Sham journals harm scholars | Sunday Observer

Sham journals harm scholars

24 October, 2021

Today’s article summarises how to identify predatory journals. The significant increase in the number of sham or bogus journals during this period possesses a threat to academic communications. Many fake journals often do not have a proper review process and are not frequently indexed. Although these journals do not have a proper review process, there is a fee for publishing research papers.

Lack of proper quality control, inability to distribute research effectively and lack of transparency in article review activities weaken the credibility of research articles published in these journals. Publishing in high quality international journals is a difficult task these days. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of funding for research and development.

Due to the pressure and competition to publish their scientific publications in international journals, those who remain in the field use the shortest and easiest way to publish their scientific work. These short and easy routes can have long-term damage to the academic life. Fake journals and publishers are organisations that prioritise self-interest and are characterised by false or misleading information, lack of transparency and unethical practices.

Academic standards

These days, it has been identified that the fastest way or short cut to publish a research paper in a journal is to send papers to a journal managed by a predatory crew. Often the publishers of these journals run their journals like commercial businesses.

The main purpose and goal of these journals is not to select articles based on academic standards, but to get as many research articles as possible for a fee. I have sometimes seen some veteran scientists publish in fake journals. I don’t think they did this on purpose. They may be trapped by fake publishers.

In some cases, as a relief, research teams publish in bogus journals out of frustration at repeated rejection by other journals. Fake journals, as well as fake conferences, are commonplace. There are times when veteran scientists come up for discussions at fake seminars or conferences. It is unthinkable that experienced scientists would intend to participate in discussions at fake conferences.

Over the past few years, there has been a wide-ranging discussion about the imposition of forcibly abducted journals on the academic world due to the huge increase in the number of fake publishers and fake websites. Counterfeit journals make money largely by stealing the identities of legitimate journals and collecting processing fees for research papers submitted to journals.

Fake publishers have defrauded thousands of scholars and doctoral students in developing countries. It is apparent that many fake journals target their victims using web development measures and intelligent ideas. Today’s article summarises some simple methods that can be used to identify fake academic journals as a short term solution. Also, by reading this article, scholars can gain an understanding of the existence of counterfeit journals/publishers and establish a new model for assessing the quality of academic research.

Editorial policy

Many fake journals have a wide scope. The scope of interest includes non-life science subjects as well as life sciences based topics. Genuine journals maintain a good editorial policy and have specific areas of interest. If a journal related to cancer publishes articles on physics, you can accept that they have no proper editorial policy.

These journals often have good looking and professionally attractive websites. But many websites have spelling and grammar errors. Poor use of language indicates a low professional standard.

Fake publishers’ websites, on the other hand, use a variety of colours or decorations to attract attention. Many fake journals invite you personally by email to become a member of the journal’s editorial board.

Fake journals often contain fake scholars, or list scholars without their consent. You can always check the academic status of any scholar through their university or institute page. Professional academics have an academic email ID or personal research portal.

It is also vital to confirm that the journal has verifiable contact details. Sham journals often mention that their offices are located in one country and another contact details. Keep eye on the country code of the phone or fax number given. Also, you can check the accuracy of their locations by checking the time of their incoming emails. You can expect replies anytime from fake journals. Peer-reviewing is essential to advance the quality of scientific articles and journals. If the journal has specific quick peer review timelines, be sure to find out more information about them.

High quality journals mention review policy online. Many bogus journals publish any type of article they receive within a short period of time (rapid publication).

Fake archives

Read archives of the journal. Check the year of the first volume got published. Fake journals have fake archives. In fake journals, figures are distorted/obscure or unauthorised. Quality figures always give a good estimation about a journal. Fake journals don’t give a description on the manuscript handling process. They hide it.

Unlike quality journals which have an online system to upload manuscripts, predatory journals request manuscript through emails. Sometimes, they ask for a paper with 2-3 pages even. Also, bogus journals have no retraction policy. Publication fee is very low in some fake journals.

They fail to state copyright. They also mention fake indexing and fake impact factors. Publishers of fake journals do not form a recognised organisation. Moreover, fake journals have a few articles from international authors. They do not give proper author guidelines.

There is a database available, called Beall’s list (, to identify potentially bogus journals. It is developed by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado. By simply entering the publisher’s name and or its URL, you can search whether a journal is potentially predatory or not.

As a scholar, you should always check if the journal you want to publish is genuine. If a journal is indexed by Journal Citation Reports (JCR) or Web of Science master journal list (, it is usually a good indicator that the journal is genuine.