Identifying publications in questionable journals in the context of performance-based research funding
A I M Jakaria Rahman and
Tim C E Engels
PLOS ONE, 2019, vol. 14, issue 11, 1-19
In this article we discuss the five yearly screenings for publications in questionable journals which have been carried out in the context of the performance-based research funding model in Flanders, Belgium. The Flemish funding model expanded from 2010 onwards, with a comprehensive bibliographic database for research output in the social sciences and humanities. Along with an overview of the procedures followed during the screenings for articles in questionable journals submitted for inclusion in this database, we present a bibliographic analysis of the publications identified. First, we show how the yearly number of publications in questionable journals has evolved over the period 2003–2016. Second, we present a disciplinary classification of the identified journals. In the third part of the results section, three authorship characteristics are discussed: multi-authorship, the seniority–or experience level–of authors in general and of the first author in particular, and the relation of the disciplinary scope of the journal (cognitive classification) with the departmental affiliation of the authors (organizational classification). Our results regarding yearly rates of publications in questionable journals indicate that awareness of the risks of questionable journals does not lead to a turn away from open access in general. The number of publications in open access journals rises every year, while the number of publications in questionable journals decreases from 2012 onwards. We find further that both early career and more senior researchers publish in questionable journals. We show that the average proportion of senior authors contributing to publications in questionable journals is somewhat higher than that for publications in open access journals. In addition, this paper yields insight into the extent to which publications in questionable journals pose a threat to the public and political legitimacy of a performance-based research funding system of a western European region. We include concrete suggestions for those tasked with maintaining bibliographic databases and screening for publications in questionable journals.
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