Hijacked-journal tracker helps researchers to spot scam websites

Research journals are being cloned online to scam scientists.Credit: MShieldsPhotos/Alamy

Hijacked journals — scam websites that impersonate legitimate titles — have duped unsuspecting researchers out of author fees for years. Now, a tool will help researchers to check the validity of titles they are considering before they submit their work.

The online spreadsheet, called the ‘Retraction Watch hijacked journal checker’, lists more than 150 journal titles and associated web addresses of allegedly hijacked journals. It has been put together by Anna Abalkina, an economics researcher at the Free University of Berlin, and scientific-misconduct blog Retraction Watch.

The tool’s creators say that it could help to prevent researchers being fooled by fake journal websites. But others say that simply listing affected titles might not be enough to address the problem, which is exacerbated by broader issues in scholarly publishing.

Cloned titles

Hijacked journals usually exist in the form of ‘cloned’ websites that appear similar to those of the legitimate journals, but contain subtle changes in the web domain that go unnoticed at first glance. Some of these bogus journals also have hijacked International Standard Serial Numbers, or ISSNs — eight-digit codes used to identify periodicals — and some are indexed in mainstream bibliometric databases such as Scopus. Although they look similar to the real journal and collect…

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