Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring the predatory market for fake science, the paywall surrounding Cabell’s blacklist and the success of medRxiv

Fakers gonna fake fake fake fake fake publish in predatory journals? via EBM Live

Most articles on the topic of predatory publishing refer to scholars as prey, suggesting that they are vulnerable, naïve and not to be blamed. However, a study published online this week ahead of Evidence-Based Medicine Live has found that this may not always be the case. These journals exist because some researchers may actually be willing to publish in them. Scholars regularly receive emails from predatory publishers inviting them to contribute their manuscripts to such journals and asking them to pay what are often high article processing charges (APCs) for the ‘privilege’ of publishing without going through peer review. After receiving over 100 of these emails during a 4-month period, the author of this article decided to analyse them by extracting information from the publishers’ websites.

The majority of the journals featured in these emails belonged to the same few publishing companies and had very similar names to reputable peer-reviewed journals. The average APC for publishing in them was US$1690. The author of this article urges the scholarly community to discourage researchers from publishing in these journals, and to take steps to quantify the number of fake science journals and work out how to counter them.

The questionable value of blacklists stuck behind a paywall via The Publication Plan

Last week’s Open Pharma digest highlighted some researchers’ concerns about the presence of predatory journals on PubMed. The study discussed above also suggests that the scholarly community is becoming more aware of the existence of predatory publishers. With this in mind, it is reassuring to know that there are tools available to help to identify such publishers. In 2017, Cabell’s International launched The Journal Blacklist. Now featuring almost 12 000 titles, with 1000 more under consideration, the blacklist provides prospective authors with the means to validate their selected journal.

An article in The Scholarly Kitchen published earlier this year reviewed the qualities of Cabell’s blacklist, such as its well-defined inclusion criteria, detailed reasons for the inclusion of each journal and clear appeals process. Perhaps the main issue with this blacklist is that it is available only upon subscription. Given that a number of sources have suggested that the increased popularity of open access publishing has led to the rise of predatory journals, hiding this blacklist behind a paywall may seem, to some, counter-intuitive.

A look at medRxiv 10 days post launch via medRxiv

medRxiv, which is an initiative of The BMJ, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Yale University and was launched on 25 June 2019, has provided a much needed home for medical research preprints. Less than two weeks after its launch, the platform already hosts almost 50 preprint articles and is among the top 10 sites for preprints on knowledgebrowser.org. The first preprints added to the online archive covered a wide range of research topics – from machine learning in psychiatry to new biomarkers to predict cardiovascular risk. Despite the clear value of preprint servers, some researchers still debate whether these should feature articles based on the results of clinical trials. It will be interesting to see how medRxiv develops over the coming months once metrics such as citation and download rates are available.