Why academics compete to publish their work in 'predatory journals'

Researchers and academics are increasingly competing to submit their work to "predatory journals" — journals with titles similar to existing publications that many well-meaning academics are effectively tricked into, or sometimes voluntarily submit content for, according to a recent The New York Times report.

Universities rely on published research to bolster the school's reputation as well as the researcher or academic's own prospects. However, as jobs at premier institutions become harder to obtain, experts suggest scholars have increasingly begun to submit research to these predatory journals knowing full well they are not legitimate publications — an act experts call academic fraud because its wastes taxpayer money, chips away at scientific credibility and muddies important research, according to the report.

Experts cite more than 10,000 of these journals in recent years. Many of those publications' names mimic the names of well-known journals. For example, Springer issues a publication titled the Journal of Economics and Finance. However, the Journal of Finance and Economics also exists — except it isn't a real journal.

These journals have few expenses because they do not seriously review submitted content before publishing it online. The publications also reportedly bombard academics at various institutions with emails inviting them to publish their research, offer them opportunities to attend conferences, and proceed to list those who agree to attend as attendees regardless of whether they actually attend the event.

The issue with such journals is that academics who use the publications to pad their resumes are often rewarded for their efforts through promotions, according to the report. Even more significant is that the published research becomes part of the existing body of scientific literature on the subject.

Dewayne Fox, PhD, an associate professor of fisheries at Dover-based Delaware State University, suggests the effect of publishing potentially faulty research through predatory journals on topics such as medicine or healthcare may pose significant health risks.

"If something gets published in one of these journals and it's complete garbage, it can develop a life of its own. Think about human medicine and how much is on the line. When people publish something that is not replicable, it can have health impacts," Dr. Fox told The New York Times.

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