2017/01 LEM Working Paper Series

A Walk on the Wild Side: ‘Predatory’ Journals and Information Asymmetries in Scientific Evaluations

Manuel Bagues, Mauro Sylos-Labini and Natalia Zinovyeva
predatory journals, Italian academia, scientific misconduct

  JEL Classifications
I23, J45

In recent years the academic world has experienced a mushrooming of jour-nals that falsely pretend to be legitimate academic outlets. We study this phe-nomenon using information from 46,000 researchers seeking promotion in Italian academia. About 5% of them have published in journals included in the blacklist of ‘potential, possible, or probable predatory journals’ elaborated by the schol-arly librarian Jeffrey Beall. Data from a survey that we conducted among these researchers confirms that at least one third of these journals do not provide peer review or they engage in some other type of irregular editorial practice. We iden-tify two factors that may have spurred publications in dubious journals. First, some of these journals have managed to be included in citation indexes such as Scopus that many institutions consider as a guarantee of quality. Second, we show that authors who publish in these journals are more likely to receive a positive evaluation when (randomly selected) scientific evaluators lack research expertise. Overall, our analysis suggests that the proliferation of ‘predatory’ journals may reflect the existence of severe information asymmetries in scientific evaluations.
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