(Translation of “Sobe para 235 lista de predatórios da pós-graduação brasileira”, April 3)
Thanks to the help of readers, it went up to 235 the count of academic journals of dubious reputation registered in the latest triennial evaluation (2010-2012) of the Brazilian graduate system, completed in November 2013 by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), the agency of MEC (Ministry of Education).
Another 34 titles of academic publications – 24 from a Nigerian publisher and 10 titles from a Pakistani publisher, which claims to be located in the United States, were added to the list that I had already pointed out in my post “Brazilian graduate programs accept 201 ‘predatory’ journals“ (Mar/09/2015).
All these journals are in the Qualis Periodicals online database, covering about 30,000 titles. Its rating levels A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 and C are also used in selection processes for hiring and promotion and on institutional and individual evaluations for scholarships and research grants.
The expression “predatory journals” has been used for some years to designate academic journals published by companies operating without scientific rigor an important scientific communication initiative that came up with the internet. This is the Open Access (OA), the editorial model of publishing articles in open access, funded by the academic institutions sponsoring their own journals or by charging fees from the authors of the studies.
Both in the OA as in the traditional model maintained by annual subscriptions or fees per downloaded article from the Internet, reputable journals take months or even over a year to review and accept articles, or reject them. Predatory publishers not only reduce to a few weeks the interval between submission and acceptance of articles, but are also less selective and rigorous in this process.
All these 34 now identified journals show bad editorial practices, such as lack of dates of receipt and acceptance of articles, which is a basic procedure of scholarly communication, or as the hasty acceptance of these works. The metadata analysis of the files of articles from these journals also points very often much later dates compared to publication dates, but without record in the text of any clarification or correction.
In addition to the reports on these irregularities, the Internet already had warnings from research institutions and scientists on these two publishers before their journals were evaluated by CAPES. In 2013, this work involved about 2000 experts spread over 48 advisory committees, each with a coordinator and two deputy coordinators – elected by the graduate committees of the whole country, with the support of an average of 20 consultants.
It is not difficult to find researchers who oppose the inclusion of these journals in the Qualis. But there have been rare those who are willing to publicly criticize this situation, as it has been shown by this blog (“The Qualis and the silence of Brazilian researchers“, Apr/01/2015).
One of the exceptions to this silence is the biologist Carlos Eduardo de Rezende, professor at UENF (Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense), with great research and teaching experience also in foreign institutions. When asked about the presence of 235 predatory journals in the Qualis, corresponding to 0.8% of the alleged total of about 30,000, he said:
“I do not find it acceptable and this has to be very clear. Although the absolute number represents a small percentage, all the journals that do not have rigorous academic controls should be banned and I think it is time to have a strong review within the criteria of the evaluation areas. There is not the slightest doubt about the perverse effect that this type of journal can generate for national and international science, as well as in the training of human resources, whether in undergraduate or graduate. By accepting articles without adequate review and without a major commitment to quality, these publications will be introducing a facilitation mechanism in the system that compromises the quality of the scientific information, by promoting the spread of information of low experimental value and, consequently, increasing damage to the training of young researchers”.
With 28 journals, 24 of them listed in the Qualis, the Nigerian publisher IRJ (International Research Journals) draws attention because their periodicals do not indicate the receipt and acceptance dates of their articles.
Since 2012 the publisher has been on the list of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers“ by the “Scholarly Open Access” blog, of the academic librarian Jeffrey Beall, professor at University of Colorado at Denver. At that time, the blog already was an international reference on this problem that was already worrying the scientific community.
Under the nose
In October 2013, when the triennial evaluation of CAPES was still being made, the IRJ should have drawn the attention of at least 13 of the 48 advisory committees of this agency of MEC. Earlier that month, a report by journalist John Bohannon, of the American magazine “Science”, pointed out one of the journals of this publisher among the 157 journals that confirmed the acceptance of an article purposely written by him with serious scientific flaws.
Also in 2013, the IRJ was again highlighted by Beall in a post on his blog in November. The publisher was banned by its Internet Service Provider in the United States, where it had previously registered its domain name due to the stubborn practice of sending spam proposing article publications to potential researchers.
Despite this embarrassing exposure that had worldwide repercussions, the Nigerian publisher and its 24 journals had no objections in the CAPES evaluation. Besides being one of the classified in this process, the same journal caught by “Science”, the “Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences“, got 13 ratings in the Qualis, ranging from “reasonable” B2 in the Teaching area to the lowest of all, C in five other areas such as shown in the following table.
This blog had already pointed out two other similar events, the first one with another Nigerian predatory journal and the second, with a journal from a traditional publisher (“The ‘quantum’ evaluation of scientific journals in Brazil“, Mar/16/2015). About these discrepancies, Professor Rezende from UENF, said:
“This problem was created by the scientific community itself when establishing that the difference between the areas should be the main criterion. But the time has come to review this individualized criterion. The journal, being good, shall have the same classification in all areas and, not being good, should be out of the system until it reaches a minimum level of quality”.
Despite the acceptance of its journals by the advisory committees of CAPES, in Nigeria the IRJ publisher and its compatriot Academic Journals have been criticized. This another predatory publisher was already mentioned in this blog in the post of Mar/09/2015 and also in the post “The Nigerian publisher and its fallacy of authority“ (Mar/26/2015).
Probably, the most recent evaluation of the international penetration of these two publishers was published in Jan/2015 in the “Learned Publishing“ journal, by Willie Ezinwa Nwagwu, of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Obinna Ojemeni of the University of South Africa.
According to this research, 5,601 articles by 5,699 authors were published by journals of these two publishers from Jan/2007 to Dec/2012. Nwagu and Ojemeni showed little penetration of these journals in the United States and Europe. And highlighted Brazil among the top ten countries that had papers published by both publishers. This is shown in the following table of a preliminary presentation of the study done in Sep/2014.
When quoting the Nigerian publisher Academic Journals for the first time in the post “In science, bad for Malaysia is good for Brazil“ (Mar/07/2015), this blog made the caveat that it “uses very similar name to the North-American Academic Journals Inc“. After returning to do this caveat in two other posts, a reader alerted me that, in fact, the publisher is Pakistani and is, moreover, predatory.
With a total of 57 journals with US ISSN codes, 10 of them listed in the Qualis, the Academic Journals Inc has an address in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in its domain name record. And indeed, it is in this country that are located the main persons for its editorial operations.
Beall was already watching this publisher since before starting his blog. In 2010, in a study published in “The Charleston Advisor“ journal, he had already identified predatory characteristics of journals from this publisher. These practices can be found by any researcher —a very short interval between dates of receipt and acceptance of articles or vague information about the editorial boards.
In response via email, Ochuko Omadoye, general manager of International Research Journals, said:
“First, the classification of IRJ as a possible or predatory journal is very shocking and unfair. This is because Mr. Jeffrey Beall is not a regulatory body. He is only expressing his opinion or dissent probably because is working for some publishers. (…) The criteria Beall gave for including publishers in his dream list we are not doing them. For instance, our journal is still at the infancy stage compared to other journals. However, we do not publish bogus papers. We do not publish papers because authors are willing to pay but the papers are published based on merit. Another thing he said concerning IRJ in particular is the way we solicit for papers to be published in our journals. Then, I ask, does soliciting for papers through email makes a journal predatory?”
The Academic Journals Inc did not respond to questions sent to its email address and through its website’s contact form.
Just as the case with any other specialist, I do not believe that the Beall’s list should be considered the final word about a publisher and its journals. But it is foolhardy to miss the use of the information produced by him as a starting point for a case by case assessment. In fact, as he himself recommends.
Questioned also in writing, CAPES replied that:
“In cases that there are evidences and references of incorrect or inadequate editorial practices towards the community, the journals are removed from the Qualis database and the articles published in them are not considered in the evaluation. Thus reiterating, this happened in the last triennial evaluation, when a few dozen periodicals were disqualified. Therefore, it was at the time of the last triennial evaluation, made in the fourth quarter of 2013, that ‘incorrect editorial practices’ (that until then had not been identified in previous years) were considered and such journals were removed and the articles not counted”.
The CAPES response is misleading. Contrary to what it claims, the removal of the journals did not happen “at the time of the last triennial evaluation”, in Nov/2013. This claim is contradicted by the resolution of its superior board itself, of 17/Jul/2013, that had authorized the removal four months earlier.
Moreover, unlike the statement that makes it seem that the triennial evaluation would have detected the journals that were removed, it was nothing of this nature that happened.
It is not true
The response of the federal agency omits that actually 66 journals had been removed by the Web of Science from its “Journal of Citation Reports” in Jun/2013. In view of this removal, widely and officially disseminated by the main scientific database of the world, CAPES was practically forced to remove the same titles from the Qualis, and quickly removed them in the following month.
CAPES did not report the exact number of journals currently ranked in Qualis.
To know the 235 predatory journals identified in the Qualis data base and their 13 publishers, click here.