Stay­ing ahead of preda­tors – not that sim­ple

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - SHARON DELL

EV­ERY­ONE claims to be against preda­tory pub­lish­ing, but pu­n­ish­ing those who are in­volved seems to be harder than one would ex­pect. This was high­lighted by a case re­cently in­ves­ti­gated by Univer­sity World News (UWN).

Con­tacted in April by a group of whis­tle-blow­ers based at Unisa con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions that the univer­sity was pro­tect­ing a se­nior aca­demic al­leged to have 16 pub­li­ca­tions in preda­tory jour­nals – most pub­lished by KRE Pub­lish­ers/Kamla Raj En­ter­prises be­tween 2012 and 2018 – UWN con­tacted the in­sti­tu­tional spokesper­son and the Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (DHET) for com­ment.

No com­ment from the DHET was forth­com­ing. How­ever, Unisa spokesper­son Martin Ramot­shela said the in­sti­tu­tion was sat­is­fied that the cre­den­tials of the aca­demic fac­ing the al­le­ga­tions were “cred­i­ble” and in­sti­tu­tional records show that all the aca­demic’s ar­ti­cles or pub­li­ca­tions were pub­lished in DHET-ac­cred­ited jour­nals. “The ma­jor­ity of these pub­li­ca­tions were pub­lished in 2014 and 2015, which pre-date the ex­is­tence of the Beall’s list,” he said.

The in­sti­tu­tion con­demns the pub­lish­ing by its aca­demics in preda­tory jour­nals and sub­scribes to the Beall’s list and “utilises li­brar­i­ans to scru­ti­nise jour­nals or pub­li­ca­tions where its aca­demics in­tend to pub­lish be­fore the ar­ti­cles or pub­li­ca­tions are sub­mit­ted”, he added.

Con­fused by the em­pha­sis on the dates of pub­li­ca­tion, UWN turned to Pro­fes­sor Jo­hann Mou­ton from the Cen­tre for Re­search on Eval­u­a­tion, Science and Tech­nol­ogy (Crest), for help to un­pack the is­sue.

Mou­ton con­firmed that while KRE Pub­lish­ers are widely known to be preda­tory pub­lish­ers, some of its pub­li­ca­tions did fea­ture – un­til very re­cently – on the list of jour­nals recog­nised by DHET, which ren­dered the depart­ment li­able to pay the sub­si­dies claimed.

How did it hap­pen that the DHET list in­cluded preda­tory jour­nal ti­tles? The an­swer lies partly in a lack of gov­ern­men­tal ca­pac­ity and knowl­edge, and in­suf­fi­cient scru­tiny.

Mou­ton said in ad­di­tion to its list of ap­proved South African jour­nals, the DHET re­gards a num­ber of in­dices as ac­cred­ited. These in­clude, in­ter alia, the In­ter­na­tional Bib­li­og­ra­phy of the So­cial Sciences (Ibss), the Web of Science and Sco­pus. Any jour­nals on these lists are there­fore in­di­rectly recog­nised by the DHET.

He said that dur­ing the course of re­search for AS­SAf in 2016, which in­formed the June 2017 ar­ti­cle ti­tled “The ex­tent of South African au­thored ar­ti­cles in preda­tory jour­nals” by Mou­ton and Valen­tine, pub­lished in the South African Jour­nal of Science, it be­came clear that 40 or so jour­nals listed by Beall also ap­peared on the DHET-ap­proved lists at that time, par­tic­u­larly the Ibss list.

This was pointed out to the depart­ment, but not be­fore it had paid the sub­si­dies to a num­ber of univer­si­ties.

“Legally, the univer­si­ties be­lieved they were within their rights to sub­mit these ar­ti­cles for sub­sidy be­cause they ap­peared on ac­cred­ited lists,” said Mou­ton.

He said when the depart­ment tried to re­cover some of these monies, they were threat­ened in one or two cases with le­gal ac­tion and chose to drop the mat­ter.

The DHET list has since been up­dated and, at the be­gin­ning of 2017, the depart­ment sent a mem­o­ran­dum to all univer­si­ties to say that in fu­ture it would not pay out sub­si­dies if in­sti­tu­tions sub­mit ar­ti­cles that turn out to be pub­lished through preda­tory means.

Mou­ton said dur­ing his re­cent mon­i­tor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties he no­ticed that KRE Pub­lish­ers had been re­moved from the 2018 Ibss list.

On his urg­ing, the DHET con­tacted new Ibss own­ers ProQuest, who con­firmed that they had re­moved the pub­li­ca­tions be­cause they were be­lieved to be preda­tory.

“That means that for this year’s sub­sidy sub­mis­sions which are go­ing to the depart­ment for the 2018 year, no one can claim they were not aware. KRE Pub­lish­ers are now off the Ibss 2018 list.”

Mou­ton said that since 2017, mon­i­tor­ing by Crest has shown that the num­ber of preda­tory pub­li­ca­tions has de­creased – 180 were iden­ti­fied in 2016 and only 125 were sub­mit­ted in 2018 for 2017 sub­si­dies.

“This is a re­sult of greater aware­ness and last year the depart­ment re­fused to pay sub­si­dies to those deemed to be preda­tory.”

Mou­ton said part of the so­lu­tion to the “malaise” lies in more firm­ness on the part of the gov­ern­ment.

But the sit­u­a­tion is highly fluid and re­quires con­stant mon­i­tor­ing as preda­tory pub­lish­ers have “got wise” to scru­tiny.

Mou­ton said he be­lieves, but has not yet been able to ver­ify, that some pub­lish­ers are buy­ing up some of the more lu­cra­tive preda­tory jour­nal ti­tles which then mi­grate from one in­dex to an­other, caus­ing a great deal of con­fu­sion among aca­demics and ad­min­is­tra­tors alike.

The next big chal­lenge is deal­ing with preda­tory con­fer­ences and con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings.

Watch this space.

♦ This ar­ti­cles were pub­lished on the

UWN web­site.

SINCE 2017 the num­ber of preda­tory pub­li­ca­tions has de­creased. | SHARON SERETLO

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.