Archives of Biological Sciences suppressed from SCIndeks
Our decision was made based on the results of inquiry in the ABS editorial practices. This procedure was initiated on the basis of circumstantial explanation of a recent decision to put ABS on the list of predatory journals (http://scholarlyoa.com/). In the explanation, it was stated that the Editor-in-Chief of ABS:
- asked an author for an inappropriately high fee for the publication of an article (EUR 1785); and
- that the article was accepted for publication within 24 hours, from which it was concluded that it had not been peer-reviewed.
The credibility of these charges is directly visible from the copies of the documents set out in the attachment to the resolution. We checked them additionally by sending a query to Jeffrey Beall, the editor of the blog and the author of the list and through him, to the author who is a victim of unethical behaviour of ABS. We received satisfactory assurances on the request.
We also asked professor Božidar Ćurčić, the Editor of ABS, for an explanation, by sending him a request to answer questions concerning editorial practices ABS. To this request, sent both electronically and by regular mail, we have not received any response within a given time period (7 days), from which we concluded that he was not able to challenge such charges.
Additionally, based on bibliometric data, indicators and clues we examined the ethical publishing practices of ABS. The results will be published within a separate study. However, due to the need to take in this case the urgent measures, we informed the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development about the preliminary results, sufficient for our decision:
- The editor has systematically published in ABS an unacceptably large number of articles of his own and articles of the two members of his immediate family, a son and a daughter. Only in 2013 and in 2014 they jointly or in collaboration with other authors published in ABS between 3 and 5 papers per issue.
- In ABS, we found numerous evidences of manipulative citation behaviour, aimed at boosting the impact artificially. Even a quarter of citations that ABS obtained in WoS in 2013 stems from the papers of the Editor and his family, which contributed to the ABS Impact Factor almost as much as all other Serbian authors together. In ten of his WoS articles the Editor cited his journal more than 10 times per paper. ABS self-citation rate in WoS at the author level is far greater than of any other Serbian WoS journal. The accumulation of "fresh" citations, ie. those aged up to two years (the only ones to be taken into account when calculating Impact Factor) is highly atypical compared to other journals in Biology, the group it belongs to. In only four years Impact Factor of ABS increased from 0.238 to 0.791, although the number of papers in roughly the same period almost doubled.
- ABS does not implement preventive measures against plagiarism, although there is a strong need for that. In our 2010 study, dedicated only to this problem, we detected in ABS 4 plagiarized and 12 self-plagiarized articles, of which at least two were of grave scale. This was more than in any other journal under study. For this we provided the Editorial Board of ABS (as well as the Ministry) conclusive evidence, but the Board ignored our invitation to take appropriate action and kept the practice of tolerance for plagiarism. Now, by means of the appropriate software (iThenticate) we have registered only in the ABS 2013 volume as much as 21 papers that in a valid procedure must be declared plagiarised, as well as 10 papers that would have to be qualified as self-plagiarized.
- ABS resorts to subtle forms of marketing that are typical of the so-called predatory behaviour. Among others, with reference to payment of fees (donations, sic) authors are informed that their papers will be published in Online First regime, although such option is not supported.
Based on these and other findings, we estimated that violation of international publishing standards in the ABS assumed such proportions that the continuation of its indexing compromises the legitimacy of the use of SCIndeks for evaluation purposes. Along with the notice about the decision, we called for the Ministry as regulatory and at the same time financing institution to:
- temporarily withhold ABS the status of a scientific journal, i.e. to suppress it from the list of categorized journals until correction of all deficiencies, but not for the shorter period than two years;
- deny ABS funding for at least one year; and
- call for the ABS publishers to urgently dismiss the Editorial Board and the Editor-In-Chief, and to promptly inform the Thomson Reuters, the publisher of WoS/JCR, about the reasons for the dismissal in order to prevent sanctions against ABS.
In parallel, we submitted the request about dismissal (3) directly to all ten co-publishers of ABS.