Identifying predatory journals in systematic reviews

Article type
John D1, Polani Chandrasekar R2, Lohmann J3, Dazy A3
1Campbell South Asia
2ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology
3London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Background: This paper aims to provide a systematic and transparent process for authors of systematic reviews to identify predatory journals prior to data synthesis or meta-analysis of included studies which have not benefitted from standard quality checks.
Methods: We use two systematic reviews from LMICs as case studies, one on snakebites and one on mental health of health workers. Articles published in duplicate journals were removed and journals indexed in Pubmed were identified. We critically appraised the non-Pubmed indexed journals using as checklist derived from The characteristics of the journal such as name and country of the publisher, latest papers/articles and contact details of the publisher, peer-review policy and process, article processing charges/publication fees and editorial board and members were identified from the journal/publisher webpage. Journal name or publisher enlisted as predatory in the list of predatory journals and publishers in webpage was scrutinized. Responses were recording regarding the journal and its editorial board with colleagues sharing our office space. Zotero/Endnote library was searched to make ensure whether we read/cited any other articles from the journal earlier. The indexing of the journal in Web of Science, ProQuest, and Science direct databases was conducted. We checked the individual and affiliated institutes webpage of the editorial members to check whether the journal name mentioned in their bio. The existence of the journal/Publisher in the Code of Publication Ethics (COPE), Directory of Open Access Journal (DOAJ), Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), Journals online project website (INASP Journals Online Platform) and STM (the global voice of scholarly publishing) was checked.
Results: After removing the duplicates 68 journals were identified, with 36 journals indexed in Pubmed. Of the 32 non-Pubmed indexed journals, two journals were listed in Web of Science. Majority of the journals had publisher based in India. Thirteen journals were listed in Beall’s list or Nine journals had mentioned the publication fees transparently on their website. None of the journals were listed with COPE, one journal was listed with DOAJ and one in OASPA. 6 journals had clear peer-review guidelines, and 5 journals had phone/email details on its website. Based on the thinkchecksubmit checklist, 14 studies were identified as ‘more likely predatory’ and 4 articles as ‘likely predatory’. Two of the ‘likely predatory’ articles were also indexed in Web of Science.
Conclusion: Authors need to keep the probable aspect of including an article published in a predatory journal as part of a systematic review. Our process suggested here could be one of the ways that authors can use to identify predatory journals as part of the systematic review process.