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News Feature: Cross-Country Differences in Predatory Publishing

November 29, 2022, #23

Macháček and Srholec begin their article in MIT’s Quantitative Science Studies (2022) by noting that: “Predatory publishing represents a major challenge to scholarly communication.”¹ They describe predatory publishing as journals in which “[a]uthors are motivated to pay to have their work published for the sake of career progression or research evaluation”¹. In return the journals largely ignore the peer-review process, or simplify the reviewing to make it quick and mechanical. In this paper the authors sought to discover the geographical distribution of authors in predatory journals as defined in Beall’s 2016 list. One difficulty lies in identifying which journals to include. Beall’s lists are old, and, as the authors note, they “very likely to suffer from English bias.”¹ In preparing the study, the authors used a three step process in which they first tried “matching the lists of standalone journals and publishers by Beall (2016) with records in the Ulrichsweb (2016) database”¹. Then they sought data about the author’s home countries, and they “downloaded the total number of indexed articles by country from Scopus”¹. The analysis used “evidence from the period between 2015 and 2017”¹. They found that “Kazakhstan and Indonesia appear to be the most badly affected, with roughly every sixth article falling into the suspected predatory category. They are followed by Iraq, Albania, and Malaysia … South Korea is by far the worst among advanced countries. All countries on the top 20 list, excepting only Albania, are indeed in, or [physically] very near, Asia and North Africa.”¹ Since language could play a role, the authors checked that too: “English-speaking countries do not display significantly higher propensities towards suspected predatory publishing than Francophone areas or countries speaking other languages.”¹ Prosperity and income represented another factor that the authors considered: “The worst situation is in middle income countries, many of which recognize the role of research for development, and therefore strive to upgrade.”¹ In discussing weaknesses of their analysis, the authors admit that: “[a] major limitation of this study is that we can only speculate that the way in which research is evaluated in each country makes the primary difference…”¹ Ideally the analysis would have a metric about local pressures to publish, but that would have required a different research project.

 

1: Macháček, Vít, and Martin Srholec. 2022. ‘Predatory Publishing in Scopus: Evidence on Cross-Country Differences’. Quantitative Science Studies 3 (3): 859–87. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00213.

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