Authorship for Sale: A Survey of Predatory Publishers and Journals

Pravin M. Bolshete1

Objective To study the attitude of possible or probable predatory publishers and journals towards unethical requests to add authors.

Design Survey study of predatory publishers and stand-alone journals (a publisher that publishes only 1 journal) between November 2015 and December 2016. Publishers and journals were identified from Beall’s list on November 5, 2015. Email inquiries were sent to publishers of biomedical journals asking if they would add a co-author’s name to any manuscript they had received for publication. After the initial inquiries that were sent to the first 200 publishers in alphabetical order demonstrated unethical responses, 63 additional emails were sent to randomly selected publishers. We randomly selected 75 stand-alone journals and sent emails to 64 (11 site links were not working). Email responses were categorized as ethical or unethical based on the journal’s willingness to add coauthor names; responses generally not expected from a legitimate journal were considered unethical.

Results Of 906 publishers on Beall’s list, 706 (77.9%) were screened (reasons for exclusion: nonworking links [n=184] and duplicates [n=16]), 400 (56.7%) of which published 4924 biomedical journals. Many publishers were located in India (n=119, 29.8%) and the United States (n=94, 23.5%). Among 835 stand-alone journals, 152 (18.2%) were biomedical journals. The overall response rate to the email inquiries was 44.5% (n=117) and 54.7% (n=35) for publishers and stand-alone journals, respectively. Nineteen publishers and 3 stand-alone journals agreed to add a coauthor name to an article they received without any specific contribution (Table). Forty-four publishers and 9 stand-alone journals “declined to add as coauthor.” Overall, 63 publisher responses were unethical, 39 were ethical, and 15 were neutral; of the stand-alone journals, 17 were unethical, 11 were ethical, and 7 were neutral.

Conclusions Several publishers and stand-alone journals agreed to add another name as author, and at least half of the publishers and journals were involved in unethical publication practices.

1Scientific Writing and Epidemiology, Tata Consultancy Services, Thane, India,

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bolshete is an employee of Tata Consultancy Services, Thane, Mumbai. The views presented in this abstract are his and not those of his current or previous employers.

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