Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

U.S. government agency sues publisher, charging it with deceiving researchers

with 20 comments

2000px-US-FederalTradeCommission-Seal.svgThe U.S. Federal Trade Commission has charged a publisher of hundreds of academic journals with deceiving readers about reviewing practices, publication fees, and the nature of its editorial boards.

Here’s more from a news release about the suit:

The FTC’s complaint alleges that OMICS Group, Inc., along with two affiliated companies and their president and director, Srinubabu Gedela, claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices and have editorial boards made up of prominent academics. In reality, many articles are published with little to no peer review and numerous individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals.

According to the FTC’s complaint, OMICS does not tell researchers that they must pay significant publishing fees until after it has accepted an article for publication, and often will not allow researchers to withdraw their articles from submission, thereby making the research ineligible for publication in another journal. Academic ethics standards generally forbid researchers from submitting the same research to more than one journal.

Click here for a full version of the lawsuit, which was filed yesterday in Nevada.

A spokesperson for the FTC confirmed to us that this is a precedent-setting case:

This is our first case against an academic journal publisher.

He declined to say whether the FTC was investigating other publishers who have been accused of similar tactics.

If successful, the FTC suit could result in the court asking OMICS to return money to some researchers, among other penalties:

Award such relief as the Court finds necessary to redress injury to consumers resulting from Defendants’ violations of the FTC Act, including but not limited to, rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, the refund of monies paid, and the disgorgement of illgotten monies…

The suit does not list a specific monetary amount.

The press release includes a statement from Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection:

The defendants in this case used false promises to convince researchers to submit articles presenting work that may have taken months or years to complete, and then held that work hostage over undisclosed publication fees ranging into the thousands of dollars…It is vital that we stop scammers who seek to take advantage of the changing landscape of academic publishing.

The FTC also alleges that OMICS “regularly deceive consumers” by promoting academic conferences that lie to researchers that prominent researchers will be attending, then charge high registration fees.

The OMICS group is on Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. In 2013, the publisher threatened to sue Beall for $1 billion; Beall has written extensively about the publisher on his blog.

OMICS is a major publisher, according to its website:

OMICS International is the open access publisher and leading science event organizer, running 700+ Open Access Journals and organizes over 3000 Medical, Clinical, Engineering, Life Sciences, Phrama [sic] scientific conferences all over the globe annually with the backing of more than  50,000 editorial board members, 1000 scientific associations,  and 15 million followers to its credit. With its Open access journals and worldwide conferences, OMICS enjoys the global presence.

Here is a selection of our coverage of their journals.

We have attempted to contact OMICS for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 8 p.m. Eastern, 9/1/16: OMICS has published a response to the suit, calling it “frivolous and baseless.”

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Written by Alison McCook

August 26th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Comments
  • Stanish August 26, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    This is a very positive development.

  • Sylvain Bernès August 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    🙂

  • imohacsi August 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Finally!

  • cas August 26, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Better late than never…

  • Kamlesh August 27, 2016 at 2:28 am

    Really happy to see such step being taken. Exactly same experience with OMICS earlier that did not end well, but decided to never entertain them ever.

  • Bill August 27, 2016 at 3:21 am

    Well done FTC! The conduct of this ‘publisher’ is just as much a ‘rip off’ as dodgy investment schemes.

  • Neuroskeptic August 27, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Could this be the beginning of the end for predatory publishing?

  • Narad August 27, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    A spokesperson for the FTC confirmed to us that this is a precedent-setting case

    Nitpick: There’s a nonnegligible distinction between setting legal precedent and a case’s being unprecedented.

  • Dr H V Wyatt August 28, 2016 at 9:53 am

    About time

  • Raphael Cohen-Almagor August 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Finally. About time

  • careful scientist August 28, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Go FTC! So so so tired of omics spam. Besides defrauding unwary investigators, they give scientific literature (and conferences) a really bad name.

  • Deepak August 29, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Hope this brings an end to predatory publishing

  • Sneha Kulkarni August 29, 2016 at 1:06 am

    It is incredibly heartening to see that a questionable publisher has been sued as this will alert other authors who might be planning to publish in one of the journals owned by this publisher. Publishers and journals holding papers hostage over publishing fees is not an entirely uncommon phenomenon. At Editage Insights we have encountered authors who sought advice after falling prey to such publishers: http://www.editage.com/insights/manuscript-status-showing-unsubmitted-even-after-having-paid-the-article-processing-charge. Predatory publishers are one of the biggest worries of academia and more federal agencies and institutions should come forth and take a step towards putting an end to this problem.

  • JCalvertN(UK) August 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

    That’s great news. But . . . what about the body of knowledge involved? Will it be lost?

  • Venkatesh Naini September 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Heartening to see FTC taking action against such cheap, “junk science” publishers such as OMICS, who profit from plagiarized and predatory practices. Unfortunate such publishers call South India as their home base.

  • Sean McDonough November 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Why do academic ethics standards forbid researchers from submitting the same material to multiple journals? I literally can’t see any reason for those sort of restrictions… <:-S

    • Keith December 2, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Because the number of papers people have had published is used as a metric of how good a researcher is. If the same paper is published in multiple journals, then they dishonestly pad out their credentials.

  • Valerie Hale December 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Its a first step if algorithms that reward numbers rather than innovation are to be used for awarding funds. Publishing is an industry. It is big money if it determines who, what, and where for future dollars spent on research. Exploitation of the end recipients of those dollars (those doing the research and trying to publish to feed the algorithms) is not a good trend. Fraud and corruption are two words most scientists are ill-equipped to deal with. Should we be integrating functionality in our reference manager software (aka like Zotero) that reaches out to check current retractions, fake journals, flagged authors??? It would make it so much easier for teaching students who are learning to cite properly… as they inherently now question if what they find has value and thus struggle with fact, fiction or plagiarism on a daily basis.

  • Saleh August 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Dear researchers and physicians
    Omics is currently functioning as allied academias and still using the same deceiving phrases of calling people to a summit or a congress and when you attend you will realize it is a very small meeting with a very few people and they never attend to organize. They only higher student and small media individual to run the show.. we have reacently experienced this in 3 meetings held in Toronto this august. I would like to warn all my reasearchers colleagues and physicians of their adds and calls for the meetings. You can open omics website and allied academias website and you will realize that they are the same. Currently there are several law cases against omics so they started functioning under a different name . A group of of people mainly residing in India running this business. I really appreciate if any one else had such a bad experience with this company to announce it to share it with scientific committee

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