Journals going rogue, authors beware

Pleading emails requesting papers are regular visitors to one’s inbox. These unsolicited and flattering requests promise rapid publication and tempt authors to part with their work. Even master’s and doctoral students, after graduation, receive sweet-talking requests to publish their dissertations as a book, a book chapter, or as a paper. Predatory journals and publishers are easy to spot and ignore at these low ends.

The danger lies with well-established and efficient predatory publishers. These ‘efficient’ publishers hide in the open on allowlists, such as South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHETs) list of approved journals, and reputable indices such as Scopus and the WoS. They embellish their websites with claims of peer review and even state that they comply with requirements set by the Committee on Publication Ethics. Their websites tick all the boxes, providing a strong veneer of an authentic scholarly journal. 

One of my colleagues alerted me to a suspected predatory publisher. I looked into the case and thought it sensible to share my results, with the hope of sensitising postgraduate students and fellow authors.

I was asked to look at a suspicious acceptance letter from the Journal of Namibian Studies and a $365 invoice for article processing charges. The journal is listed on the 2023 DHET list of approved journals but was delisted by Scopus in 2023 due to quality issues. See Scopus’s Source Title List for the discontinued titles.

Words in the journal’s acceptance letter, “to enlighten you” and “manuscript reviewed and appraised by the review committee members,” raised suspicion. In addition, the invoice requested payment to be made to a conference business in India. Payment to a business on the sub-continent is at odds with what one would expect from a journal with links to Namibia and Germany. For example, papers in volume 31 of the journal (2022) list a German academic as the editor, and academics from Namibia, Germany, and South Africa, amongst others, as editorial advisory board members. 

I explored further and discovered the following: The publisher changed on 1 January 2023 from Otjivanda Presse to the Society of Cultural Studies and Social Sciences (Hong Kong). The notice date on the journal website is 16 May 2023. I was not able to trace this society on the Hong Kong government website (a person must register before being able to search for a company). The invoice, in contrast, lists ARDA Conference Private Limited as the publisher. The new publisher also removed and replaced the editor, sub-editor, and editorial board members. For example, a Dr Jimmy with no affiliation is listed as a new sub-editor.

Earlier papers, pre-2023, were in line with the journal’s narrow focus, namely humanities and the social sciences, devoted exclusively to Namibian studies. The pre-2023 journal only published seven papers in 2021 and 14 papers in 2022, in addition to reviews and reports. The journal, under the new publisher, produced 224 papers by mid-July 2023 (the first two papers in 2023 were published by the original publisher). There are currently five special issues listed for 2023, with about 800 papers. Most of these papers are outside the journal’s scope and show no connection to Namibia. The original publisher’s copy-editing work is notably better when compared to the new publisher.

A visit to the Academic Research and Development (ARDA) website, the journal’s new publisher, revealed a  larger issue. Their website lists many journals that appear to be under their control – 39 of these journals, for example, are listed as Scopus-indexed. The new publisher’s link for the Journal of Namibian Studies informs a reader that acceptance is within two days, followed by publication in ten days. I looked at some journals on the ARDA  website and noticed the same trend. Authors are promised acceptance within two days for the Journal of Survey in Fisheries Sciences and ten to 15 days for the European Chemical Bulletin. Both journals publish a large number of papers – most outside the journals’ scope. There is no editorial team for the Journal of Survey in Fisheries Sciences and an opaque and questionable editorial team for the European Chemical Bulletin. As with the Journal of Namibian Studies, the copy-editing work differs quality-wise from earlier editions. Both these journals are on the 2023 DHET accredited list.

ARDA promises rapid acceptance and publication for the International Journal of Professional Business Review, the Journal of Survey in Fisheries Sciences, and Res Militaris. Scopus discontinued these journals in 2023 but they are still on the 2023 DHETs list.

Another questionable journal under ARDAs control is the Russian Law Journal. Scopus only covered this journal from 2013 to 2021 but the journal still appears on Scopus’s Source Title List and on the DHET list. I emailed Dr. Anna Dmitri, “Publisher and Owner RLJ” and asked about article processing charges and how long it takes to publish a paper after submission.  The Editorial Team replied: “Registration fee for an article is USD 190/ INR 17k. Your article will be published within 15 working days after completion of the registration process.” 

ARDA also provides writing services. Regarding thesis and dissertation writing, they promise to “deliver well-researched thesis papers without any mistakes and plagiarism. Thesis writing is, without a doubt, a challenging and time-consuming undertaking that requires a ton of time. With ARDA, you will get access to a global network of knowledgeable researchers who will assist your needs.”

Some predatory publishers and their facilitators operate in plain sight. The danger is no longer the poorly worded and pleading emails in our inboxes but journals with a respectable façade. We should not trust a journal at face value. Authentic scholarly journals, even those on reputable indices, may discard appropriate editorial practices and become income-generating instruments for their owners.

What I don’t know is how the publisher acquired the Journal for Namibian Studies and the other journals listed on their website. Were there hostile takeovers, did a founding editor unwittingly sell the journal, or cede control?

Selecting a journal for disseminating one’s work requires more than checking if the journal appears on the DHET’s list or a reputable index. We must sensitise ourselves to predatory indicators such as a high volume of papers, opaque editorial members, poor copy editing, papers outside a journal’s scope, and promises of rapid publication.

Rudi de Lange is a part-time lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology. This post is republished with permission from Anfasa Magazine, 2023, 7(4), produced by the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa.

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8 thoughts on “Journals going rogue, authors beware”

  1. When I encountered ARDA Conferences five years ago, they were part of an empire of congress generators and listing sites, centred on Technoarete Headquarters (which is to say Flat 4A, Girija Apartments in Chennai), largely registered by “Technoarete Research And Development Association”. Along with “ASAR” (the Association for Scientific and Academic Research), and “Academic World Research”.

    https://eusa-riddled.blogspot.com/2018/12/futurological-congress.html

  2. The Russian Law Journal was hijacked. See, here https://retractionwatch.com/2023/05/26/three-journals-web-domains-expired-then-major-indexes-pointed-to-hijacked-versions/. The journal ceased publication in 2021. Subsequently, some fraudulent publishers registered the journal’s expired domain. Unfortunately, hundreds of these papers ended up in Web of Science. It is correct that the journal has not been discontinued in Scopus because specific reasons are required for discontinuation. Dr.Anna Dmitri is a fake name.

  3. ARDA look like a fraud. There are no names involved on any contact pages or google maps. Boycott them completely.

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