Colleges boost junk journals in India: Study

Kolkata, Dec 16 (IANS) Over 50 per cent of publications in predatory journals come from researchers affiliated to private/government colleges within India, says a study which also sheds light on the contribution of national institutes to such poor quality open access (OA) junk journals.

The assessment highlights the “publication pressure” among researchers and the “lack of monitoring of the research being conducted” as the major factors contributing to articles published in poor-quality predatory open access journals from India.

“It was found that private/government colleges contribute to about 51 per cent of predatory publications, followed by private universities, state universities, national institutes, central universities and industries, for research articles published from September 2015 to mid-February 2016,” said corresponding author G.S. Seethapathy in a study published in Current Science.

“This suggests that research conducted at these educational institutes is not critically monitored either by the respective university or by UGC,” said Seethapathy from the School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, at the University of Oslo, Norway.

The co-authors of the analysis are J.U. Santhosh Kumar, Department of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Biotechnology, Jnanasahyadri, Kuvempu University, Shankaraghatta, Shimoga (also in GKVK, Bengaluru) and A.S. Hareesha, in the School of Ecology and Conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bengaluru.

Culled from 3,300 articles from randomly chosen 350 journals, the data shows well-ranked private universities contribute 18 per cent in predatory publications while state and central universities were responsible for 15 and three per cent, respectively, of the junk publications.

About 11 per cent of papers in such bogus journals are ascribed to researchers from national institutes of India.

Distribution of corresponding authors in predatory journals from various national institutes of India shows that out of the 11 per cent publications from national institutes, ICAR labs lead with 17 per cent, closely followed by CSIR at 15 per cent, NITs and IITs (11 and nine per cent, respectively) and ICMR at six per cent. Other national institutes clocked in their contributions at 42 per cent.

Jeffrey Beall — a library scientist at the University of Colorado, at Denver, in the US — coined the term ‘predatory publishers’ to describe publishers in the scholarly publishing business who collect article processing charges and provide rapid publishing without a proper peer-review process. The term ‘predatory journal’, or ‘pseudo-journal’, is used for publications brought out by such publishers.

The authors also impress upon the duality in scientific publishing in India.

Though the Nature Index analysis 2014 rates India at the 13th place for its high-quality scientific publications, several studies have revealed that India is also among the major contributors of articles published in poor-quality predatory open access journals, they say.

“Therefore, the objective of the present study was to estimate which category of educational and research institutes predominately publishes in predatory open access journals in India and to understand whether academicians in India are aware of predatory journals,” the authors said.

They say that at present a large section of the country’s public research is concentrated in national research centres as well as in a few central and state universities.

“These major government academic institutions are capable of producing high-quality scientific research and publications. India is also home to a large number of private universities, private deemed universities and private and government colleges affiliated to central or state universities. These second-level academic institutes have published more in poor-quality OA predatory journals, which in turn makes India among the biggest contributors of predatory articles,” the study said.

Muthu Madan of DST Centre for Policy Research, Archives and Publication Cell, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, said the world looks at India as “an epicentre of predatory publishing”.

“The authors of the study have handled the data very well and they have put forward their arguments very logically. There is a rule which says that you have to publish a paper in a journal to get through your M.Tech or Masters degree in engineering. This rule is being exploited by these publishers. Academic institutes and funding agencies should act on this problem immediately. This has already brought a bad name to Indian science and scholarship,” Madan told IANS.