Thousands of Russian scholars were happy to receive good news in 2020: their articles were accepted for publication in international journals. However, such joy can hardly be sustained because many of the papers were, in fact, published in predatory or hijacked journals with poor or even no peer review, according to my estimate based on a list of deceptive journals created by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2020. This list tracks deceptive and dishonest behaviors including purchased author credentials, plagiarism, and false claims of peer review. Many of the journals on this list had been dropped from Scopus and Web of Science by the end of 2020.
New regulatory framework and publications in predatory journals
Publication by Russian scholars in predatory journals has increased significantly since 2011-2012, when new nationwide criteria for the evaluation of research output were introduced (see http://government.ru/docs/9282/, https://rg.ru/2012/05/09/nauka-dok.html, http://government.ru/docs/3346/). Among others, these criteria included quantitative indicators like publications and citations in journals indexed in international databases such as Scopus and Web of Science. In response, Russian universities introduced new promotion criteria and financial incentives for faculty. This has had positive effects on Russian academics’ integration into the international research market, but has also created an incentive for fraudulent behavior, especially in social sciences, humanities, and medicine. According to one estimate, Russian scholars published approximately 5,000 articles in predatory journals in 2018 and 4,300 in 2019.
Regular readers of AHRECS, know we firmly believe publication incentives are having a perverse impact on research. This great Scholarly Kitchen piece reflects on troubling signs from Russia. We have included links to a trove of related items.
The appearance of a specific industry for selling authorship credentials may also have been caused by these new policies. The increased pressure to publish appears to have led Russian academics to buy “authorship” in thousands of articles from one of dozens of paper mills that sell co-authorship credit. International Publisher LLC is one of the largest companies on the market and offers scholars the chance to buy co-authorship in hundreds of articles boldly posted on their website. As of December 2020, the site was offering 633 articles with co-authorship slots for sale, mostly in economics, education, law, engineering, medicine, and agriculture. On its website, this company claims that more than 4,000 articles with dishonest co-authorship credits have been published with its assistance over the last five years. This company has also expanded abroad and sells co-authorships to scholars from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, China, UAE, United States, Serbia, Colombia, Vietnam, etc., and a fraudulent author can even choose an article co-authored by a scholar from a certain country.