|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 219-220
The publication rat race: Who will bell the cat?
Department of Community Medicine, Padmashree Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune, India
|Date of Web Publication||5-Jul-2013|
Department of Community Medicine, Padmashree, Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune
|How to cite this article:|
Banerjee A. The publication rat race: Who will bell the cat?. Med J DY Patil Univ 2013;6:219-20
The recent Medical Council of India (MCI) amendment  regarding research publications by medical teachers seems to have led to a publication rat race. Medical Colleges in India do not have a robust research tradition. Faculty in Medical Colleges qualify as research guides to post-graduate students for their dissertations on the basis of their teaching experience and publications most of which are due to gift authorship.  Against this background, the recent MCI amendment on research publications has led to desperate measures to increase publication by medical teachers. Besides, encouraging unethical publication practices such as unjustified co-authorship, plagiarism, and other publication misconduct,  it has led to the spawning of a large number of "predatory scientific journals" which follow unethical editorial practices. 
These predatory publishers follow dishonest publication practices. They put up websites which may mimic those of reputed publishers and fool gullible researchers. The lack of research experience among Indian medical academics, coupled with the pressure to "publish or perish," provides an optimum environment for predatory publishers to flourish. The requirement for faculty and post graduates to publish has also led to another rat race among predatory publishers.
New predatory publishers set up shop every week in India.  The rate of growth of such predatory publishers can be estimated from the report that the number of such publishers increased from 23 to over 225 between years 2011 and 2012 (and still counting).  The phenomenon has also caught the attention of the Indian lay press. Investigative journalism by The Hindu, a leading English language newspaper published from India, has brought out the deep roots of the fake scientific publication racket in India.  Experts are put on the editorial boards without their knowledge. Even genuine researchers are fooled by these fake sites, and may submit papers and agree to be on the editorial board of such journals. Most fake journals promise publication in record time. Though they claim peer review, the short processing time from submission to publication precludes any worthwhile review by experts in the field.
The long-term impact of this phenomenon on Indian academics is going to be harmful. No longer is there a level playing field to judge academic excellence based on publications. The dice are loaded heavily in favor of unscrupulous researchers and predatory publishers. Genuine researchers may toil hard on a paper taking months and sometime years to develop an article and get it published in a peer reviewed journal. On the other hand, those who resort to these predatory journals may have a dozen papers published with the least effort in so called "peer-reviewed indexed" journals and get promoted far sooner than their illustrious colleagues. As an extra bonus those who publish in predatory journals have an added advantage of "International" publications as most of these fake journals have "International" in the title.
There is a lot of confusion about the indexing and abstracting of these journals. Some of these journals may claim they are indexed and abstracted by vague sites which are really not indexing and abstracting bodies such as SlideShare, Google Docs, NewJour, and so on. However, most of these predatory publishers may be indexed by Google Scholar since it does not screen for quality. There are instances when they falsely claim to be indexed in indexing bodies such as Scopus, Embase, etc.
Against this highly polluted publication background, it is highly imperative that academic institutions and regulatory bodies have a system to distinguish genuine from fake publications of academic faculty so that honest and illustrious faculty are duly rewarded. The "target approach" of publications is proving to be counter-productive just as the "target approach" failed in the family planning program during the emergency in India.
Serious researchers - particularly those who are young - should not put their honest work in such journals. They may gain in the short run but lose in the long run as publishing in journals managed by "fly by night operators" will not add credibility to their CVs. To quote, "Scientific literacy must include the ability to recognize publishing fraud."  Guidelines to detect publishing fraud have been mentioned. 
The question is who will bell the cat? Serious researchers who refrain from publishing with predatory publishers would be left behind in the rat race of academic promotions unless the regulatory bodies wake up and distinguish between genuine and fake publications, rather than continue with the "target approach" of research publications.
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