(Translation of the post “Pós-graduação brasileira aceita 201 revistas ‘predatórias'”, March 9.)
By MAURÍCIO TUFFANI
Accused abroad of publishing scientific articles without the rigor and care of traditional publishers, 11 foreign (non Brazilian) academic publishers have together at least 201 journals in the latest triennial ranking of the Brazilian graduate programs, done in 2013 by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), agency of MEC (Ministry of Education).
These 201 journals are in the online Qualis Periódicos database, of CAPES, which brings together about 30 thousand titles and serves to guide researchers, professors and graduate students to choose scientific publications for their work.
Alerts already existed on the Internet from institutions and scientists and also reports about these 11 publishers before their journals were evaluated by 48 advisory committees, each with a coordinator and two assistant coordinators – elected by graduate committees from all over the country —with the support of an average of 20 consultants. The study involved about 2000 experts.
The inclusion of these 11 journals “predatory publishers” in Qualis was considered a “serious flaw” of CAPES by 15 renowned scientists from Brazil heard by this blog in the past two weeks. Almost all of them, however, preferred not to be identified in order not to antagonize with the agency of MEC and, above all, with their own colleagues and their respective teams that publish in these journals.
The triennial rankings are based on information about journals in which articles were published during the assessment period, according to information provided by all the graduate committees. Failure to include them in Qualis means that articles published would not count points to the rise in academic careers or to request grants and support for research, travel and participation in conferences.
For 11 of these 15 interviewed, the responsibility by the inclusion of these journals in the Quais is mostly due to much of the scientific leaders of the country, who should prevent, in their research groups, publishing articles in journals from “predatory” publishers. All them considered harmful to graduate programs and to research in Brazil the publication in these journals that are discredited and virtually ignored by the international scientific community.
One of the exceptions to this anonymity was the biologist Sidarta Ribeiro, professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and one of the most respected Brazilian researchers in neuroscience. In June last year, he had criticized the CAPES for “valuing quantity over quality” in a note in the journal “Nature”, one of the most renowned in the world, who had chosen him to comment on Brazilian science.
Noting that research requires time and investment in equipment, materials and wages —almost entirely supported by public funds in Brazil—, Ribeiro said that important scientific works are at high risk of being wasted when they are published in lower quality journals. “These magazines could never have entered in Qualis” said the neuroscientist.
On Friday (Mar/06/2015), as shown by this blog with the post “Fake Professor edits journal selected by CAPES“, three of these journals are published by IACSIT (International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology), based in Singapore. Asked by this blog, Ron Wu, executive director of publisher, said the following.
“Because we are a new publisher, we must admit that we do not have any comparison with the renowned publishers, who have better presentations, published articles and more mature review process in all aspects of the journals. The IACSIT is still growing, and I think we will do better in the future”
The “predatory publishers” are characterized on websites of research institutions and on blogs of scientists of different countries as business people who exploit without scientific rigor the editorial model of articles publishing in open access on the Internet, based on the collection of authors’ fees.
Both in the online open access, with fees paid by authors, as in the traditional model maintained by annual subscriptions or fees per article download from the Internet, the reputable journals take months or even over a year to review and accept articles, or rejected them.
Accused of prioritizing minimizing costs and maximizing profits, the “predatory publishers” not only reduce to a few weeks the acceptance of articles, but are also less selective and rigorous in this process, as explained by the journalist Fernanda Perrin in her report “Paid, published” in Folha de S. Paulo on Jan/25/2015.
These editors are focused on meeting the expectations of authors of quick and easy publications, but ignore the needs of society of only publish good quality research, according to the academic librarian Jeffrey Beall, professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, who keeps since 2011 a list of “potential, possible or probable predatory publishers” in his blog “Scholarly Open Access”.
“The more items they accept and publish, the more money they make,” Beall said. “The practice of authors who make payments to journals created a lot of corruption in academic publishing”.
In addition to its journals, some “predatory publishers” also found a new way to make money with events. In Brazil, 116 scientific conferences in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled for the same hotel on Feb/1-2/2016, were organized by WASET (World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology), as shown by the report “Slot machines” scientific events worries Brazilian scientists“ (Mar/03/2015).
Despite the word “academy” in its name, the WASET is a publisher. Although discloses its location as Riverside, USA, its contact telephone number, and only for SMS, is a mobile from UAE. And besides invalid, the four records of their magazines in QUALIS are from Turkey, according to the numerical international registration of ISSN journals, based in Paris.
Websites such as the Quantum Technology Laboratory of the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, the ENNS (European Neural Network Society) and blogs of scientists, collect negative statements against WASET.
The reports explain that the series of conferences become one, combining different areas of expertise and serving only for the publisher to profit from registration fees. WASET did not respond to the questions sent Tuesday (Mar/02/2015) by this blog on these statements.
The position of institutions against “predatory publishers” do not only happen in countries with strong scientific tradition and academic publication, but also in the so called emerging countries.
As shown by this blog on Saturday (Mar/07/2015) with the post “In science, bad for Malaysia is good for Brazil“, since 2010, the Ministry of Higher Education of that country does not recognize articles of its researchers in journals from the Nigerian publisher Academic Journals —which uses similar name to the US Academic Journals Inc— and also does not give financial support for the publication of studies in them.
But in Brazil, 13 journals of Academic Journals are in Qualis despite warnings on the Internet about the poor quality of academic publishers of Nigeria in vehicles on scientific communication, such as the Scidev.Net (Jan/21/2013), and by the journal “Nature” (Mar/27/2013). Also since 2010 several academic reports from Malaysia already included this publisher in their reminders about Periodicals not recognized by the country’s higher education system due to unethical practices and other reasons.
The Academic Journals did not respond the questions of this blog sent on Tuesday (Mar/03/2015) by its “contact us” form, typical of many of the ill-respected academic publishers that do not provide email contact.
Another exception to the anonymity among scientists who have spoken out against the acceptance of “predatory journals” in Qualis was the physicist Roland Koberle, a retired professor of University of Sao Paulo and member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. “It is very strange this fact”, said the researcher referring to the inclusion of the WASET publisher, of Singapore, by CAPES. He said Qualis has an obligation to warn users about fraudulent journals.
In addition to “predatory” journals being accepted in Qualis, they often also receive different classifications by its 48 area committees. One of the freak examples of this multiplicity of ratings, that are not rare, is the JMPR (Journal of Medicinal Plants Research) of the Nigerian Academic Journals.
This journal received from the committee of Biological Sciences I the maximum rating A1. It did not get A2, but received the immediately next level B1, from the areas Interdisciplinary, Environmental Sciences and Agricultural Sciences I, besides B2 from Nutrition, Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Medicine I, Medicine II and Engineering I.
But the classification of JMPR starts to get weird with the low level B3 in Food Science, Pharmacy and Physical Education. And gets worse with very low level B5 not only from the chemistry committee, but also precisely from Biological Sciences II. And on top of that, a disparity with an area very close that gave it the maximum level, the journal received C in Biological Sciences III.
The other side
With 120 journal titles, 11 of them listed in Qualis, MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute), registered in Switzerland, but with its operations concentrated in China, emphasizes the correct fulfillment of the peer review, and noting that Beall has no PhD, says his blacklist is “unnecessary and unreliable”. In recommending a webpage of his website that explains the accusations against his company, Shu-Kum Lin, president of MDPI says:
“Serious critique of any paper published in our journals is very welcome and should be addressed to the editors of the journal. Discussions, criticism and proposal to help to improve other aspects of open access publishing service are also appreciated.”
Based in China and with about 200 journals, SCIRP (Scientific Research Publishing) has 38 journals in Qualis. Its president Barry Zhou recommends reading the questions and answers webpage of his blog and also his posts of January and December 2014, in which he states:
“Beall’s expertise is not sufficient to make a scientific evaluation of the content of the papers in so many diverse fields. The statement can be dismissed.”
With approximately 500 journals, 30 of them in Qualis, the publishing group OMICS, based in Hyderabad, India, announces on its website “21 day rapid review process”, answered by noting that:
“The open access journals published by the OMICS International undergo a mandatory quality checking procedure and follows a standard peer review policy where each submitted article undergoes a thorough review process by the experts in the relevant fields.
OMICS International is proud to declare that we are associated with more than 1000 reputed well established academic societies, and eminent personalities crowning the editorial boards of the journals.”
Wenwu Zhao, of CCSE (Canadian Center of Science and Education), with 12 journals in Qualis, said that the blog “Scholarly Open Access” of Jeffrey Beall, “is a personal blog full of personal assumptions and biases”, and he “tries to build his own name by libeling others”. Stating that the CCSE developed a “serious system” for articles selection and that the overall rate of acceptance of proposed works by authors is about 55%, he said “more selective than other journals in this industry”. He added:
“Many CCSE journals have been indexed by Scopus, PubMed, and other renowned databases, which are more responsible, serious, and rigorous than Beall’s list”.
The editorial group Bentham Science Publishers, owner of the “predatory” Bentham Open, which has 140 OA titles, including 43 in Qualis, manifested itself in a mail sent by its publication’s director Mahmood Alam, after the closing of this report, in which he stated:
“A strict, standardised review process is followed for all our publications. The Editors of our journals enjoy complete editorial freedom subject to our standard quality control procedures”.
Without commenting on the statements of the “Scholarly Open Access”, the director said that his publishing group has 25 years of “serious” experience and 39 journals with impact factors, being “some of them being the leading journals in their respective fields”. However, the examples of high-impact journals appointed by him are not, in fact, published by Bentham Open, but by Bentham Science, which does not adopt OA.
Nothing to declare
Besides the Nigerian Academic Journals, other publishers considered “predatory” that also did not respond to questions of this blog were David Publishing with 12 journals in Qualis, IJENS (International Journals of Engineering and Sciences) with 3, Science Publications with 14 and WSEAS (World Academic Science and Engineering Society) with 17.
And, almost as copy-and-paste of what I said in this blog on posts Saturday (Mar/07/2015) and Friday (Mar/06/2015), note that the MEC agency said on Thursday (Mar/02/2015) that it will not make more comments, claiming that all that it could be said is already in a note sent the week before the last week.
The CAPES note, which can be read in full on the report “Slot machines scientific events worries Brazilian scientists“, dismissed the questions about irregularities in the inclusion of other journals. According to the evasive answer, the inclusion of journals in the Qualis is based in the Brazilian academic production during the period corresponding to the quality rating of graduate programs.
The agency also claimed that
“in cases where there are evidences and references of incorrect or inappropriate editorial practices towards the scientific community, the journals are removed from Qualis”.
In other words, the 201 journals from these 11 publishers entered Qualis because professors and Brazilian researchers published thousands of articles in them during the period from 2010 to 2012. But the note does not explain why about 2000 experts from 48 advisory committees of the MEC agency did not see objections to these publications.
To know the 201 journals from these 11 publishers, click here.