The scourge of predatory publishing is largely seen as a problem for the scientific and medical communities. Librarians advising about publishing in scholarly journals routinely warn researchers to beware of the enticements of predatory publishers with their siren calls to not only publish but also join editorial boards. They refer researchers to the Think. Check. Submit. website (thinkchecksubmit.org) for guidance. If there was a speed dial for websites, Retraction Watch (retractionwatch.org) would be on it. However, it’s rare that Retraction Watch finds articles in business journals. Does that mean predatory publishing is of no importance to the business world? Are there no predatory journals targeting business researchers?
Strangely, as I typed that last sentence, a new message popped up in my inbox inviting me to send a manuscript to a journal, International Journal of Business Management and Commerce (IJBMC) . It purports to cover the fields of business and management, banking and finance, and social science and humanities. That certainly covers a lot of ground! It promises both online and print publication and it guarantees acceptance within 5 to 7 days of receiving my manuscript. The publisher is The Center for Contemporary Research.
I am not the only person to have received this email. Law professor David H. Kaye, in his Flaky Journals blog, reproduces the email he received from the “Chief Editor” of IJBMC in February 2019 (flakyj.blogspot.com/2019/02/center-for-contemporary-research-ccr.html). It’s an exact replica of the email I received 5 months later. Kaye writes, “The Center for Contemporary Research is an elusive publisher.” He found several other journals, equally duplicitous, from definitely questionable “research” centers and tracks them all down to an address in Bangladesh.
BACKGROUND OF PREDATORY
The term “predatory,” prefacing both publishers and journals, was coined by Jeffrey Beall, then a librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, now retired. He hasn’t entirely retired from his interest in predatory journals, however, as can be seen by following him on Twitter (@Jeffrey_Beall). He published an extremely controversial op-ed in the Times Higher Education, Feb. 7, 2019, with the title “Glamorised Study Halls Do Not Need an Army of Librarians” (timeshighereducation.com/opinion/glamorized-study-halls-do-not-need-army-librarians; registration required). He also continues to give interviews to other publications. His opinions are not particularly favorable toward librarians.
His Beall’s List was famous (some prefer to call it “infamous”) for calling out publishers and journals he felt used deceptive practices, purporting to be peer-reviewed when they weren’t, and accepting almost any manuscript sent to them. All the entries on his list were open access (OA), leading some to believe he had a vendetta against OA. That didn’t stop librarians from checking it when warning researchers about publishing in problematic journals.
Although he abruptly discontinued his “Beall’s List” in 2017 and killed off its URL, many librarians still refer to an archived version (beallslist.weebly.com). The owner of the Weebly site is anonymous, but does occasionally add up dates to the list, the latest of which was May 2019. Other sources for lists of predatory journals are the List of Predatory Journals site (predatoryjournals.com/journals), which is also anonymous, and the Kscien list (kscien.org/predatory.php), which is a project of Kscien Organisation for Scientific Research, Kurdistan.
For those with a budget for this type of oversight, there’s the Cabell’s Blacklist and Whitelist (cabells.com). The Black list now has 12,000 journal titles, with another 1,000 under consideration. In his review of the lists, Paul Blobaum calls Cabells “an essential time-saving and career-saving sources for scholars” (“Cabells Scholarly Analytics: A Go-To Authority on Journal Quality.” Online Searcher, v. 42, n. 3, May/June 2018, pp. 20–23).
Not everyone thinks that “predatory” is a good word to use to describe these publishers and journals. I’ve heard “deceptive,” “fake,” “corrupt,” “questionable,” “phony,” and “exploitative.” The Flaky Journal blog likes “flaky,” which strikes me as much too mild. In 2015, Rick Anderson, writing in The Scholarly Kitchen, suggests “bad faith,” which he admits isn’t as “grabby” as “predatory” (scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2015/05/11/should-we-retire-the-term-predatory-publishing). In light of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission suing OMICS International and winning a $50 million judgment against the publisher on the basis of fraudulent business practices, perhaps “fraudulent publishers” will suffice.
PUBLISHING BUSINESS RESEARCH
To return to my question about the impact of predatory (or whatever descriptive term you prefer) publishing on the academic world of business research, I can think of several reasons why Retraction Watch finds so few examples and why the publishers don’t put a priority on targeting researchers working in business, management, economics, and finance. From the point of view of the publishers, there may not be enough money in academic business research to make it worth their while. Fewer government grants, plus fewer business schools and academic departments, at least when compared with the universe of scientific and medical research, makes the payment of APCs negligible. It’s not the best market for publishers of problematic journals.
Although business researchers believe their work is important, it’s rare that it saves lives. Medical research can achieve that outcome. It’s possible that business research will influence public policy in ways that are either helpful or detrimental to specific segments of the citizenry, but it never seems quite as dramatic as the discovery of a life-altering medication or a scientific breakthrough that affects millions of people.
The most likely danger for academic researchers is a hit to their professional reputation. Publish in a suspect journal, and you risk damaging your credibility. This can affect promotion and tenure. For the newly minted Ph.D., it can mean not getting the job for which you would otherwise qualify. One individual’s horror story is told by Alan H. Chambers in his Science magazine article, published May 9, 2019, titled “How I Became Easy Prey to a Predatory Publisher” (sciencemag.org/careers/2019/05/how-I-became-easy-prey-predatory-publisher). It’s a fascinating, and cautionary, read, even though it doesn’t concern predatory publishing in a business-oriented journal.
BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING
My attempts to search for information—I was hoping for articles, data, even individual accounts similar to Chambers’—about the impact of predatory publishing on business researchers quickly ran into the linguistic problem of the word “business.” Web searches returned results about the business of publishing rather than business research being published.
A plenary session at the 2017 Charleston Conference, titled “All About Predatory Publishing: Need for Librarians and Publishers to Better Inform Authors,” featured four academics (three librarians and one from a university press) discussing the topic. In the published transcript (docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2006&context=charleston), the word “business” appears seven times, each time in regards to business models of predatory publishing. Although it didn’t help me with my particular question, it’s an excellent overview of the general topic of not-so-upstanding journals.