The creation of the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker was made possible by Anna Abalkina’s development of a method of archive analysis that allowed the detection of more than 60 web domains of hijacked journals. Abalkina has expanded her searches using these methods; she has also examined titles submitted for review by readers who had seen her blog posts and other writing. 

The following are methods used to locate or confirm hijacked statuses of journals:

  • Duplicated Journal Archives: Hijacked journals share identical papers in their archives. The archives of journals with the same or similar titles were compared for overlap.
  • Identical website templates: Hijacked journals often use the same website template between each other; comparison of layouts can indicate or confirm a journal’s status as a hijacked journal.
  • Growth in Indexing: Hijacked journals typically show a sharp increase over several months of indexed papers in international citation databases. Examination of changes in publication rates can be an indicator of hijacking.
  • Anomalous Citations: Hijacked journals can be detected via citations which are typically unrelated to a journal’s particular field of study.
  • Scholars’ comments. Comments by scholars on public websites such as Scimago or submitted by correspondence can raise the specter of a journal having been hijacked.

A journal suspected of being hijacked is also analyzed according to its title, ISSN, indexation in scientometric databases, web domain registration, editorial board, and archives. 

At times in the Original Journal column, a comment may appear similar to:

“The authentic journal “Journal name” was not identified. But the domain http://someurlwillappearhere is very likely to be a hijacker.”

This means that in tracing the source for a potential hijacking journal, the information is clear that the hijacked journal is mimicking another journal, but it is unclear if the mimicked journal (i.e., journal listed in the Original Journal column) is indeed the original source or is itself a hijacked journal from yet another undetermined original source.

For now, the database includes hijacked journals located or active from 2020 on. Although this phenomenon was first described in 2011, the majority of those hijacked journals are no longer available for review.

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