An article published by four researchers from Uzbekistan showed why the former Soviet Republic in Central Asia has become known for a specific type of scientific misconduct: the publication of papers in predatory journals (low quality journals that publish any manuscript in exchange for money). The study, published in the journal Publications in July, found that 98% of papers by researchers from the country and accepted by international journals in 2018 were published in titles without a genuine peer review process. But it also revealed that the appeal of predatory journals is recent. Before 2010, most of the country’s scientific output was published in credible journals.
According to the authors—economists Bahtiyor Eshchanov and Kobilbek Abduraimov, chemist Mavluda Ibragimova, and pedagogist Ruzumboy Eshchanov, all from institutions headquartered in Tashkent, the country’s capital city—the phenomenon is the result of polices adopted in the last 10 years that encourage scientists to publish a large number of papers to advance their career. Uzbekistan’s Supreme Certification Commission, for example, requires doctoral candidates to have published at least 10 scientific articles, some of which must be in international journals. The authors suggest unattainable targets and an emphasis on quantity have led researchers to look for shortcuts to increase their output and achieve promotions. “This has led to unethical practices and a waste of research resources,” the article states.
The Uzbekistani scientific community is not large. The authors of the paper identified 2,500 articles written by 1,100 researchers between 2016 and 2019, published in 610 international journals. Analysis of these journals found that most of them, despite appearing to be headquartered in the USA, have just one mailing address in the country, and it is not possible to determine from where they actually operate. Many of the titles used practices common to predatory journals, such as very fast and undemanding peer review processes and relatively low publication charges of around US$80 per paper.
Despite the harmful effects, research in Uzbekistan remains of good quality in disciplines such as physics and chemistry, say the authors. There is a community of scientists publishing in reputable journals in these fields, such as Applied Solar Energy and Chemistry of Natural Compounds, which are now managed by the Elsevier publishing house but were founded by Uzbekistani researchers.Republish