One tactic predatory journals have used is to mimic longstanding legitimate journals online (or sometimes to acquire the titles). Predators rely on the journal’s reputation to collect fees1 without providing scholarly services. In August, scholar Anna Abalkina at the Free University of Berlin reported that a list of COVID-19 publications maintained by the World Health Organization contained hundreds of papers from three such journals, many entirely out of scope. (A journal supposedly about linguistics had papers on COVID-19, nutrition and gestational anaemia).
Indexing for our Lacuna database uncovered another alarming practice: re-publishing bootlegged copies of papers from legitimate sources, under new DOIs, without crediting the original journal, and sometimes not the original author. A researcher perusing what seem to be ‘back issues’ sees real peer-reviewed articles copied from legitimate journals.
Several anomalies led us to discover that at least nine papers in the Journal of Bone Research and Reports, under the iMEDPub LTD brand, were directly lifted from the Elsevier journal Bone Reports. (We reported this to Bone Reports; an Elsevier representative says the matter is now under investigation.) The first clue was the bizarre names of some authors, such as “urban center” and “parliamentarian”. Many author names appeared with an extra character (for example, “John Smitha” and “Mary Jonesb”) — indicating that they were copied from a document containing superscripts.
Some publishing institutions were nonsensical, including “university of canadian province” and “urban center university”. Author affiliations were listed in absurd ways: New Orleans was renamed “point of entry” and North Carolina was dubbed “old North State”. Some authors’ e-mail addresses were those of non-authors. (When we contacted authors of the Bone Reports articles, none was aware that their articles had been bootlegged; they responded with a mixture of anger, amusement and bafflement.)