      I wonder who, apart from possibly an Indian national would have any confidence is a publishing group based in Hyderabad.

      I also wonder about what sort of mug submits before discovering that the publishing fee is, oddly, rather hard to locate.

      Oh well, I guess they must be cheap : they’re based in India, they probably only want a few rupees :)

      • Sankhya “The Indian Journal of Statistics”, http://sankhya.isical.ac.in/index.html, is highly respected, and always has been.

        As for Academic Ethics, get real. “Academia” is not a collection of clones. It’s as varied as humanity. Some parts of Academia are more aptly considered parts of professions, like Engineering, or IT, or medicine, or law, which have codes of practice. Indeed, I gave a lecture on ours just yesterday.

        The admitted poor behaviour of some academics (who get a lot more money than I do) is a result of *general* cognitive biases shared by most human beings. It is really easy to deceive ourselves, and really easy to forget that things we believe need just as much scrutiny as things we disbelieve. Amongst other things, sneering at “Academia” distracts our gaze from their paymasters.

      • Read the article – the fees were often thousands of dollars.

        Incidentally, PNAS charges “page fees ” too – if you read any articles there, ther is a disclaimer that the because of the fees charges the article should be considered as advertising!

      • That remark about India is revealing. Apparently you never heard of thinkers like Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, or Ramanujan. The only important difference between Indian science and the US, is that their crackpots appear foreign and strange to us, while fundamentalists building full-scale models of the ark and arguing in ignorance about evolution are just something we’re used to.

  3. Kind of ironic that someone who spends years dong his research would fail to research the journal he submits it to.

    • Many academics have problems understanding anything in real world terms. Common sense is not common in academia.

      They probably have computer model based on homogenised data which projects trends of prices between NY and Toronto out over the pole and down into India, assuming a linear trend.

    • Well I must be in the wrong business. I have had a great many peer reviewed papers printed by the US government Printing Office; well specifically the US Patent Office, but the fees for that have always been paid by somebody else, who have also pocketed ALL of the marbles. Well they did continue to pay my salary, plus a very nominal beer money adder. Fair enough; that’s the system there.

      But as to other publishers; I have given them a rather small number of papers over the years; usually at their request, and I have never ever paid them a brass Razoo for them to publish those papers; but also received nothing in return.

      But these days, my e-mail in box is constantly bombarded with requests for papers, but only from the two Professional Associations that I belong to. ( OSA, and SPIE).

      Optical Society of America is a sector of the American Institute of Physics, and the Society for the Prevention of Indigent Engineers is a more industry oriented outfit than Academic. Ooops I’m daydreaming again; that was supposed to be the Society for Photo Instrumentation Engineers; well or something closely akin to that idea.

      They keep asking for papers, and no I would never pay them a dime to publish anything I might send them.

      I wouldn’t even try to buy a senior coffee, in Hyderabad; let alone publish a paper.

      G

      • I was on a bus travelling through Hyderabad thinking of having a snack when I got off. I soon changed my mind after watching scores of men defecating and urinating openly in the streets and under flyovers and wondered if hands were washed by the sandwich sellers at the side of the roads! (I would never let anyone touch my paper- for- review in that place as it would probably be torn into small square pieces for purposes now known!).

      • Further to my missed lunch in Hyderabad. A report entitled ‘It’s No Joke – State of the World’s Toilets’ by WaterAid states that “If all 774 million people in India waiting for household toilets were made to stand in a line, the queue would stretch from Earth to the moon and beyond.”. (And no doubt the path would be paved with you know what!).

    • …or they absolutely know their research is, shall we say “suspect”, but they’re willing to make compromises/sacrifices (whatever) to get PUBLISHED

  4. From their website: “Established in the year 2007 with the sole aim of making the information on Sciences and technology “Open Access”, OMICS International publishes scholarly journals in all aspects of Science, Engineering, Management and Technology journals.”

    With the strong emphasis on ‘publish or perish’ in academia over that last several decades I am surprised it has taken this long for someone to develop the publishing scam to the level of OMICS Group, Inc. It has be a scam waiting to happen ever since “Al Gore invented the Internet”.

  5. While this may be old news, the corruption of scientific publishing that these “open access” models is profound. This group claims to publish 50,000 articles a year across its 700 publications (most of which are defunct). That these get published enables just about anybody to claim, “as peer reviewed research results show…”. Even when “peer review” is essentially payola.

  6. This would be a good article if there was a list of prominent papers in climate science that bought their way into publication and purchased an impact factor. Something on the reviewers, who they are, would be juicy, too. In this age of moral degradation, not many will care. Look at supporters of Hillary Clinton despite her ignored (by authorities) felonious behavior. No, unfortunately egregious amoral standards and behavior are no longer much of an impediment to opportunists. It’s the new elite-lefty touchstone: deny and spin (Alinski’s rules) until critics are numbed.

    I don’t know the virtues of this link but just type in Alinski’s rules and choose your own.

  7. Not surprised. I get email offers every day to publish papers in journals I’ve never heard of.

  8. If a main measure of academic performance is ‘publishing’ then this is a likely outcome.

    • A friend of mine is a Professor at a University (not a scientist, though), and if she doesn’t publish papers or books regularly she loses her job.

  9. I did a quick Google search for omics+publishing+group+climate+science. That field appears to be infected. For example:
    http://www.omicsonline.org/earth-science-climatic-change.php
    Journal of Earth Science & Climatic Change
    ISSN: 2157-7617
    Current issue:
    http://www.omicsonline.org/ArchiveJESCC/currentissue-earth-science-climatic-change-open-access.php
    Research Article: J Earth Sci Clim Change 2016, 7: 362
    doi: 10.4172/2157-7617.1000362
    India’s Energy-Climate Dilemma: The Pursuit for Renewable Energy Guided by Existing Climate Change Policies

  10. Many of those involved In the field of climate science (both alarmists and sceptical) have the mistaken notion that there is a rigorous peer-review system.

    First, many of the major Journals (e.g. Nature, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Journal of Atmospheric Science, Journal of Climate, Climate Dynamics, Journal of Geophysical Research, Climate Change) only employ scientific referees that support the alarmist position on global warming. If you try to submit a paper that even begins to question catastrophic global warming, there is little chance that you will survive the first review. In most case your paper will either be immediately rejected by the editor or rejected by the referee as soon as they read the abstract.

    How is this scientific peer-review?

    If you want to publish an idea or result that is outside the alarmist main-stream, you are forced to publish in obscure Journals like Climate Research (Germany), Advances in Atmospheric Sciences (Chinese), Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (U.K.) etc, However this avenue is only open to those with well established academic qualifications. Even here, the peer-review process is often long and arduous.

    How is this scientific peer review?

    This leaves many sceptics struggling to find a Journal that will even begin to consider their work for publication.

    Second, most Journals that publish sceptical research try to get around the blanket rejection of sceptical papers by employing a 50 % mixture of sceptical and alarmist external referees (and there are some alarmist referees who will give a fair review of the science, thought they are as rare as hen’s teeth) so that the editor can use their judgement to decide if the paper is acceptable. This works most of the time but breaks down when a sceptical Journal tries to produce a conference proceedings or a compendium of sceptical papers. In this case, there are so few external sceptical referees available (since most of the top sceptical scientists are actually publishing in the conference proceedings or the compendium) that they are forced to revert to “pal-review”.

    However, even though this so-called “pal-review” process is extensively used by alarmist Journals for their conference proceedings and scientific compendiums, the Sceptical editors open them selves up to a flood of criticism from the sceptical community because of their high standards for scientific integrity.

    In other words if you are sceptical researcher, you can’t win.

  11. GregK August 27, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Hello thank you for the link.
    I just glanced at the paper itself but was more interested in the authors.
    Odd that they would be using this venue, they seem to have been around the block enough to have better connections, unless they are like sessions plays with no gig.
    Next considering the international dispersal of the authors, ( not their nationality) who is picking up the tab?
    Are all of the authors contributing or are some ducking out and the varies Universities being hit up for the bill.
    There had to be a good sized squeaky wheel to get the Federal Trade Commission to act.
    I don’t think foreign authors at foreign universities would be noticed.

    michael

  12. The Journal of Irreproducible results might have to write a strongly worded letter. They’re stepping on their territory.

  13. I received a dozen or so solicitations to publish in various journals, all of them addressed “Dear Dr. Maley,” after having a letter to the editor accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The letter was to rebut the paper that claimed that girls hurricanes are more destructive than boy hurricanes; in spite of that, I was solicited by many journals, including one that covers obstetrics and gynecology. (My academic credentials consist of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, so in reality I am no more qualified as a scientist than Bill Nye the Science Guy.)

  14. I will only submit to a journal that I have cited several times in my paper.
    I receive solicitations to publish in the craziest journals compared to my field. “Functional foods”, engineering journals, green journals, medical journals. Since spam is free…
    Also note the danger of falling for the “invited speaker” ruse: for a conference on an amalgam of sciency sounding topics. Some people have paid the fee and gone to the conf and found no one there. I’ve even been invited to be a “keynote speaker” to a conf I’ve never heard of in some far off place like china or singapore on a topic not related to my field. Keynote indeed, the key to my wallet is more like it.

  15. India-based OMICS Publishing Group has just launched a new brand of scholarly journals called “SciTechnol.” This new OMICS brand lists 53 new journals, though none has any content yet.

    We learned of this new launch because the company is currently spamming tens of thousands of academics, hoping to recruit some of them for the new journals’ editorial boards.
    —————————————

    SciTechnol is the site where the BEST (Berkeley Earth) paper was published:

    http://www.scitechnol.com/2327-4581/2327-4581-1-101.pdf

  16. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2983/035.035.0101
    Predatory Open Access Journals, including “Pseudo-Journals”
    Paywall, but abstract and citations. Recall at the onset of internet discussions about putting your paper out there, no need for journals. Seen a little of this, wonder how common, peer review after the fact. Publish what you want.

  17. The first BEST paper was published as the first ever paper to appear in the fake OMICS journal Geoinformatics & Geostatistics: An Overview.

  18. the “pay to publish” and “pay to read” business is booming. it is a kind of fraud. the loophole is that research funding will pay publication fees. so in effect, the journals are siphoning off research funding.

    hopefully this whole journal thing will bite the dust as open access, open review online research sharing comes of age and takes hold.

  19. chaamjamal said:

    “hopefully this whole journal thing will bite the dust as open access, open review online research sharing comes of age and takes hold.”

    NASA looks to be making some progress:

    Public Access TO Results Of NASA-Funded Research.

    “NASA is using PMC to permanently preserve and provide easy public access to the peer-reviewed papers resulting from NASA-funded research. Beginning with research funded in 2016, all NASA-funded authors and co-authors (both civil servant and non-civil servant) will be required to deposit copies of their peer-reviewed scientific publications and associated data into NASA’s publication repository called NASA PubSpace.”

    http://www.nasa.gov/open/researchaccess/pubspace

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