A district court in the US has ordered Hyderabad-based OMICS, which publishes more than 700 journals, to pay $50 million to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its complaint alleging that the publisher was deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees.
The judgment of the US District Court of Nevada, dated March 29, says that an amount of $50.13 million is “entered in favor of the FTC against Defendants, jointly and severally, with post-judgment interest at the legal rate, as equitable monetary relief”.
The Indian Express series on Fake Science had reported on OMICS, which is run by Srinubabu Gedela and labelled as one of the largest “predatory publishers” of research articles on topics such as medicine, engineering and management.
When contacted, Kishore Vattikoti, counsel for OMICS, said, “It is quite surprising for us that a court has passed an order against defendants in this case without calling for a trial, which is unjustifiable and violation of natural justice. Actually, this case was allegedly filed against OMICS and other defendants. The founders of the defendant companies were not permanent residents in the US, nor had there been any physical presence or operations commenced from the US. My client had already sought $3.1 billion in damages from FTC during their motion for Summary Judgment…. This might be the reason the final order has been announced without a trial. We will go for appeal.”
The FTC had alleged that while OMICS and Gedela claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices and have editorial boards comprising prominent academics, in reality many articles are published with little to no peer review, and numerous individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals. It alleged that the publisher “engaged in unfair and deceptive practices with respect to the publication of online academic journals and organization of scientific conferences”.
In India, the University Grants Commission has already set up a Consortium of Academic and Research Ethics to approve a new official list of academic publications. It has also constituted a committee under Dr P Balram, former IISc director, to revise guidelines for PhD and MPhil in order to maintain the quality of research in India.