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Hijacked journals: what they are and how to avoid them

Hijacked journals are duplicate or fake websites of legitimate ones utilizing the title, ISSN and other information of the reputable journal. They are often created by a malicious third party for the purpose of fraudulently offering academicians the opportunity to rapidly publish their research online for a fee [1,2].

In this blog Dr. Varun G Menon, Associate Professor at SCMS Group of Educational Institutions, India, alerts researchers to the threat posed by hijacked journals to their career and to the scholarly community, and provides tips for spotting and avoiding them. In this article, the term ‘hijacked journal’ refers to the fake version of the original legitimate journal [3].

Dr. Verun G Menon

By Dr. Varun G Menon

Kind Attention of Authors: Stay Away from Fake/Hijacked Journals

To create a hijacked journal, a malicious third party develops a duplicate website of a legitimate journal using its ISSN number, title and other content. The website’s developers then solicit manuscript submissions through emails to lure authors into publishing in the hijacked journal, pocketing the author fee or sometimes the research paper on the way. You may be able to afford a loss of money, but just imagine losing your research paper for which you have put in your best effort and time! The publication will not be accepted towards your research degree at your university, and your academic reputation might be damaged.

"Hijacked journals never provide peer review services to the authors. This is one of the easiest ways to identify these types of journals. Hijacked journals thus question the exceptional service provided by researchers who provide thorough peer reviews for manuscript submitted to quality journals. It further causes harm to the quality and integrity of the academic publishing community.

A friend of mine, senior Professor in Computer Science Engineering, recently shared with me his list of publications in journals with Journal Impact Factor (JIF). While searching for those papers online, I was surprised to find one that was published in a hijacked version of a journal with a JIF. When I contacted him, he had no idea about this. He had received a call for paper from a hijacked journal through email which led him to pay around $600 for getting his paper published in the duplicate website.

Below is the screenshot of the hijacked version of the journal “Jokull” in which he had published his paper.

hijacked version of Jokull

Hijacked Version of Jokull Journal (http://www.jokulljournal.com)

Jokull journal is a legitimate journal with a JIF that publishes high quality papers in the field of Earth Sciences. Its head office is in Iceland. Below you can find the screenshot of the legitimate journal.

legitimate Jokull

Legitimate website of Jokull Journal (https://jokulljournal.is) [4]

I believe my friend would have searched for the journal in Google as we all do. Below is the screenshot of search results on Jokull Journal. We can see that the first result of the search is the hijacked journal and the legitimate journal is shown as the third search result.

search results for Jokull

Google search result for Jokull Journal

How can you find out whether a journal is fake or not? Here are some tips to help you spot and avoid hijacked journals:[5,6,7]

  • First, always perform intensive checks/investigation on call for papers received through email. Start by searching the journal in various search engines, and through online forums or blogs to find out more.
  • Try downloading or viewing already published papers. Hijacked journals often contain papers of low quality with numerous typos that are often copied from other journals. Generally they will not display information on already published papers.
  • Hijacked journals often offer very small peer review time. Most of the times they do not provide any review and accept paper without modifications.
  • Most of hijacked journals have fake editorial boards without designation, university address or contact information.
  • Hijacked journals often do not provide scope information or subjects accepted for publication in the journal. They would publish papers in all subjects.
  • Be careful with journals that provide ambiguous statements on author fees.
  • Hijacked journals have weak websites with simple submission format. Direct email to the editor along with research paper is always preferred by these journals.

Many university websites provide a list of hijacked journals which would be a useful reference for you. In addition, Publons published a free Journal List of quality journals. It is a very good resource for authors to search for trustworthy journals in their areas of research.

Clarivate Analytics’ Master Journal List is a free searchable database of journals in the Core Collection of Web of Science, including the Impact Factor database. Alternatively, Cabells Scholarly Analytics has also come up with the Journal Black List and the Journal White List that are paid services.

I hope this article will help you identify and avoid hijacked journals in the future. Let’s all focus on publishing our research papers in quality journals.

Wishing you the best.

Varun

References

[1] Butler, D. (2013). Sham journals scam authors. Nature, 495(7442), 421-422.
[2] Dadkhah, M. & Borchardt, G. (2016). Hijacked Journals: An Emerging Challenge for Scholarly Publishing. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 36(6), 739-741.
[3] Hijacked Journals. (2018). Retrieved from https://beallslist.weebly.com/hijacked-journals.html
[4] Jökull | Iceland Glaciological Society. (2018). Retrieved from https://jokulljournal.is
[5] Menon, V. G. (2018). How Are Predatory Publishers Preying on Uninformed Scholars? Don’t Be a Victim. IGI Global’s Webinar Series, available online at https://www.igiglobal.com/symposium
[6] Khosravi, M. (2018). Reliability of scholarly journal acceptance rates. Library Hi Tech News, 35(10), 7-8.
[7] Menon, V. G. & Khosravi, M. (2019). Securing your research paper from getting hijacked using search engines of Web of Science and Scopus databases. submitted to Library Hi Tech News, Emerald Publishing.

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