Malaysian journals among top ‘fraudulent’ publications found in global academic database
The revelation calls into question not only Malaysia’s quality of research but also the credibility of global university rankings.
Feb 14, 2021 11:00 AM
Malaysian scholarly journals form a large chunk of more than 300 “fraudulent journals” found in a respectable global citation database used to gauge tertiary institutions worldwide in annual rankings.
Fraudulent journals, also known as “predatory journals”, are publications lacking in research quality and with questionable content, which are often liberal in accepting articles without scrutiny, and in most cases, for a fee.
A total of 324 such journals published from across the world have been found to have infiltrated Scopus, a Netherlands-based global citation database made up of more than 30,000 journals covering life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences.
The revelation, besides renewing a debate on the quality of research work by Malaysian universities, could also call into question the annual global rankings of universities.
At least two major organisations, Times Higher Education and QS, rely heavily on data from Scopus in publishing their annual rankings of universities worldwide. With more citations of its academics’ works in Scopus, a university stands a greater chance of boosting its global rankings.
The revelation is based on the work of two economists from the Czech Republic, Vit Machacek and Martin Srholec, who provided a country analysis of questionable journals found in Scopus covering the period between 2015 and 2017.
While the hotbed of predatory journals comes from countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Egypt, Malaysia’s listing among the top countries of origin for such journals may reflect badly on the quality of local academic work.
Among Scopus’ criteria for academic journals indexed in its database is the quality of their editorial board members as well as consistency in publication.
By 2014, it was said that there were more Malaysian academic articles indexed by Scopus – some 47,000 – than from Thailand and Singapore.
Machacek and Srholec’s study ranks Malaysia fifth among 20 countries considered as the biggest offenders in terms of predatory journals.
At the top of the list is Kazakhstan with 17% of such articles, followed by Indonesia (16.7%), Iraq (13%), Albania (12%) and Malaysia (11.6%).
Malaysia also appears in the top 20 lists for fraudulent work in three fields: health sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences, occupying the second place in the latter two.
“In these countries, predatory publication practices have apparently become a systemic problem at the national level, not limited to particular clusters,” Machacek and Srholec said about their findings.
The findings are likely to highlight a long debated issue on academic fraud in Malaysian universities.
The government recognises five universities as research-based: Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.