Meet the hijacked journal that keeps rising from the ashes

Anna Abalkina

Have you heard about hijacked journals, which take over legitimate publications’ titles, ISSNs, and other metadata without their permission? We recently launched the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker, and will be publishing regular posts like this one to tell the stories of some of those cases.

In early 2021, unknown hijackers stole the domain of the Turkish Journal of Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy. According to the journal’s legitimate publishers:

The domain name “www.turkjphysiotherrahabil.org” belonging to the Turkish Journal of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, our association’s institutional and scientific publication, has been stolen by international hackers. This address and journal, which is still accepting publications, has no relation with our journal.

This website offered fast publication with indexing in Scopus. And they really did it. More than 200 papers in the clone journal were indexed there. The legitimate title is also indexed by Web of Science. By the end of 2021, Web of Science indexed 24 papers from the journal, and Scopus had indexed 250 (see figure below). Because Scopus included unauthorized content but Web of Science only indexed the legitimate title, they appeared to index different papers published in the same pages of the same issue.

Recently, Scopus finally deleted the data. But the damage had been done: Papers from the  illegitimate title ended up in the WHO’s “COVID-19 Global literature on coronavirus disease,” like in the case of some other hijacked journals. Having entries removed from Scopus can be a death knell for a hijacked journal. The illegitimate publisher recently deleted all the information from the hijacked journal’s website, www.turkjphysiotherrahabil.org.

But the story doesn’t end there: A new clone website was created in March 2022. The domain name differs from the previous one by just one additional letter. The archive repeats the archive of a previous clone journal. And it is ready to cheat scholars who wish to publish their manuscripts quickly.

In May 2021, the new hijacked journal succeeded in indexing a paper in Scopus. The paper “Motivational program on nutrition, health and nutritional skills” was published on pages 10308-10317 of a clone of the Turkish Journal of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. Such  page numbers are a peculiar feature of hijacked journals, because they publish as many papers as possible during short periods of time.

Hijacked journals: A phoenix who is always rising from the ashes.

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3 thoughts on “Meet the hijacked journal that keeps rising from the ashes”

  1. Slight technical glitch. In my browser the first two images show up side-by-side on top of the text. It depends on the width – going to a narrower width sorts this out with one image on top of the other and the text clear. (On laptop.)

  2. Any idea what happened to the original journal and how they got jacked? Failed to renew their domain? Stole control of the domain with hacking or stolen credentials?

  3. I had a friend whose graduate student, perhaps due to pressure to publish her results and unfamiliarity of legitimate journals in her field (her field is fluid dynamics, far cry from physiotherapy), accidentally submit his work in the ‘journal’. She deeply regretted it.

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