Journal Club: Potential predatory and legitimatize biomedical journals

Meeting date: October 25, 2017

Presenter: Lukas Miller

Citation: Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., … Shea, B. J. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine15(1).

Article abstract:
BACKGROUND – The Internet has transformed scholarly publishing, most notably, by the introduction of open access publishing. Recently, there has been a rise of online journals characterized as ‘predatory’, which actively solicit manuscripts and charge publications fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services. We carried out a cross-sectional comparison of characteristics of potential predatory, legitimate open access, and legitimate subscription-based biomedical journals.

METHODS – On July 10, 2014, scholarly journals from each of the following groups were identified – potential predatory journals (source: Beall’s List), presumed legitimate, fully open access journals (source: PubMed Central), and presumed legitimate subscription-based (including hybrid) journals (source: Abridged Index Medicus). MEDLINE journal inclusion criteria were used to screen and identify biomedical journals from within the potential predatory journals group. One hundred journals from each group were randomly selected. Journal characteristics (e.g., website integrity, look and feel, editors and staff, editorial/peer review process, instructions to authors, publication model, copyright and licensing, journal location, and contact) were collected by one assessor and verified by a second. Summary statistics were calculated.

RESULTS – Ninety-three predatory journals, 99 open access, and 100 subscription-based journals were analyzed; exclusions were due to website unavailability. Many more predatory journals’ homepages contained spelling errors (61/93, 66%) and distorted or potentially unauthorized images (59/93, 63%) compared to open access journals (6/99, 6% and 5/99, 5%, respectively) and subscription-based journals (3/100, 3% and 1/100, 1%, respectively). Thirty-one (33%) predatory journals promoted a bogus impact metric – the Index Copernicus Value – versus three (3%) open access journals and no subscription-based journals. Nearly three quarters (n = 66, 73%) of predatory journals had editors or editorial board members whose affiliation with the journal was unverified versus two (2%) open access journals and one (1%) subscription-based journal in which this was the case. Predatory journals charge a considerably smaller publication fee (median $100 USD, IQR $63–$150) than open access journals ($1865 USD, IQR $800–$2205) and subscription-based hybrid journals ($3000 USD, IQR $2500–$3000).

CONCLUSIONS – We identified 13 evidence-based characteristics by which predatory journals may potentially be distinguished from presumed legitimate journals. These may be useful for authors who are assessing journals for possible submission or for others, such as universities evaluating candidates’ publications as part of the hiring process.

Reason for selection: This paper was selected in consideration of our engaging discussion on predatory publishing and open access at the September 26, 2017 Journal Club meeting. Given the prominence of this issue in academic and research library settings, it is prudent we as librarians understand not only how to discern predatory journals from those that are legitimate, but also doing so ethically and mindfully with the guidance of evidence-based science.

This article is also open peer reviewed – a relatively new approach to scholarly publishing. A discussion question has been tailored to this as a learning opportunity for librarians.

Critical Appraisal: Please use the CEBMA Critical Appraisal of a Cross-Sectional Study (Survey)worksheet as a template to assess this study.


  1. Consider the 13 evidence-based characteristics (Table 10) in comparison to other method(s) you take to assess the quality of journals. Do you agree with the characteristics the authors have identified? Can you foresee any potential problems in adopting this approach?
  2. Consider and share any experiences you have had browsing websites or handling solicitation emails from predatory publishers. How did you make the determination, and how difficult was it to decide? Would having this tool available at the time made a difference for you or a client?
  3. This article is open peer review. Please take the opportunity to click the “Open Peer Review Reports” link below the article title and browse the reviewer reports and author comments.  Be prepared to share your thoughts and opinions on this relatively new approach to academic publishing. A brief explanation of BMC’s open peer review policy can be found here. Consider what implications open peer review can have for scholarly communication, predatory publishing, and our work in hospital/clinical libraries. What implications will this have for us/our clients in the future?
  4. Open discussion.

Discussion summary & recommendations:
We determined the article addressed a clear concern or issue. The study design was deemed suitable to tackle the issue, and we perceived minimal issues concerning the sample(s), bias, and findings. We acknowledges inherit ethical concerns relating to Beall’s List, given other research on this topic.

Statistical significance and confidence intervals were not presented by the authors. However, given the study design and sample, this was acceptable.

We felt that additional information concerning the authors’ scope & definition of “predatory publishers” and/or “predatory publishing” would have helped to clarify matters of identification.

We determined that the 13 evidence-based criteria for predatory publishers presented by the authors would be a helpful aid for librarians assisting scholars, though some carry more weight than others. We acknowledged that there is no “one true” solution to this problem, and that individual discretion is often required.

We further discussed the 13 criteria and our own personal/professional approaches to aiding scholars with finding where to publish their research.

Journal Club: The surge of predatory OA in Neurosceinces and Neurology

Meeting date: September 26, 2017

Presenter: Caroline Monnin

Citation: Manca, A; Martinez, G,;Cugusi, L; Dragone, D; Dvir, Z; Deiu, F. (2017). The Surge of Predatory Open-Access in Neurosciences and Neurology. Neuroscience 353: 166-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.04.014

Article abstract: Predatory open access is a controversial publishing business model that exploits the open-access system by charging publication fees in the absence of transparent editorial services. The credibility of academic publishing is now seriously threatened by predatory journals, whose articles are accorded real citations and thus contaminate the genuine scientific records of legitimate journals. This is of particular concern for public health since clinical practice relies on the findings generated by scholarly articles. Aim of this study was to compile a list of predatory journals targeting the neurosciences and neurology disciplines and to analyze the magnitude and geographical distribution of the phenomenon in these fields. Eighty-seven predatory journals operate in neurosciences and 101 in neurology, for a total of 2404 and 3134 articles issued, respectively. Publication fees range 521-637 USD, much less than those charged by genuine open-access journals. The country of origin of 26.0-37.0% of the publishers was impossible to determine due to poor websites or provision of vague or non-credible locations. Of the rest 35.3-42.0% reported their headquarters in the USA, 19.0-39.2% in India, 3.0-9.8% in other countries. Although calling themselves “open-access”, none of the journals retrieved was listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. However, 14.9-24.7% of them were found to be indexed in PubMed and PubMed Central, which raises concerns on the criteria for inclusion of journals and publishers imposed by these popular databases. Scholars in the neurosciences are advised to use all the available tools to recognize predatory practices and avoid the downsides of predatory journals.

Reason for selection: Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on the MEDLIB and CANMEDLIB listservs about the impact of predatory publishers on libraries, specifically on database search results.  This article was referenced by the Krafty Librarian in response to the discussion.  I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the role of librarians in regards to predatory publishers and how it impacts library services.

Critical appraisal questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this study? Was the question clearly defined?
  2. Did the author choose the research method best suited to answer this question?
  3. Did the author accurately address the limitations of the study?
  4. Was there anything that surprised you about the results of this study?
  5. How does this article apply to health librarianship? Will it impact the way we deliver our library services?

Journal Club: The potential of educational comics as a health information medium

Meeting date: April 25, 2017

Presenter: Lauren Seal

Citation: McNicol,S. (2017). The potential of educational comics as a health information medium. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 34(1), 20-31.

Article abstract:
OBJECTIVES – To investigate ways in which educational comics might provide support in dealing with feelings and attitudes towards health conditions, as well as improving understanding of factual information and to identify potential weakness of comics as a medium for health information.

METHODS – Semi-structured interviewees with eleven university students who either had a mental or physical health condition themselves or had a family member with a health condition.

RESULTS – The result highlighted the potential value of comics as a format for health information. In addition to conveying factual informationcomics offer opportunities for self-awareness, reassurance, empathy, companionship and a means to explore the impact of illness on family relationships. However, there are notable barriers to the greater use of comics to provide health information, namely, a lack of awareness of, and easy access to, educational comics, along with the perception that comics are exclusively light-hearted and for children.

CONCLUSIONS – Currently, the full potential of comics in health settings is not being realised. Health information professionals may be in a position to address this issue through identifying, cataloguing, indexing and promoting comics as a legitimate format for health information.

Reason for selection: I’m personally interested in the variety of ways health information can be presented and transferred to patients.  I had no idea there were comics focused on health education and was interested in learning more about them.

Journal Club: What do health librarians tweet about? A content analysis

Meeting date: March 28, 2017

Presenter: Lance Fox

Citation: Neilson, C.J. (2016). What do health librarians tweet about? a content analysis. The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 11(1).

Article abstract: Many libraries have adopted Twitter to connect with their clients, but the library literature has only begun to explore how health libraries use Twitter in practice. When presented with new responsibility for tweeting on behalf of her library, the author was faced with the question “what do other health libraries tweet about?”. This paper presents a content analysis of a sample of tweets from ten health and medical libraries in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Five hundred twenty-four tweets were collected over 4 one-week periods in 2014 and analyzed using a grounded theory approach to identify themes and categories.

The health libraries included in this study appear to use Twitter primarily as a current awareness tool, focusing on topics external to the library and its broader organization and including little original content. This differs from previous studies which have found that libraries tend to use Twitter primarily for library promotion. While this snapshot of Twitter activity helps shed light on how health libraries use Twitter, further research is needed to understand the underlying factors that shape libraries’ Twitter use.

Reason for  selection: I came across this article and thought it would make for a very interesting discussion about a topic that is quite different than what we have been reading and discussing over the last several months. I know that some of us are using Twitter and social media to connect with our users and some of us are not, but this can still provide a good group discussion around marketing, promotion of services and resources, different ways of connecting with our users, etc.


Journal Club: Impact of librarians on reporting of the literature searching component of pediatric systematic reviews

Meeting date: February 28, 2017

Presenter: Erin Langman

Citation:  Meert, D., Torabi, N., & Costella, J. (2016). Impact of librarians on reporting of the literature searching component of pediatric systematic reviews. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA104(4), 267-277. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.104.4.004

Article abstract:
OBJECTIVE – A critical element in conducting a systematic review is the identification of studies. To date, very little empirical evidence has been reported on whether the presence of a librarian or information professional can contribute to the quality of the final product. The goal of this study was to compare the reporting rigor of the literature searching component of systematic reviews with and without the help of a librarian.
METHOD – Systematic reviews published from 2002 to 2011 in the twenty highest impact factor pediatrics journals were collected from MEDLINE. Corresponding authors were contacted via an email survey to determine if a librarian was involved, the role that the librarian played, and functions that the librarian performed. The reviews were scored independently by two reviewers using a fifteen-item checklist.
RESULTS – There were 186 reviews that met the inclusion criteria, and 44% of the authors indicated the involvement of a librarian in conducting the systematic review. With the presence of a librarian as coauthor or team member, the mean checklist score was 8.40, compared to 6.61 (p<0.001) for reviews without a librarian.
CONCLUSIONS – Findings indicate that having a librarian as a coauthor or team member correlates with a higher score in the literature searching component of systematic reviews.

Reason for selection: While this article is specifically about systematic reviews, I am interested in the impact of librarian involvement in research in general, and how this impact could be used to market our services to clients.

Critical appraisal form: EBLIP Critical Appraisal Checklist

Journal Club: A rubric for evaluating POC medical applications for mobile apps

Meeting date: October 25, 2016

Presenter: Catherine Hana

Citation:  Butcher, R., MacKinnon, M., Gadd, K., & LeBlanc-Duchin, D. (2015). Development and examination of a rubric for evaluating point-of-care medical applications for mobile devices. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(1), 75-87. doi:10.1080/02763869.2015.986794

Article abstract: The rapid development and updates of mobile medical resource applications (apps) highlight the need for an evaluation tool to assess the content of these resources. The purpose of the study was to develop and test a new evaluation rubric for medical resource apps. The evaluation rubric was designed using existing literature and through a collaborative effort between a hospital and an academic librarian. Testing found scores ranging from 23% to 88% for the apps. The evaluation rubric proved able to distinguish levels of quality within each content component of the apps, demonstrating potential for standardization of medical resource app evaluations.

Reason for selection: Health-related apps are an areas of app development that is growing rapidly. Not only are there more apps available, people are using them more. As there is currently no regulatory control or certification body overseeing medical apps, it is important to be aware of the benefits, limitations, and risks. Having a way to evaluate them will help us in this process.

Journal Club: Librarians in evidence-based medicine curricula

Meeting date: September 27, 2016

Citation:  Maggio LA, Durieux N, Tannery NH.  (2015). Librarians in evidence-based medicine curricula: A qualitative study of librarian roles, training, and desires for future development. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(4):428-40.

Article abstract:  This study aims to describe librarians’ roles in evidence-based medicine (EBM) from the librarian perspective, identifying how librarians are trained to teach, and highlight preferences for professional development.  A multi-institution qualitative study was conducted.  Nine medical librarians identified by their faculty as integrated into EBM training were interviewed.  Participants’ descriptions indicated that they were active in curriculum development, deployment (including teaching activities), and assessment to support EBM.  Participants identified direct experience and workshop participation as primary methods of learning to teach.  Participants desired continuing development as teachers and requested opportunities for in-person workshops, shadowing physicians, and online training.