If you’re a scholar or scientist, you know the value of being published in an academic journal. Unfortunately, some dishonest publishers also understand this — and have used it to profit from rather than promote legitimate advancements in research and academia.
In its lawsuit against OMICS Group — which operates hundreds of online journals in a variety of fields — the FTC says the company bombards people with emails soliciting articles, misrepresents the reputation of its publications, and doesn’t disclose that authors have to pay substantial fees — ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars — to be published.
OMICS Group allegedly claims its journals are peer-reviewed, edited by prominent academics, and that its articles are widely cited in other academic and scientific journals. Also, the FTC says OMICS tells aspiring authors that its journals are listed in reputable indexing services, such as PubMed, a database run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
But, in its lawsuit, the FTC says these statements are misleading, at best: OMICS often fails to peer review submitted articles, either providing authors with no comments at all or only minor, non-substantive edits. OMICS also falsely lists specific academic scholars as its journal “editors” without their permission. NIH has refused to include any OMICS journals in PubMed because of concerns about the integrity of its practices. Also, authors often find out about OMICS’ fees only after their articles have been accepted for publication. And even when the authors have asked OMICS to withdraw those articles, OMICS has published them anyway. This means that, under academic ethical standards, those authors can’t submit those articles to other journals.
Unscrupulous publishers can be difficult to spot. They often make themselves sound legitimate by overstating their reputation or by using journal names that sound similar to the names of reputable journals. If you’re considering publishing in a journal that you’re not familiar with, ask yourself these questions:
- What does your librarian have to say? Check with your university librarian to see if he or she has ever heard of the journal or the publisher. Your librarian also may be able to tell you if the journal is included in relevant indexing services.
- Are there any publication fees? A legitimate journal will tell you up front whether it charges publication fees or not. If a journal doesn’t mention fees, don’t assume there aren’t any – contact the journal or publisher and ask about any fees.
- What is the journal’s publishing process? A legitimate journal will clearly lay out its publishing process, peer-review practices, and author responsibilities.
If you’ve been approached or taken in by a predatory publisher, report it to the FTC.
Guest Author Lisa Lake, Federal Trade Commission