The Federal Trade Commission strikes at “predatory journals”

by Greg Mayer

Jerry has written several times about “predatory journals“, and in the New York Times today comes news that the Federal Trade Commission has won a $50 million judgement against Omics International, an Indian company which is a major purveyor of said journals.

These allegedly scientific journals have little or no review process, and charge authors high fees– you can publish anything, as long as you’re willing to pay! Another characteristic of these so-called journals are badly written emailed appeals to just about anyone to submit papers, and even be an editor for the journal. These appeals– both Jerry and I get them– often come from journals having no relationship to the expertise of the recipient. The following is typical; note the non-idiomatic English, and the wholly inappropriate subject matter:

Dear Jerry A Coyne,

Christmas Greetings from – Annals of Thyroid Research and Endocrinology!! 

On the behalf of our Editorial office, we take privilege to inform you that we are in the process of releasing a Christmas issue by the month of December, as we are releasing an Issue for a special occasion we would like to invite you to contribute your valuable articles towards our journal.

We hope that your contribution towards our journal would help to increase the quality of our journal and would help the scientific community to the next level.

We are expecting your quick response.

With Gratitude,

James Williams
Editorial Board Assistant
thyroid@publicationweb.net

The Times article has some delicious details: summary judgment was granted because, “there are no material facts in dispute that warrant a trial”; some journals have legitimate people listed as editors who are not aware they are editors; and fake people can also be editors! Do read the whole piece.

Colleagues who have traveled to India have told me that their Indian colleagues are under great pressure to publish, and these journals may be an attempt to illegitimately satisfy and profit from those pressures. The journals are receiving pushback from scientists, libraries, and now the U.S. government. It remains to be seen, however, how successful this will be.

22 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I have a bad feeling that letter was for me – sorry about that PCC(E).

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      I joke but I wonder if the targeting was related to a crawling robot picking up my pseudonym on this website. ‘Course it’s more likely a random chance. Thyroid.

  2. Posted April 4, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Good! These predatory journals are pestilence.

  3. Denis Westphalen
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Can we add the Answers Research Journal to the list of “predatory journals”?

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted April 4, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I don’t think so. It is clearly advertised in the authors’ guidelines that, if you want to be published, your story must be set-up in a Young-Earth Creation (fantasy) World.

      If you don’t like the term “pseudoscientific”, you can call it a journal for fan-fictions.

      • BJ
        Posted April 4, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        They should just run a tumblr account. It would be a lot less expensive.

    • Draken
      Posted April 4, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      In the literary sense of “predatory”- that is, predating current science, yes.

      I’d rank it as hallucinatory science.

  4. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    To tell the truth, I rather enjoy the dopey letters in broken English inviting me to join an imaginary editorial board. There are worse things than predatory journals. For example, predatory, nuisance telephone calls. I often receive around 20 of these a day, all from scammers, hustlers, and robots. When will the FTC and the FCC get around to imposing some penalties on these operations?

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted April 4, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      +1!

  5. Posted April 4, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully good riddance. I receive their cr*p all the time. Maybe no longer.

    Note to Omics: Typically physicists know next to nothing about internal medicine.

  6. Ken Phelps
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I love a traditional roast Thyroid with endocrine stuffing at Christmas.

  7. ppnl
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they need to have a negative impact factor so publishing in these journals has a negative impact on the citation index.

  8. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m naive, but how do these predatory journals make money? The money they extort (well nearly) from contributors, and then?
    Are they actually sold? or what?

    • Posted April 4, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Since they have virtually no expenses, the money they get from authors is all profit. Remember that many authors don’t think of this as extortion but as part of their own scams to fool their universities. So Omics may have a very broad base.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Good! The prey kicks back.

  10. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 4, 2019 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Bugger. I thought they were talking about Elsevier and their exorbitant prices.

    I mean, who really gives a stuff about some spurious journal full of crap? It’s no more bother than all the other spam in my mailbox. What *is* a major annoyance is when some genuine information can only be accessed by paying through the nose for it to greedy extortionists.

    cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      SciHub is your friend. (Currently at https://sci-hub.se)
      The logjam is creaking, and every circumvention of the jam weakens it further.
      Typically, it is quicker for me to go to SciHub than it is to try to log in through OpenAthens (part of my Fellowship package) and then find out that this journal isn’t covered by that. More kicking at the logjam.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        Fortunately for me, being retired, that isn’t a problem I currently have any longer. I guess it’s only an issue for me as a taxpayer, I hate to see publicly funded education regarded as a feeding trough for commercial interests.

        cr

  11. Posted April 5, 2019 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    the wholly inappropriate subject matter

    That set me up nicely to read the title as

    Anals of Thyroid Research and Endocrinology!!

    On a separate note, nothing says “professional publication” like using two exclamation marks at the end of once sentence.

  12. Phil Garnock-Jones
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I got several of these today. One in particular was from Springer, for the Arabian Journal of Geosciences (I’m a botanist). Maybe the Springer logo etc was fake, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just forward them to the FTC from now on.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      If you’re dubious about the purported credentials, forward the mail to a customer complaints account at Springer (if such exists, otherwise, the CEO) and let them do the investigation work.

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    some journals have legitimate people listed as editors who are not aware they are editors; and fake people can also be editors!

    Has Hili considered extending her editorial brief to some of these journals? She’s not a primate, so “pay kibble, get kittehs!”

    Actually, that could be amusing.


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