As scientists, we are charged with a high code of ethical conduct. Our research builds upon the findings of others, and for this we rely on academic journals to publish only the most thoroughly vetted studies. In order to accomplish this, journals ensure that every article undergoes a stringent process of peer review, re-submission, and editing before articles are finally accepted for publishing. The journal publishing house is responsible for the distribution of these articles and also for providing services related to the effective management of subscriptions, copy editing, type setting, and coordination of the online peer review process. Publishing companies possess the power to disseminate research and it is this power that makes the recent emergence of predatory publishing deeply disturbing.
Predatory publishers have been accused of publishing almost anything in exchange for a fee, compromising the integrity of the academic publishing model, which in turn influences medical treatments, decisions, and policies. These publishers are not only guilty of publishing papers with little or no peer review, but they are often not transparent with researchers about their fees and have even been found to list individuals as editors who have not agreed to accept such positions. Even more disturbing is the fact that two of the most respected publishing houses for Canadian medical journals have recently been bought by a well-known predatory publisher, OMICS Group. This buy-out allowed OMICS to acquire close to sixteen Canadian medical journals, which were previously published by Pulsus Group and Andrew John Publishing.
According to reports by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) as well as various Canadian news outlets, the affected journals were not explicitly told that OMICS was their buyer. The president of the Canadian Society of Internal Medicine, Dr. Stephen Hwang, explained that Andrew John journals were informed that they had been sold to iMedPub, unaware that it is a subsidiary of OMICS. On the other hand, Pulsus journals only knew that their new publisher was an international one. How does an international predatory publisher come to own sixteen top tier Canadian journals? Pulsus Group’s former owner, Robert Kalina, retired early last year, and OMICS Group was the only publisher interested in making a purchase. When contacted by the Toronto Star and CTV News, Kalina indicated that OMICS was committed to changing their ways. Kalina believes the predatory publisher sees the purchase as an opportunity to redefine their reputation as a legitimate publishing group. He went on to explain that the journals are still owned by their respective societies and that they are free to choose a new publisher if they are unhappy with OMICS’s policies. In fact, a joint investigation by CTV News and the Toronto Star indicated that six of the affected journals have already terminated their contracts or at least intend to do so.
Regardless of whether or not the OMICS group intends to clean up its act, it is currently being sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for allegations of engaging in the solicitation of papers through spam emails and for failing to ensure proper peer review of these works prior to publication. As such, the potential repercussions for the Canadian scientific community are severe. Not only could this lead to an increase in “junk science”, but it also tarnishes the credibility of our scientific research. This lack of credibility may detract funding away from research, reducing the overall quality of the scientific discoveries by Canadian institutions. Predatory publishing is a direct threat to science and Canadian scientists should be deeply concerned.
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