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Australian universities crack down on predatory journals


Academics have expressed growing concern over the threat predatory journals pose to doctoral students, with at least one institution tightening its quality standards for doctorates by publication.

As a “central consideration” of its doctoral policy, Western Sydney University has narrowed the range of journals it accepts for published articles as part of the doctorate. theses. Her nursing and midwifery school went further and insisted that articles should appear in outlets in the top 75% of the SCImago Journal rankings.

The rule change came after an external reviewer complained that articles submitted as PhD. thesis had been published in predatory journals. A review found that journals did not meet Western Sydney’s definition of predator – publications that lacked peer review, transparency or reasonable editorial standards, and misleadingly solicited contributions.

But the case has stepped up the university’s efforts to “strengthen references to journal quality” – work already underway to meet exercise guidelines for data collection and research evaluation, said a spokeswoman.

The episode reflects broader concerns that publication-based doctorates encourage low-quality, repetitive science and are marred by self-plagiarism and copyright issues, amid widespread anxiety over proliferation. predatory publishers and conference organizers.

Academics say they receive requests to write for questionable journals or attend little-known events on a weekly or even daily basis, through poorly-written emails that do not initially reveal that the participants are required to pay.

PhD Students are believed to be particularly vulnerable to such approaches because they are relatively naïve about academic culture – particularly if they have a clinical background – and risk being ‘seduced’ by flattering invitations calling them “Doctor”.

“I don’t think it can be assumed that Ph.D. students will know they don’t,” said Katy Barnett, a professor of law at the University of Melbourne, who said she recently advised a doctoral student to remove an article from a publisher after noticing a request for advice on Twitter.

“She was really excited,” Barnett explained. “She said, ‘This is my first college post and now they’ve asked for money, is that normal?'”

Barnett said universities and supervisors need to be more proactive in educating doctoral students of “warning signs” of predatory publishers. “We have put in place incentives that [early-career academics] must be published. It is up to us to point out the pitfalls. We need better resources on how and where to get a doctorate. students should publish.

But she recognized the difficulty of compiling a list of predatory journals, in part because of the thoughtless practices of publishers. “They are changing their names. They continue to travel. What I would say for a sign is, “If someone asks you to pay to publish in their newspaper, get out now!” “

Simon Knight, director of the Center for Research on Education in a Digital Society at Sydney University of Technology, warned of the “perverse incentives” of expectations placed on future academics, the publication during honors classes becoming a prerequisite for admission to the doctorate. RE. programs.

But restricting thesis-related articles to specific journals could also have unintended consequences, Knight said. “A lot of journals do not appear in these rankings. New journals in emerging areas of knowledge; journals that are unconventional in various ways – they are less likely to appear in these trade indexes, ”he said.

Western Sydney said journal quality thresholds are determined at the discipline level. An institution-wide restriction on top-ranked SCImago journals was not contemplated, “as this would exclude chapters from books and other reputable publications.”