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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > September October 2017 > Predatory Journals: Write, Submit, and Publish the Next Day

Predatory Journals: Write, Submit, and Publish the Next Day

In 2012, journalist John Bohannon of the respected journal Science submitted a fictitious research paper to 304 open-access journals, of which 157 accepted his paper for publication. Bohannon used a fake name (Ocorrafoo Cobange) and a fake affiliation (Wassee Institute of Medicine); created a database of cancer cells, molecules, and lichens; and generated hundreds of unique papers using a computer program. The scientific content of each paper was identical and contained so many “grave errors that a competent peer reviewer should easily identify it as flawed and unpublishable” (Bohannon 2013).

In March 2017, another respected journal, Nature, carried out its own sting operation. It submitted a fake application for an editor position, a person woefully unqualified, to 360 journals, a mix of legitimate journals and suspected predatory journals. Forty-eight of the latter accepted her for the job, many on condition of paying a fee or donation first (Sorokowski et al. 2017).

Predatory journals can be defined as “publications [that take] large fees without providing robust editorial or publishing services.” They usually “recruit articles through aggressive marketing and spam emails, promising quick review and open access publication for a price. There is little if any quality control and virtually no transparency about processes and fees. Their motive is financial gain, and they are corrupting the communication of science. Their main victims are institutions and researchers in low and middle income countries ...” (Clark and Smith 2015).

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