An investigation finds that dozens of academic titles offered ‘Dr Fraud’ — a sham, unqualified scientist — a place on their editorial board.
Thousands of academic journals do not aspire to quality. They exist primarily to extract fees from authors. These ‘predatory’ journals exhibit questionable marketing schemes, follow lax or non-existent peer-review procedures and fail to provide scientific rigour or transparency.
The open-access movement, although noble in its intent, has been an unwitting host to these parasitic publishers. Bogus journals can imitate legitimate ones that also collect fees from authors. Researchers, eager to publish (lest they perish), may submit their papers with or without verifying a journal’s reputability.
Crucial to a journal’s quality is its editors. Editors decide whether a paper is reviewed and by whom, and whether a submission should be rejected, revised or accepted. Such roles have usually been assigned to established experts in the journal’s field, and are considered prestigious positions.
Many predatory journals hoping to cash in seem to aggressively and indiscriminately recruit academics to build legitimate-looking editorial boards. Although academic pranksters have successfully placed fictional characters on editorial boards, no one has examined the issue systematically. Katarzyna Pisanski and colleagues report in Nature.