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Good practices

COVID-19 studies in “hijacked” journals

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a database of some 320,000 scientific papers published on COVID-19. The vast majority of them are indexed in databases such as Scopus and the Web of Science, having undergone a rigorous peer review process. However, economist Anna Abalkina of the Free University of Berlin found that the repository also contains papers published by periodicals with fraudulent practices. She analyzed the database and found 383 articles published in “hijacked” journals—titles appropriated by imposters using fake websites and offering to publish manuscripts without the need for a peer review (see Pesquisa FAPESP issue no. 305). The fraudulent content appeared in three journals: Linguistica Antverpiensia, Turkish Journal of Computer and Mathematics Education, and Annals of the Romanian Society for Cell Biology.

“Papers published in hijacked journals pollute academic communication and provide non-peer-reviewed and often poor-quality material, frequently containing plagiarism or other types of academic misconduct,” explained Abalkina in a post on the Retraction Watch website. “The presence of papers from hijacked journals in the WHO database gives them false legitimacy.” The economist forwarded the list of articles to the WHO, which is reevaluating the contents of its database.