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Over 5,000 Japanese articles published in 'predatory' journals

More than 5,000 articles authored by researchers from Japan including those at universities and other academic institutions have been published in "predatory" online journals of questionable quality, a recent Mainichi Shimbun tally has found.

The papers included 100 or more by researchers at each of Kyushu University, the University of Tokyo, Osaka University and Niigata University -- all national institutions. Experts say that the results indicate that some academics are using those publications to inflate their academic performance.

The more than 320 online, open-access journals are run by a single publishing house claiming on its website to be headquartered in China. They cover a wide range of disciplines including medicine, chemistry, physics and economics. The publisher can be found on a list of predatory journals and publishers compiled by a U.S. researcher.

The British science journal Nature reported in 2010 that the publisher ran past articles without the authors' approval and listed multiple researchers on its editorial boards without their consent. When contacted by the Mainichi, the publisher insisted that they do not "recognize" the U.S. researcher's list of predatory journals and publishers.

As many as 84,000 articles were published in journals put out by the Chinese company from 2003 through May 2018. A Mainichi analysis conducted with the help of predatory journal specialist professor Toshikazu Wada of Wakayama University has found that 5,076 of the papers were related to Japan. Of them, 3,972 articles had principal authors belonging to universities and other research institutions.

By university, Kyushu University had the largest number of such articles -- 147 -- whose principal authors belong to the school. The University of Tokyo came second with 132, followed by Osaka University with 107 and Niigata University at 102. Others were Nagoya University, 99; Nihon University, 87; Hokkaido University, 74; Hiroshima University, 73; and Kyoto University, 66.

Kyushu University has begun instructing its researchers to refrain from submitting articles to predatory journals, while the University of Tokyo responded that the school "plans to take no action at this point in time but will observe the situation."

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Kyushu University is the first in Japan to take a direct countermeasure against predatory journals.

Hundreds of new predatory journals are created every year worldwide, and many submissions to those publications come from researchers in Japan.

Publication in those magazines draws suspicions about, not confirmation of, the scientific validity of articles in question. Kyushu University therefore began to urge some of its researchers this academic year to use an analysis system it had introduced and select journals with a certain quality to submit their articles to. The university plans to expand the guidance to all of its 3,000 or so researchers and let them know about it through meetings of department heads.

(Japanese original by Shimpei Torii, Osaka Science & Environment News Department)

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