OMICS Publishing Group

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OMICS Publishing Group
OMICS Publishing Group.png
Parent company OMICS Group Inc
Status Active
Founded 2007 (2007)
Founder Srinubabu Gedela
Country of origin India
Headquarters location Hyderabad
Distribution Worldwide
Publication types Open access journals
Nonfiction topics Science, technology, and medicine
No. of employees 1500[1]
Official website www.omicsonline.org

OMICS Publishing Group is a publisher of open access journals that is widely regarded as predatory.[2][3][4][5][6][7] It issued its first publication in 2008.[8] According to a 2012 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about 60 percent of the group's 200 journals had never actually published anything.[9]

Academics and the United States government have questioned the validity of peer review by OMICS journals, the appropriateness of author fees and marketing, and the apparent advertising of the names of scientists as journal editors or conference speakers without their knowledge or permission.[3][4][5][6][7] As a result, the U.S. National Institutes of Health does not accept OMICS publications for listing in PubMed Central and sent a cease-and-desist letter to OMICS in 2013, demanding that OMICS discontinue false claims of affiliation with U.S. government entities or employees.[6] OMICS has responded to criticisms by avowing a commitment to open access publishing, claiming that detractors are traditional subscription-based publishers who feel threatened by their open access publishing model,[10] and threatening a prominent critic with a US$1 billion lawsuit.[9]

History[edit]

OMICS Publishing Group was founded in 2007 by Srinubabu Gedela,[9] who remains the company's director.[11][12] It started its first open-access journal, the Journal of Proteomics & Bioinformatics, in 2008.[8] In 2012, OMICS Group had more than 200 journal titles, about 60% of which had no content.[9] By 2015, it claimed over 700 titles, but an article published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation stated that "half of them are defunct, and the rest are suffering a credibility problem".[10]

Publishing activities[edit]

OMICS operates on an open access model, wherein the author pays for publication and the publisher makes the articles available for free. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, some open access journals are legitimate, while others are vanity publications "that accept virtually any article to collect fees from the authors." There is not always a clear distinction between the two.[3] The publication fee for OMICS journals vary from the low hundreds up to $2,700. OMICS also charges a withdrawal fee (stated as 30% of the article processing charge) should a paper be withdrawn more than a week after submission.

OMICS Meetings[edit]

In 2013, Jeffrey Beall reported that OMICS has added conducting "predatory meetings" to its publications activity[13] including under the ConferenceSeries banner.[14] An example of such a meeting is the 2016 International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, organised by ConferenceSeries, and to which Christoph Bartneck, an Associate Professor in Information Technology at New Zealand's University of Canterbury, was invited. With little knowledge of nuclear physics, Bartneck used iOS's auto complete function to write the paper, choosing randomly from its suggestions after starting each sentence,[15] and submitted it under the name Iris Pear (a reference to Siri and Apple).[16] A sample sentence from the abstract for the resulting manuscript was: "The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids"[15] and the 516-word abstract contained the words "good" and "great" a combined total of 28 times (and is available online).[16] Despite being obvious nonsense, the work was accepted within three hours of submission and a conference registration fee of US$1099 requested.[15][16] Bartneck commented that he was "reasonably certain that this is a money-making conference with little to no commitment to science," a comment he based on the poor quality of the review process and the high cost of attendance.[15] In terms of inadequate to non-existent reviewing, the incident was compared to an earlier case where Dr Peter Vamplew, from Federation University in Victoria, had a manuscript containing only the phrase "Get me off your fucking mailing list" accepted by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology.[15][17]

Beall criticised the financial arrangements for OMICS conferences, noting that the "registration policy shows that they never grant refunds for registration fees – even if they themselves cancel or postpone the conference. Instead, they grant a credit for other OMICS conferences."[13] He also recommends, "in the strongest terms possible, that all scholars from all countries avoid doing business in any way with the OMICS Group. Do not submit papers. Do not agree to serve on their editorial boards. Do not register for or attend their conferences."[13]

Conference sting[edit]

Tom Spears of the Ottawa Citizen has repeatedly submitted several sting abstracts that OMICS conferences accepted. The abstract titles included “Evolution of flight characteristics in avian-porcine physiology” and “Strategies for remediation of benthic and pelagic species dependent on coral reefs: Cases of T. migratorius and G. californianus.” The abstracts claimed to explain how pigs fly and claimed roadrunner birds lived underwater.[18] In another case, OMICS accepted a randomly-generated nonsense paper to an ethics journal, and later accepted the same paper to a conference on geriatrics and nursing.[19]

Acquisition of Canadian publishers[edit]

In late September 2016, OMICS acquired two Canadian publishers, Andrew John Publishing and Pulsus Group, and sixteen journals published by them.[20] The acquisition led to a decline in publishing standards,[21] caused concern that the names of the publishers were being hijacked to lend credence to bogus science, and led to six of the sixteen journals stating their intention to terminate their publishing contracts with OMICS.[20] The CEO and Managing Director of OMICS claimed that the publisher will only have minimal influence on the editorial policy and content of the journals, and reiterated OMICS' position that they are a legitimate publisher.[22]

Criticism of publishing practices[edit]

OMICS is widely regarded as a predatory publisher.[2][3][4][5][6][7] It is part of the OMICS Group, based in Hyderabad, India.[5] OMICS has been subject to criticism, notably by Jeffrey Beall, who included OMICS in his list of several hundred "potential, possible, or probable predatory" publishers that "take advantage of academics desperate to get their work published." Beall and others have "raised concerns about the practices of OMICS and the quality of its journals." They claim the journals are not actually peer-reviewed as advertised, often contain mistakes and that its fees are excessive.[9] The company says that its activities are legitimate and ethical, but that the quality of its editorial control does need improvement.[3][11]

It was also suggested that OMICS provides lists of scientists as journal editors to create the impression of familiarity or scientific legitimacy, even though these are editors in name only and are not involved in the review or editing process.[3] An editor-in-chief who was contacted by Science stated that he had never handled any papers;[6] in an interview with The Hindu, another said he had not been informed of his purported editorship.[7] Other academics have said that OMICS published articles unaltered in spite of their request for revisions.[10] The company has also been slow to remove the names of editorial board members who requested to terminate their relationship with OMICS activities, in some cases taking almost two years.[11][10]

Some observers have described the publisher as "predatory", insofar as authors who have submitted papers have been sent invoices after their manuscripts were accepted for publication despite the lack of a robust peer-review process. One author received an invoice for US$2700 after her paper was accepted; this fee was not mentioned in the email message OMICS sent her to solicit a submission.[5] These observations have led critics to assert that the main purpose of the publisher is commercial rather than academic.[3][4]

Other criticisms of OMICS include the publication of pseudoscientific articles,[3] deceptive marketing practices,[9][6] targeting of young investigators or those in lower income regions,[6][7] holding papers hostage by disallowing their withdrawal (preventing them from being published by other journals),[23] and the advertising of academic or government scientists as speakers or organizers for OMICS conferences without their agreement.[6] In 2012, an OMICS journal rejected a paper after the reviewer noticed it was plagiarized from a paper he had previously co-authored; another OMICS journal published the same paper later that year. When the reviewer pointed this out, the paper was removed from OMICS' website in 2014 but no official retraction posted.[24]

In 2013, an OMICS journal accepted a bogus and obviously flawed publication submitted as part of a sting operation by Science.[25][26]

In 2017, Scopus delisted several OMICS journals for "publication concerns".[27]

Action by US government agencies[edit]

In April 2013, OMICS received a cease-and-desist letter from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) after a complaint filed by Ken Witwer, who said he had been fooled by OMICS's deceptive marketing. The letter alleged that OMICS used images and names of employees that either no longer worked at NIH or did not provide their permission, and asked OMICS not to use the name of its agencies institutes or employees for anything other than "true factual statements".[6] OMICS responded by modifying its website and providing emails and letters from the NIH employees ostensibly agreeing to serve as editors of OMICS journals. Those employees later said that while they did agree to serve as editors, they did not provide permission for their names to be used in marketing materials; furthermore, they had not actually handled any manuscripts.[6] Witwer welcomed the move, saying that he was encouraged the DHHS was taking action to defend itself and the community.[6]

In August 2016 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a suit against OMICS, two affiliated companies, and Gedela, charging them with deceptive publishing practices.[23] This was the FTC's first-ever suit against an academic publisher.[28] In response to the FTC letter, OMICS lawyers took issue with the various allegations, maintaining that their processes were legal and claiming that corporate interests were driving the suit.[29]

Legal threat to Jeffrey Beall[edit]

In 2013, OMICS Publishing Group sent a letter to University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall stating that they intended to sue him and were seeking $1 billion in damages. In their six-page letter, OMICS stated that Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent", and "smacks of literal unprofessionalism and arrogance".[30] Beall said that he found the letter "to be poorly written and personally threatening", and that he thought that "the letter is an attempt to detract from the enormity of OMICS's editorial practices".[31]

OMICS' law firm said it was pursuing damages under India's Information Technology Act 2000, referring to section 66A, which makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" or to publish false information. It stated that three years in prison was a possible penalty, although a U.S. lawyer said that the threats seemed to be a "publicity stunt" that was meant to "intimidate".[9] An editorial in the New Delhi-based India Today cited the incident as evidence that Section 66A should be discarded to eliminate its use in "stifling political dissent, crushing speech and ... enabling bullying".[32] In 2015, Section 66A was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in an unrelated case.[33][34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chanting success mantra, scientific way". The Hindu. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Beall, Jeffrey. "The OMICS Publishing Group’s Empire is Expanding". Scholarly OA. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Stratford, Michael (2012-03-04). "'Predatory' Online Journals Lure Scholars Who Are Eager to Publish". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  4. ^ a b c d Beall, Jeffrey (2010-07-01). "Update: Predatory Open-Access Scholarly Publishers". The Charleston Advisor. Charleston.publisher.ingentaconnect.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Declan Butler, "Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing", Nature, 27 March 2013
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Jocelyn Kaiser, "ScienceInsider: U.S. Government Accuses Open Access Publisher of Trademark Infringement", Science, 09 May 2013
  7. ^ a b c d e "On the Net, a scam of a most scholarly kind" The Hindu, 26 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Simpson, Richard J. (April 2008). "Editorial" (PDF). Journal of Proteomics & Bioinformatics. 1 (1): i–ii. Retrieved November 20, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Jake New (May 15, 2013). "Publisher Threatens to Sue Blogger for $1-Billion". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Predatory publishers criticised for 'unethical, unprincipled' tactics". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c Gina Kolata, "Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too)", New York Times, 8 April 2013
  12. ^ "Pharma Body meeting". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 22 Oct 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c Beall, Jeffrey; Levine, Richard (25 January 2013). "OMICS Goes from "Predatory Publishing" to "Predatory Meetings"". Scholarly Open Access. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  14. ^ Beall, Jeffrey (13 October 2016). "Bogus British Company "Accredits" OMICS Conferences". Scholarly Open Access. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Hunt, Elle (22 October 2016). "Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c Bartneck, Christoph (20 October 2016). "iOS Just Got A Paper On Nuclear Physics Accepted At A Scientific Conference". University of Canterbury Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab, New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  17. ^ Safi, Michael (25 November 2014). "Journal accepts bogus paper requesting removal from mailing list". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  18. ^ Spears, Tom (March 3, 2017). "When pigs fly: Fake science conferences abound for fraud and profit". Ottawa Citizen. 
  19. ^ Spears, Tom (June 5, 2017). "Fake science publisher offers shoddy continuing education for doctors, nurses". Ottawa Citizen. 
  20. ^ a b "Canadian medical journals hijacked for junk science". The Toronto Star. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  21. ^ "Offshore firm accused of publishing junk science takes over Canadian journals". CTV News. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016. .
  22. ^ "Full statement by Srinubabu Gedela, CEO and Managing Director of OMICS Group". CTV News. 28 September 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  23. ^ a b FTC, "FTC Charges Academic Journal Publisher OMICS Group Deceived Researchers"; Complaint Alleges Company Made False Claims, Failed to Disclose Steep Publishing Fees. Press Release, Aug. 26, 2016. Complaint filed with the District Court of Nevada, Aug. 25, 2016 (PDF available).
  24. ^ Paul Jump, "Rejected work gets back in the line-up", Times Higher Education, 7 August 2014
  25. ^ Bohannon, John (2013). "Who's Afraid of Peer Review?". Science. 342 (6154): 60–65. PMID 24092725. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.60. 
  26. ^ "Data and Documents". Science. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  27. ^ McCook, Alison (2017-03-27). "Multiple OMICS journals delisted from major index over concerns". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  28. ^ McCook, Alison (August 26, 2016), "U.S. government agency sues publisher, charging it with deceiving researchers", Retraction Watch 
  29. ^ Oransky, Ivan; Marcus, Adam (September 2, 2016), "Are 'predatory' publishers' days numbered?", STAT 
  30. ^ New, Jake (15 May 2013). "Publisher Threatens to Sue Blogger for $1-Billion". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  31. ^ Chappell, Bill (15 May 2013). "Publisher Threatens Librarian With $1 Billion Lawsuit". NPR. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  32. ^ Rohan Venkataramakrishnan (2013-05-19). "Send Section 66A bullies home". India Today. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  33. ^ Jayant Sriram (2015-03-24). "SC strikes down ‘draconian’ Section 66A". The Hindu. 
  34. ^ "Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.167 of 2012" (PDF). 

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