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Predatory Publishing’s Threat to Emerging Economies

Cabells Scholarly Analytics is supporting this year’s 2019 Annual Conference, “Measuring the Impact of Business Schools” as a Digital Sponsor. Simon Linacre will be leading a pre-conference workshop on “Research Impact for the Developing World.” How do we achieve more relevance for research in local contexts? Should we actively address social problems and not just business ones? To what extent are the solutions we propose actually actionable? How do we deal with the constant pressure to perform vis-a-vis traditional metrics (e.g., citations, impact factors) while still conducting more useful research? These and other questions are fundamental to shaping the future of business school research for the developing world. Unless we are more thoughtful and proactive about the development of research models globally, we will fall short of our potential for positively impacting business and management in the growth markets of the future. This workshop uses agile-style thinking to engage a large group in thinking about the impact of research and to facilitate ideation around this topic to develop ideas that will help member institutions gain a competitive advantage in the global business school space.

Check out the full Agenda here.

Much attention has been given to how business schools in emerging economies can develop the quality and relevance of their teaching and research programmes, acknowledging the huge potential such development would unlock for those economies and the world. Some of this attention has, understandably, focused on researchers and the need for them to improve the scope and quality of their publications so that they ‘rank’ alongside those from developed economies.

There are two problems with this focus. While there is nothing wrong with it in principle – increasing the quality of research in any area can only be a good thing – to use an ice hockey analogy, this may not be where the puck is heading.

Firstly, there are a number of factors coming into play that hint that the focus on quality measures of research output, most notably the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), may be losing their lustre. The number of universities signing up to the DORA initiative which cautions use of the JIF in research assessment is growing, while greater attention is being given to the social and environmental impact of research, such as in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF). As such, for many researchers getting published in an Impact Factor journal does not tick the boxes that it used to.

Secondly, the ‘publish or perish’ culture that has begun to pervade many institutions in emerging economies in the push to increase quality – and to rise up the university and business school rankings – has led to the creation of a large community of scholars who need to publish their research but do not have the skills to negotiate the publishing environment. These scholars are falling into a trap laid for them by predatory publishers, who promise peer review, editorial input and quick publication in return for a few hundred dollars. Sadly, they deliver none of this and it is the academic community in emerging economies that suffer.

In 2015, an article by Shen and Bjork entitled “‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics” reported that over 80% of an estimated 420,000 articles in predatory journals were authored by researchers based in India, Asia, Africa and South America (see below). At Cabells, we launched the Journal Blacklist in 2017 which contains details of around 12,000 predatory or deceptive journals. We introduced the Backlist to enable institutions to learn more about the publishing environment, and one consequence of our work is that we have seen many of these journals specifically target researchers in emerging economies, who by falling into the trap improve neither the quality nor the dissemination of their work.

Distribution of corresponding authors in predatory journals by geographic regions

Source: Shen and Björk BMC Medicine (2015) 13:230 DOI 10.1186/s12916-015-0469-2


Going back to our ice hockey analogy, enabling researchers in emerging economies to skate towards the Impact Factor puck may lead them in the wrong direction, and not giving them the skills to understand publishing processes could hamper them in moving forward at all. Business schools which enable researchers to focus on the quality AND relevance of their research, and equip them with the knowledge to make good publishing decisions, will rise up every ranking out there.



Simon Linacre, Director of International Marketing & Development, Cabells

Simon is Director of International Marketing & Development at Cabells having spent 15 years in publishing at Emerald, where he had direct experience in journal acquisitions, open access and business development. His background is in journalism and he has been published in academic journals on the topics of bibliometrics and knowledge transfer. He holds Masters degrees in Philosophy and International Business and has global experience lecturing to researchers on publishing strategies.