For years I have complained about predatory publishers found in PubMed. The publishers entry point is through PMC. Articles submitted to PMC are searchable and findable using the PubMed interface DESPITE being from a journal that is NOT indexed in MEDLINE.
Librarians and very savvy researchers might know the distinction, but the vast majority of the people using PubMed do not know or care. If it is found in PubMed then it they believe it has passed some sort of litmus test. Librarians, ask yourself, how many times have you done a long complicated search in PubMed and then looked at the journals to try and weed out predatory journals. Several different people have questioned, criticized or stated concerns about the PMC backdoor to PubMed. However, a recent post on Scholarly Kitchen reveals things have gotten worse. Predatory journals can now be found in other biomedical databases such as Science Direct and WoS via cited references. Where PMC was the backdoor for predatory publishers to be findable in PubMed, the cited reference has become the backdoor for these publishers to be findable in other biomedical databases.
Citation Contamination: References to Predatory Journals in the Legitimate Scientific Literature by Rick Anderson identified seven journal titles that fell victim to publishing junk articles or fake editor approval. He then looked for any published articles that cited and article published in these seven journals. What he found was articles published in predatory journals are indeed being cited by authors who are writing in non-predatory journals and thereby are findable in WoS and Science Direct and DOAJ.
Rick Anderson isn’t the only person to have discovered this problem. Authors of the article, Citations of articles in predatory nursing journals, in Nursing Outlook found “814 citations to articles published in predatory nursing journals. These articles were cited in 141 nonpredatory nursing journals.” The authors correctly noted that CINAHL and MEDLINE do not index predatory journals and that the prevalence of predatory journals in other databases is still small. Yet these journals are findable in PubMed (through the PMC backdoor) and other databases through the cited references backdoor, I feel it inadvertently and falsely gives these journals some legitimacy to authors.
Unfortunately, NLM has yet to adequately address the PMC problem. NLM employees responded to the CMAJ article “How predatory journals leak into PubMed” stating, “journals that apply to be in PMC undergo a rigorous assessment of scientific and editorial quality.” Really? Then why are there articles from predatory publishers even in PMC? IMHO, rigorous assessment of scientific and editorial quality means that no article published in a predatory journal should be allowed, regardless of whether NIH grants were used for the research.
Rick Anderson’s post is very recent (published Oct. 28, 2019), as of today (Nov. 5, 2019) I have not found any responses from the databases he mentioned regarding infiltration of predatory journals via cited references. Several databases have stated they have taken steps to help prevent the indexing of predatory publishers’ journals, but I couldn’t find anything dealing with the issue of cited references.
Predatory publishers have become the dandelion weed in the garden of biomedical literature. While they have not completely infested the landscape, their seeds distributed on the winds of Google, PMC, and other databases have invaded legitimate biomedical databases that researchers, clinicians and others use to share knowledge and treat patients. It will take a concerted effort by librarians, legitimate publishers, editors, and researchers to eliminate the predatory journal seeds from spreading further into the biomedical databases and invading the literature. If not, our biomedical databases will be like this.