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Over 88 per cent of UGC-approved list of journals are dubious, finds study

The UGC-approved list of journals is required for various academic purposes, including appointment of faculty, evaluation of their performance for career advancement, and submission of doctoral theses.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Updated: March 24, 2018 12:50:41 pm
UGC new secretary The UGC has admitted that it had received several complaints about inclusion of low-quality journals (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna/File)

A study of the list of journals approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC) has found that over 88 per cent of them, recommended by universities, are dubious and sub-standard. The study — Critical analysis of UGC-approved list of journals — was headed by a Pune-based researcher, Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, professor at the Inter-disciplinary School of Health Sciences, Pune University.

Published in Current Science, the study found that at least 349, or 34.5 per cent, of 1,009 journals were “disqualified” because of inaccurate or non-availability of essential information such as address, website details and names of editors. As many as 528, or 52.3 per cent journals, provided false information, or its editors had poor credentials, stated the study.

Only 112 journals of the 1,009 non-indexed university source journals secured a score of 6 or more, while 88.9 per cent of non-indexed journals from the ‘university source’ category of the UGC list did not satisfy the minimal requirements, the study found.

Dr Patwardhan, the main author of the study, said widespread ‘publish or perish’ policies have “given rise to a breed of predatory journals”, whose main objective is to make money by publishing ‘anything’ in the name of a research paper for a ‘fee’, commonly known as an “article/author processing charge”.

Patwardhan is also a member of the UGC Standing Committee to assess journals.

He, along with researchers from the Banaras Hindu University, Rajasthan University of Health Sciences and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, studied journals randomly selected from 5,699 in the list of journals approved by UGC in the last few months.

The UGC-approved list of journals is required for various academic purposes, including appointment of faculty, evaluation of their performance for career advancement, and submission of doctoral theses. This list includes 32,659 journals classified under various categories such as Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, and Arts and Humanities Citation Index, among others.

The ‘university source’ component of the list contains 5,699 journals.

The UGC has admitted that it had received several complaints about inclusion of low-quality journals, soon after the release of its approved list of journals on June 2 last year. Accordingly, it had removed a few journals after evaluating them as per a defined criteria.

“This was our independent research. We have developed a protocol with objective criteria to identify journals that do not follow good publication practices,” said Patwardhan. Publication of predatory, dubious or sub-standard journals has assumed alarming proportion in India, he said, citing a recent global study of 1,907 articles from 200 journals published last year, in BMC Medicine. The study revealed a large number of predatory journals and associated articles that had originated from India.

Alarmed by the increasing number of these low-quality journals, which do not follow good publication practices, a few universities in India have taken proactive steps to frame Guidelines for Research Publications.

Patwardhan said new regulations to curtail unethical practices in scientific publishing, and awareness programmes about publication ethics at Indian universities and research institutes, were urgently needed.

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