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An Update on Fake News in the Sciences: How to Protect Patients and Our Profession

Editorial Opinion

An Update on Fake News in the Sciences: How to Protect Patients and Our Profession

Last January, I alerted our readers to the proliferation and potential danger to our patients and professions of so-called predatory publications.1 The warning included a link to an online resource, “Beall’s List of Predatory Open Access Publishers.” If you have tried to access that list and encountered a “This service is no longer available” message, it wasn’t you (or the accuracy of the link provided). As soon as the ink of our January issue had dried, the list vanished from the internet, purportedly a “personal decision” made by the author.2,3 

It is difficult enough for busy clinicians to remain up-to-date, let alone worry about the credibility of the information they read. That, of course, is one reason why fake news and fake journals can succeed. They count on people using general search engines to quickly find information about a topic and package that information to get your attention. Predatory publishers take advantage of the relatively new open-access model in publishing so you do not have to go through the publisher or use a library to access the full publication. These opportunists make their money by charging authors to publish, having a very limited (if any) review process in place and organizing meetings in enticing locales. Considering the proliferation of these journals (approximately 882 were listed in 2016),1 this is a profitable model. 

So, what to do? First, and foremost, do some homework before you make important patient care decisions or submit a manuscript. A good place to start any literature search or to make sure a journal is indexed is to use the United States National Library of Medicine database. Simply go to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed, click on the “Advanced Search” button, and build your search or select the “Journal” field and type in the name of the journal. If the journal is not in the indexed list but you think it may be a legitimate online publication, check the directory of open-access journals (https://doaj.org). Potential authors thinking about submitting to an unfamiliar journal may want to check the “think/check/submit” website at http://thinkchecksubmit.org/.  

Last but not least, we should not forget to focus on the good news. First, we can access the National Library of Medicine as easily as any general search engine. Second, some journals continue to publish a paper and online version of their (indexed) journal, not charge authors a fee, and enable anyone to read the full-text publication online as well as download the PDF after registering at their website — all for free. I am proud that Ostomy Wound Management continues to be one of those journals. I hope you, our readers, are too.

Disclosure

This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.