By : Prof Ir Ts Dr Zainuddin bin Abd Manan
Experts across the academic world have yet to reach a consensus on what constitutes a “predatory journal” even after ten years since the term was first coined in 2010. This is not surprising given that nearly 100 different checklists exist to differentiate the bona fide journals from the fake ones, and that many of the lists tend to have contradictory criteria.
There are even stark differences in opinions on the use of “predatory” as a term to refer to unscrupulous journals that compromise publication quality and integrity for profit and personal gains. I would therefore prefer to use the term “fake journals”, to refer to what is unanimously regarded in academia as a threat to responsible and healthy proliferation of academic and research scholarship. Burgess-Jackson K (BJK), in his 2020 scholarly article “Why I Publish in Predatory Journals – and why You Should, Too” argued that the “true predators (exploiters, oppressors and plunderers)” better fits the wealthy multinational publishing corporations “who treat researchers and authors as slave laborers”.
BJK’s criticism is especially scathing to me personally as an academician who spent decades of my career surrendering ownership of my intellectual properties (IP) by transferring copyright for free to the so-called “reputable journals” owned by wealthy corporations who became filthy rich by selling the IPs of mine and others to libraries. BJK’s assertion about the wealthy publishing corporations as being the ruthless exploiters of authors and researchers is nonetheless, an open secret. Top universities like Harvard, University of California, NTU and many others in the USA and beyond have long encouraged their communities to go open access (and not go fake, obviously) in order to make their research freely available while retaining their IPs and avoiding exploitations by the so-called “reputable” publishers that “keep authors’ articles behind paywalls”.
In the light of reasonable doubts about what truly constitutes predatory journals and publishers, one could well imagine how amused the world might be at the hyper reactions of some quarters to an article about the alleged infiltration of “predatory journals” in scopus. The said article is authored by two Czech researchers who based their findings on a Jeffrey Beall’s list. For the record, Beall, a librarian, compiled his list of predatory journals based on criteria that was widely said to be lacking transparency and is best known to Beall himself. Under threat of being sued, Beall’s list was discontinued in 2017 presumably over some credibility issues.
The aforementioned facts had not stopped the hysteria among the oblivious (those who might have found their cheese being so shockingly re-moved making them so desperately craving attention in the blistering pace of the 21st century world); to the point of their categorically and blindly cutting and pasting the term “predatory” and paragraphs of the Czechs’ article to taint the academic communities, world university ranking and academic promotion exercise with their same broad and filthy brush.
Let me end this posting with my uncharacteristically less diplomatic note.
The next time you are hungry, do yourself a favor. At least, check the labels before gobbling your “prey”.
You are either the True Predators yourself, or are blissfully ignorant of ethical writing to be so gung ho and shameless in blindly spreading the cherry-picked findings of a 3rd-party article whereby its limitations have been so clearly spelt out in a disclaimer by the authors themselves, and its source of data criticised as lacking of transparency and credibility.
Prof Ir Ts Dr Zainuddin bin Abd Manan is the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and International, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
He is also a Professor at Faculty of Engineering, UTM