Nigeria cracks down on publishing in predatory journals

Lagos— Tertiary institutions in Nigeria must train academics to spot fraudulent journals, researchers say.

The researchers, members of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences (NAS), noted this in a statement made public after it convened a roundtable on March 29 to discuss the fight against predatory academic practices.

Oladoyin Odubanjo, the executive secretary of NAS, told SciDev.Net that key decision makers have identified policies and activities that could be carried out by tertiary institutions to combat predatory journals and conferences in Nigeria.

Predatory journals are open access publications that exploit researchers and engage in suspicious editorial practices and fake journal indexing. Publishers are interested, for the sole purpose of making a profit by posing as open access journals without the rigors of peer reviews.

The academy, in its statement, recommended strengthening libraries and librarians to identify predatory journals, creating a publication list of reputable journals, and incentivizing publication in highly rated journals.

Top 20 countries with the highest contribution in predatory reviews.

“Nigerian tertiary institutions should review their academic assessment policies, with a view to shifting the focus from quantity to quality,” NAS members advise in the statement.

“This would serve to reduce the intensity of the publish-or-perish syndrome.”

In 2018, Cabells Predatory Reports – a paid subscription that provides a database of predatory journals – had a list of 10,332 predatory journals worldwide in 2018. As of January 2022, this number has increased to 15,574 journals, with approximately 150 journals added per month to this list over the past three years.

Nigeria is one of the biggest contributors to predatory journals, according to a 2015 study study published in BMC Medicine. This has been attributed to high academic demands for publication and a lack of resources to publish in top-tier journals.

“Predatory journals tend to be more commercial, less rigorous in their editorial requirements, disregarding the integrity of their appeal, and generally undermining academic excellence,” said Michael Faborode, professor of agricultural engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University, at SciDev.Net.

“The biggest problem is that they are widespread and growing in number and boldness, with some of them even being indexed and falsely having high visibility and ranking scores.”

According to Faborode, the tricks of predatory journal publishers are to establish journals with bogus or phantom editorial systems and to employ locals in different countries to facilitate payment in local currency.

He adds that predatory journals have little or no editorial review and articles are published online within days of receipt.

Fight against the scourge

The Nigerian Academy of Sciences says the proposed measures will help the country tackle the problem of predatory journals.

It also recommends that policymakers, the country’s university commission and the ministry of science, technology and innovation support the development and promotion of local journals that meet international standards.

“Creating an environment conducive to quality research is critical to combating predatory academic practices in Nigeria. Adequate funding, as well as availability and accessibility of research equipment will enable Nigerian researchers to conduct good research with publishable results in reputable journals,” the NAS said.

Friday Okonofua, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and founding editor of the African Journal of Reproductive Health, says institutional strategies could help prevent predatory publications.

One strategy would be to revise university promotion criteria to include publications of quality rather than quantity, and to use academic impact factors – the frequency with which an average paper is cited in a year – for promotions from teachers, says Okonofua. He adds that this is already being used by the NAS and is being considered by the National Universities Commission.

Faborode says special committees in educational institutions are also cracking down on publishing in predatory journals, adding, “Over time, a list of predatory journals is compiled and continually revised because fraudsters, like barons drugs and gangsters, are getting more and more aggressive in their exploits. Sometimes keeping up with them is a big challenge.”

This story was produced as part of Dataphyte’s Media Fellowship 2022.

This piece was produced by the UK Sub-Saharan Africa office of SciDev.Net.