News Brief by Kip Hansen
Appearing yesterday in Science magazine online is the news that “A U.S. federal judge has ordered the OMICS International publishing group to pay $50.1 million in damages for deceiving thousands of authors who published in its journals and attended its conferences. It’s one of the first rulings of its kind against one of the largest publishers accused of so-called predatory tactics.” [source: all italicized quoted text from Science mag ]
“Judge Gloria Navarro of the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, granted summary judgment without a trial, accepting as uncontroverted a set of allegations made in 2016 by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington, D.C., in its capacity as a consumer watchdog. The ruling also bars OMICS from similar future conduct.”
OMICS and the many sub-groups of its 700 or so online journals, was found guilty of:
- FAKE PEER REVIEW: “OMICS, which publishes about 700 journals in scientific and other fields, advertised deceptively that it provided authors with rigorous peer review overseen by editorial boards. Instead, its journals approved many articles for publication in a matter of days with no substantive feedback to authors, FTC alleged. The judge relied in part on the findings of an investigation published by Science in 2013; its author, journalist John Bohannon, submitted a deposition to the court. Of 69,000 manuscripts published by OMICS from 2011 to 2017, the publisher provided evidence that only half had been sent out for peer review.”
- PAY TO PUBLISH: “Despite this lack of actual peer review, OMICS’s solicitations to authors didn’t make it clear enough that it would charge them to publish articles in its open-access journals. Some authors complained and asked OMICS to withdraw their articles, but OMICS refused, preventing authors from submitting them to other publications.”
- FAKE LIST OF REVIEWERS: “OMICS advertised its 50,000 reviewers as experts, but some never agreed to serve, and OMICS continued to publicly list some scientists as reviewers even after they asked to be removed.”
- FALSIFIED IT OWN IMPACT: “The publisher advertised that its journals had high impact factors, a measure of their editorial quality. But it didn’t sufficiently reveal that OMICS itself generated its own “unofficial impact factor” for some of its journals based on citations in Google Scholar. OMICS also incorrectly stated that its journals are indexed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline and PubMedCentral.”
- HELD FAKED CONFERENCES: “OMICS organized scholarly conferences and advertised that prominent academics would attend. But a sampling of 100 conferences indicated that 60% named organizers or participants who had not agreed to serve in that capacity.”
[source: all italicized quoted text from Science mag ]
The depth of this fake journal problem is hard to convey — but the amount of the fine ought to give you some idea.
This ought to be Good News for the BerkeleyEarth project, best known for its BEST surface temperature products and its now famous first paper “A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011” which was published as the first ever paper in the first ever edition of the fake OMICS / SCITECHNOL e-journal Geoinformatics & Geostatistics: An Overview.
“FTC has a database of authors who submitted manuscripts to journal articles whom it will contact if it recovers funds to share”, Ashe said [Gregory Ashe, FTC staff attorney on the case]. “Scholars who want to ensure that FTC knows of their claims can file a complaint through the agency’s website. Anyone worldwide can submit a claim.”
[It has been reported to this author, in blog comments long since buried, that OMICS/Scitechnol did not charge BerkeleyEarth for publishing their paper. Too bad, maybe they could have gotten their money back. I’m not a lawyer, but I think they might still be able to apply for monetary damages, it does say that “Anyone worldwide can submit a claim.”.]
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Author’s Comment Policy:
I really dug into this topic back in 2013, following on to Jeff Beall’s work and an article in Science. The “pay-to-publish” scam is very successful in that it fills the need of so many scientists and academics that must Publish or Perish. Paying a predatory journal to publish one’s work, with little or no real peer-review, can jump-start a career. Most of these journals offer opportunities to deliver their “important work in the field” at conferences that just happen to focus on the topic of one’s paper — attending conferences is a career boosting activity as well.
If I had the extra money to waste, I bet even I could get a paper published in Geoinformatics & Geostatistics: An Overview . Problem is, I’d know it was a fake.
I’d like to read any experiences readers have had with these types of journals — if your story is too embarrassing, you could use a new, one-time screen name like “FakeJournalVictim”. (You do have to use a real email address — your email will not be visible to the public.)
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