Dornadula Chandrasekharam
Former Chair Professor I I T Bombay, India

The game PJs play

“Publish or Perish” (PP) is the sword that hangs on majority of faculty working in institutes and universities. To publish a scientific paper, one should generate reasonably good data and present the same in a scientific format. Depending on the value / importance of the data and interpretation made, the paper may find a place in a decent scientific journal depending on the review report(s)  from subject experts. If the data and interpretations are reasonable, the reviewers suggest improvement to increase the value of the manuscript. The entire process may take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

There are several reputed/well established scientific publishers like springer and Elsevier. When a new journal is floated, it takes couple of years for the journal to earn an “impact factor”.  To get an impact factor is a difficult process for a new journal. The journal must establish itself in the scientific world and to get this credit the journal should attract good scientific papers. Faculty would like to get their work published in a well-established journal with a proven IF. Publication in a journal without IF is a setback for faculty to go up in their career.  The new journals seek the blessings from reputed authors/senior faculty to establish itself. As scientific and engineering fields are getting diversified day by day, new journals are being floated by well established publishers.

Because of PP rule, it takes time for faculty to get required credentials for their promotion for those who are already working and for those who are seeking decent faculty positions.  Greater that 90 % of research fellows completing Ph D seek faculty position. During their tenure as a research fellow mentors take care of them in getting couple of publications. After they leave their mentor  comfort zones, its is a rat race for the fellows in the open world for faculty jobs. This entire process is a cycle. The mentors too were once research fellows!!

Generation of data, writing scientific papers, publication and promotions are all interlinked. There is no short cut for the process.  This process takes time.

PP rule came in handy for unscrupulous publishers. It has become a great opportunity for these publishers to prey on the young faculty and provide them with a short cut to reach their goals.  Within a short span of 5 to 10 years hundreds of predatory journals (PJs) mushroomed in the scientific world. With fancy names, aims and scopes and most importantly a very attractive IF. These predatory journals start with an IF ranging anywhere from 0.5 to 5. Volume 1 and issue 1 of such journals will have an IF of 1!!

The PJs shook the scientific world. PJs emerged in all the scientific fields.  A large group of well established scientists published an article on PJs and publishers.  “Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”…..( Agnes Grudniewicz et al., Nature V 576, 12 Dec 2019)

The PJs  prey on young researchers who are keen to go up their  career with a better CV. Sometime even matured faculty and scientists fells for such PJs and this trend is continuing even now.

The PJs charge a fee for publication and publication time is very short, with out the process of peer-review and poor-quality check. Forget about the data presented. And in some cases the editor of PJs give a certificate of appreciation to the author. Never heard of an editor giving certificate of appreciation. Innocent authors are excited to receive such certificate (being their first publication) and post it on public media like LinkedIn.

Read a recent email I received from one of such PJs ( am sure many scientists must be getting such messages regularly!!)

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Earth Sciences

ISSN Online: 2328-5982 ISSN Print: 2328-5974

Open-access Journal Peer-review in Earth Sciences

ISSN Online: 2328-5982 ISSN Print: 2328-5974

Open-access Journal Peer-reviewing Rapid Publication (40-90 Days)g Rapid Publication (40-90 Days)

Dear Chandrasekharam, D,

Hope that everything is fine with you. Your paper published in JOURNAL OF THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF INDIA, which is entitled “Prof. Gautam Sen (1952-2019) OBITUARY”, has impressed us deeply. Due to your rich academic experience and excellent research accomplishments, we will feel honored if you could submit articles to our journal and join us as an Editorial Board Member/a Reviewer.

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Such PJs some time can not distinguish an “Obituary” and a scientific paper!!

A large chunk of papers are published from South Africa. The South African government spent between 100 million rand ($7.7 million) and 300 million rand ($23 million) over a 10-year period in subsidies for articles published in predatory journals, according to a South African Journal of Science study. South Africa, in a bid to improve its research output, offers a subsidy of about 100,000 rand ($7,700) for each academic article published. This has seen the country’s research output rise from 4,063 articles in 2005 to 10,789 in 2014 (https:// qz.com/africa/ 1080541/ south-africa-subsidizes-articles-in-peer-review-free-scam-academic-journals/). In a recent SA Journal of Science issue, education expert Prof J Mouton and his colleague stated that there has been a spike in the number of articles from SA researchers in PJs.   These scientists warned that “”subsidies from the Department of Higher Education and Training appeared to be driving a trend that could bring the country’s higher education system into disrepute and devalue the quality of scientific publishing ((https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/dodgy-articles-in-academic-journals-threatens-integrity-of-south-african-science-20170912)

Is there a way to discourage young faculty and research scholars from publishing in PJs?? Yes…it lies on the recruitment policy and recruitment board of institutes and universities that interviews faulty applicants. The process may be slow but it will certainly send a strong message to  these young faculty.

Experienced researchers / scientists can easily find out whether a journal if PJ or not. Quick tips are:-  PJs with few volumes published can not have an impact factor; The editorial team members profiles can be seen, assessed about their experience and capabilities to drive the PJs; Established journals will never contact authors or solicit articles from authors (with few exceptions); no established journals can publish papers in a week or two. It takes six to eight weeks or sometimes a year for the authors to get reviews on published papers. Each article will have submission date and acceptance date (sometimes revised date too) in a standard journal. Authors can check on it. Seeking help from mentors and supervisors is the best way to identify PJs.

About the Author
I am a Retired chair professor from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and currently teach at IIT Hyderabad. I have 200 publications in the above fields and have supervised 25 Ph D students.
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