Who wants to publish their research in fraudulent journals, so-called predatory journals? Previously, it was thought that such a pattern exists mainly among inexperienced researchers in low- and middle-income countries. A new study of publication patterns in Swedish nursing research nuances the picture.

The study examined all publicly listed articles in nursing research linked to Swedish higher education institutions in 2018 and 2019. Thereafter, one identified which of these articles were published in predatory journals. 39 such articles were found: 2.8 percent of all articles. A significant proportion of these articles were published by senior academics.

The researchers behind the study emphasise three problems with this publication pattern. If senior academics publish in predatory journals, they help to legitimize this way of publishing nursing research, which threatens the trustworthiness of academic knowledge in the field and blurs the line between legitimate and fraudulent journals that publish nursing research. Another problem is that if some authors acquire quick publication merits by using predatory journals, it may imply injustice, for example, when applications for funding and academic positions are reviewed. Finally, the publication pattern of more senior researchers may mislead younger researchers, for example, they may think that the rapid “review process” that predatory journals offer is in fact a form of effectiveness and therefore something commendable.

The researchers who conducted the study also discovered a few cases of a strange phenomenon, namely, the hijacking of legitimately published articles. In these cases, the authors of the articles are innocent. Their already published papers are copied and end up in the predatory journal, which makes it look as if renowned authors chose to publish their work in the journal.

If you want to read more, for example, about whether academics who publish in predatory journals should be reported, read the article in Nursing Ethics. A possible positive result, however, is that the number of articles in predatory journals decreased from 30 in 2018 to 9 in 2019. Hopefully, educational efforts can further reduce the incidence, the authors of the article conclude.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

Sebastian Gabrielsson, Stefan Eriksson, Tove Godskesen. Predatory nursing journals: A case study of author prevalence and characteristics. Nursing Ethics. First Published December 3, 2020, doi.org/10.1177/0969733020968215

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