My journal was hijacked: an editor’s experience

Sune Dueholm Müller

At the beginning of February 2023, I discovered that the Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems (SJIS) had been hijacked. As editor-in-chief of the publication, I had been contacted by an author confused by receiving both an acceptance letter and a desk rejection for her manuscript. I had rejected the paper because it did not align with our editorial policy. Upon investigation, the acceptance letter turned out to have been issued by cybercriminals attempting to charge her for publication in what she thought was SJIS but was in fact a fraudulent website posing as the journal.

Journal hijacking is a growing problem and a threat to the entire scientific community. Hijacked journals are scam websites that impersonate legitimate journals and attempt to take over their brand. A list including hundreds of these fake sites can be found at the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker. By stealing the brand, web domain, or the serial number used to identify a publication, cybercriminals try to lure researchers into paying for publications. The problem is in part attributable to increased pressure on researchers to publish their work in journals indexed in Scopus, Elsevier’s abstract and citation database.

Researchers of all experience levels fall prey to such scams. This susceptibility often stems from the tendency to be off guard when communicating with seemingly authentic and trustworthy academic journals, particularly when links to these journals are found on otherwise credible bibliographical databases.

In the case that led to the discovery of the SJIS hijacking, the researcher who was swindled described the experience as harrowing, making her question whom she could trust. She also ran into trouble at her university, which required her to have two publications in Scopus-indexed journals to advance her career. 

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