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The Impact of Predatory Publishing on Business Research
By
Volume 43, Number 5 - September/October 2019

TESTING, ONE TWO

To test whether the Weebly version of Beall’s List is still of value to business librarians and scholars, particularly since it still appears in various library LibGuides, I searched for the word “business” in the journal title. Obviously, that’s not the most rigorous of searches, leaving out journals with “economics” or “finance” or another term related to business in the title, but it serves as a spot check of titles that might be engaged in nefarious attempts to convince business researchers to publish there.

My search retrieved 45 titles from the original list, with seven added in the May 2019 update. I then clicked on each of the titles to see if the websites were still functional. Of the full 52, eight returned either a “04 not found” error message or redirected to something totally unrelated to publishing (one was a moving company; another, an advertising page for buying houses). One decided to showcase its predatory conferences rather than any journals. At least four were, as far as I can determine, legitimate journals, not at all in the deceptive camp. Two of the URLs were still live and looked like they intended to be a journal site, but no articles appeared. They were, essentially, empty shells. Another went to a blog post rather than a journal. Most of the sites that actually contained journal articles had a copyright notice at the bottom, but very few displayed a copyright date of 2019. Instead, they showed a copyright of 2016 or 2017, with a smattering of 2018s.

As would be expected, the sites tried to prove their legitimacy by touting the fact that they had an ISSN number. This is totally meaningless, as ISSN numbers are absolutely no guarantee of legitimacy. For sheer chutzpah, look at The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge (jaabc.com/journal.htm), The Journal of American Business Re view, Cambridg e (jaabc.com/jabrc.html), and The Business Review , Cambridge (jaabc.com/brc.html). These homepages prominently list their ISSN numbers, OCLC numbers, and National Library of Australia numbers. Although the homepages look very suspect, WorldCat reports that 22 libraries hold The Journal of American Academy of Business.

Of the journals on Beall’s List still being published, the majority are in volumes 5 or 6, which indicates that the problem of phony journals is not dissipating. In fact, as these journals continue to publish, they open the door to even more confusion.

One good result coming out of Beall’s List was the decision by the Infrastructure Services for Open Access (is4oa.org), which manages the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ, doaj.org), to clean up its index. Every journal listed in the 2013 version of DOAJ had to reapply to be included, giving DOAJ the opportunity to weed out questionable journals. Today, a DOAJ application form asks 58 questions, whereas prior to 2013, there were only 17. DOAJ currently lists 13,616 journals, 78% of which are searchable at the article level. None of the titles in the Weebly Beall’s List are included in DOAJ. Not only is there no overlap, DOAJ contains more journal titles with “business” in the title—99 in DOAJ compared with 52 in Weebly Beall’s.

I also looked up each title in Fulltext Sources Online (fso-online.com; subscription required), a directory of journals, newspapers, magazine, newsletters, and transcripts in which the full text is provided by aggregators and content providers. I was gratified to discover that almost none of the 52 titles were listed. It’s a relief to know that the 21 aggregators represented in FSO have done their due diligence on this topic.

RETRACTIONS

Unfortunately, publishing in a “quality” journal may not meet the criteria of a “good” article. In 2012, Solmaz Filiz Karabag and Christian Berggren, writing in the Journal of Applied Economics and Business Research, found that business and economics journals, unlike scientific and medical journals, are not very active in retracting papers due to dishonestly and plagiarism (aebrjournal.org/uploads/6/6/2/2/6622240/1._ karabag_berggren.pdf). Karabag and Berggren include tables of retracted papers in business journals and in economics journals. Note that these are not from predatory journals, but from reliable journals included in EBSCO Business Source Premier, Emerald, JSTOR, and ScienceDirect. The authors call for clear and explicit policies and processes regarding plagiarism and academic dishonesty from journals and “academic rating agencies,” such as Web of Science.

Retractions are not the equivalent of publishing in fake journals, but they do have an impact on business research. Dennis Tourish and Russell Craig analyzed 131 articles that were retracted from peer-reviewed business and management studies (“Research Misconduct in Business and Management Studies: Causes, Consequences, and Possible Remedies,” Journal of Management Inquiry, 2018, pp. 1–14; journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1056492618792621). Tourish and Craig have 11 recommendations for averting the publication of fraudulent information.

AT THE ARTICLE LEVEL

Before we castigate people for publishing in questionable, possibly predatory, journals, it’s important to recognize that good articles can appear in bad journals. As with Chambers’ experience, other academics have inadvertently published their genuine, well-researched articles in journals and then wished they hadn’t. To say that finding an article in a journal on a predatory publisher list automatically tags it as unreliable is not necessarily true.

The impact of predatory publishing on business research isn’t actually confined to scholars publishing their research. As students and businesspeople move from subscription databases, vetted to exclude predatory journals, to free web search engines, most notably Google, they are likely to find articles from fraudulent, deceptive journals. Librarians need to educate searchers about evaluating information on the article level, not merely the journal level. Since the evidence suggests that predatory publishing is far from being eliminated, the role of the information professional must expand to meet the challenge.


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Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher (the successor journal to ONLINE) and writes its business research column ("The Dollar Sign"). She contributes feature articles and news stories to Information TodayEContentComputers in LibrariesIntranetsCyberSkeptic's Guide to the InternetBusiness Information Review, and Information Today's NewsBreaks. A long-time observer of the information industry, she speaks frequently at conferences, such as WebSearch University, Internet Librarian, Online Information (London, UK), Internet Librarian International, and national library meetings outside the U.S. She has adjunct faculty status at the School of Library and Information Science at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). Her professional career began at BankAmerica Corporation, San Francisco, directing a worldwide program of research and information services. She established her independent information research business in 1987. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and her MLS was earned at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

Comments? Email the editor-in-chief: marydee@xmission.com

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