Hindustan Times | April 02, 2017 | Malavika Vyawahare | New Delhi | Opinion |
While India takes pride in its ISRO satellite launches, academic research in the country is being hollowed out by practices like predatory publishing. The results of a global sting operation by Polish researchers published in March revealed that 48 so-called scientific journals were happy to have a fictitious scientist – Anna O Szust – on their editorial board. Interestingly, Oszust is Polish for fraud. “Thousands of academic journals do not aspire to quality. They exist primarily to extract fees from authors,” the Polish researchers said in their paper. “These ‘predatory’ journals exhibit questionable marketing schemes, follow lax or non-existent peer-review procedures, and fail to provide scientific rigour or transparency.” G Mahesh, head of the International Standard Serial Number International Centre (ISSN) in India, has come across hundreds of such applications with bizarre journal titles, fake addresses and non-existent editorial board members in the last three years.
An example is the Springer Group of Journals, an MP-based outfit that sounds similar to Springer Nature — a reputed publishing group.
Feeding this frenzy of publishing low-quality journals is the UGC’s method of calculating academic performance indicators (APIs). The API system was introduced in 2010 to decide recruitments and promotions. Experts, however, decry the manner in which it rewards quantity instead of quality. These dubious journals are run as businesses with no regard for academic rigour. When the UGC announced the API system, it granted points for papers published in journals with ISSNs. Since then, India’s ISSN centre has been flooded with applications from publishers who seek the legitimacy of an ISSN number. However, the ISSN number is a unique numerical code that identifies publications – not a character certificate. Predatory publishing is an unintended consequence of the open access movement, launched two decades ago to make research easily accessible to the public. When big names in publishing dominated the global market in the past, they could act as gatekeepers for good research. The internet changed all that.