Page 15

NCS Currents June 2016

NEUROCRITICAL CARE ADVOCACY The Rise of Bogus Science – The Explosion of Predatory Journals By Peter Papadakos, MD Anyone currently active in academic medicine is being flooded with emails that offer to advance your academic career and move you up the promotion ladder. Some are invitations to edit a journal, join an editorial board, or even start a journal. There are also invitations to be a keynote speaker at an international conference. The most common solicitation is to submit your research for rapid peer review, some promising 24 to 48 hours to publication. Most of us are initially flattered. It is human nature to feel “singled out” for special attention. However, after brief contemplation and reviewing the invitation, it is clear that there may be a nefarious purpose to these honors and promises. Why am I being invited to edit a journal in nuclear physics, geopolitics, engineering, and even cancer research when I am in practice in neurocritical care? Let’s now look back to those thousands of emails that find their way to your inbox asking you to submit articles, edit journals, and speak at meetings. Emails provide an inexpensive method to advertise journals and solicit authors. Thus, the upfront cost of starting a new journal could be the few hours of time it takes to set up a website. This open access publishing system has led to an explosion in scientific literature. Open access is a legitimate model which is intended to expose the world to the free exchange of scientific and medical progress. Many of the standard medical and scientific societies offer open access publishing. These legitimate organizations will publish only after an article has been vetted by specific criteria, including a peer review and acceptance process. Your work is edited and in many cases there is an extensive list of changes that need to be made to your contribution. This has been the system in place for many years to help guarantee scientific truth. But open access publishing has also led to an explosion of predatory publishing. Rather than a genuine interest to disseminate science and provide a stringent peer review process, the overwhelming motivation is to generate revenue and profits for the publisher. They all work on the principle of the hidden processing fee. Take a moment and review that flattering invitation for your article with no mention of a fee. Their fees aren’t disclosed until after the article has been accepted or published and the author has signed a copyright agreement granting the publisher all the rights. This ruse ensures two results: first and foremost your work is essentially held hostage with threats made until processing fees are paid anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Second – and what I believe is more dangerous – is that due to sham peer review, the paper will lack all scholarly and medical credibility. Both the medical and lay public may be detoured into false therapies and treatments. These predatory journals and conferences sometimes list in their invitations robust editorial boards of internationally known experts. Many of these “editors” may have no idea they are listed. These esteemed, flattering lists of editors are there for only one purpose: to trap an inexperienced author into submitting a paper or joining the board, because if so-and- so invites me, this journal or conference must be a top tier publication or meeting. How can we educate our young colleagues to identify predatory journals and not submit their hard work to these corrupt organizations? Common sense and being streetwise may help to save them from both embarrassment and expense. First and foremost, be aware that overly flattering solicitations to submit articles or guest edit for journals you have never contacted is a red flag. Other red flags are poorly spelled, grammatically flawed invitations and a lack of contact information along with a publisher’s website that lists hundreds of unrelated scientific and social fields. The publisher’s owner is the editor of all of the organization’s journals. Several of the journals in different medical specialties have identical editorial boards. Fake impact factors may be claimed that cannot be confirmed. Authors can also utilize an online tool to check a journal’s credibility. Beall’s List of Scholarly Open-Access “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers (https:// scholarlyoa.com/publishers/ ), is one example and is updated regularly. Senior staff should also mentor students, residents and junior staff in the process of publishing and faculty/ professional development. We should steer our patients and their families to sites on the internet that are providing information that is peer reviewed and vetted. The American Society of Anesthesiologists has developed such a website and should be a first line of reference to patients and their families, for example. Peter Papadakos, MD is Director of Critical Care Medicine and Professor of Anesthesiology, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Surgery at the University of Rochester in New York. He is a member of the NCS Advocacy Committee and an invited guest writer for Currents. 15


NCS Currents June 2016
To see the actual publication please follow the link above