ACADEMICS do not have it easy. On top of shouldering the enormous responsibility of educating the leaders of tomorrow, they have to meet the many key performance index (KPI) targets set by their respective universities.
Over the years, a main factor that has featured prominently in these KPI targets is the publication of journal articles.
A recent survey conducted by two Czech Republic economists, Vit Machacek and Martin Srholec, shockingly revealed that Malaysia ranked fifth in “fraudulent publications” (see table).Their paper “Predatory Publishing in Scopus: Evidence on Cross‑country Differences” was published in Scientometrics, an international journal for quantitative aspects of science, and science communication and policy, last month.
Machacek and Srholec analysed data from 172 countries in four fields of research between 2015 and 2017.
They mapped the infiltration of journals suspected of predatory practices into the citation database Scopus, which is used to gauge tertiary institutions worldwide in annual ranking reports.
Their paper stated that predatory publishing represents a major challenge to scholarly communication.
“Predatory scholarly journals exploit a paid open-access publication model where the publisher does not charge subscription fees, but receives money directly from the author of an article that becomes accessible for free to anyone.
“In countries with large research systems, predatory publishing can be quite extensive, even if the proportion to total articles does not seem problematic.
“The worldwide propensity to publish in predatory journals is almost two times higher in social and life sciences than in health and physical sciences. “Social sciences are particularly ravaged by this problem in a number of countries; in seven countries, including the relatively large research systems of Malaysia, Indonesia and Ukraine (where) more than one-fifth of articles appear in predatory journals.
“Arguably, the credibility of the whole field is at stake here, ” they said.
Of some 832 predatory journals, 27 economic journals had frequent authors from Iran, the United States, Nigeria, Malaysia and Turkey.
The paper revealed how Malaysian academics make up a large group of researchers whose works were published in “fraudulent journals” found in Scopus.
Although social media users expressed their shock after the paper was published, many within academia have acknowledged that fraudulent journals are a long-standing problem.
While the definition of “predatory journals” remains hazy, more needs to be done to ensure stringent steps are taken in the publication of scholarly journals; otherwise, the credibility of our academics and the global ranking of our institutions will be tainted with doubt. – By SANDHYA MENON> MORE STORIES ON PAGE 5