Monday, August 29, 2016

Fake Academic Publishing: FTC vs.OMICS edition

Here's a welcome development on the fake academic publishing front:
The Federal Trade Commission on Friday filed a complaint against the academic journal publisher OMICS Group and two of its subsidiaries, saying the publisher deceives scholars and misrepresents the editorial rigor of its journals.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, marks the first time the FTC has gone after what are often known as “predatory” publishers. Such publishers exploit open-access publishing as a way to charge steep fees to researchers who believe their work will be printed in legitimate journals, when in fact the journals may publish anyone who pays and lack even a basic peer-review process.
OMICS’ business practices have been scrutinized for years. The company, based in Hyderabad, India, publishers more than 700 open-access journals, and has created a number of imprints -- including iMedPub, also named in the complaint -- to expand its presence in the scholarly publishing market. Several of OMICS’ journals have names similar to other, legitimate journals, which critics say is an attempt to confuse scholars.
“If anything is predatory, it’s that publisher,” said Jeffrey Beall, scholarly communications librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver. “It’s the worst of the worst.”
Beall is known for his lists of thousands of “predatory” journals and publishers, and he has for several years written about OMICS and other publishers on his blog. Last month, for example, he published a handful of emails sent to him by researchers caught by surprise by four-digit publication fees or struggling to withdraw their papers from OMICS journals.
There are fake conferences too:
The complaint extends to OMICS’ event business, managed through the subsidiary Conference Series. According to the complaint, OMICS regularly advertises conferences featuring academic experts who were never scheduled to appear in order to attract registrants.
What would the end result be?
The FTC is seeking both monetary relief for researchers that have published with OMICS and to prevent the publisher from further violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914.
Given that OMICS is centered in India, and many of the scammed authors are not based in the US, I don't know how the monetary relief, if granted, would be enforced. But it is a start, (if only that):
Even if the FTC is successful in its case against OMICS, the commission will only make a dent in the world of “predatory” publishing. One study by researchers at Finland’s Hanken School of Economics found that such publishers flooded the scholarly communications landscape with more than 420,000 articles in 2014, about eight times as many as in 2010.
The FTC does not intend to file thousands of complaints -- nor does it have the resources to do so -- but Rusu said taking action against OMICS represents the commission announcing its interest in a new field. Typically, the FTC will do so by strategically targeting “some of the most recognized and also some of the worst actors” in that space, she said.

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