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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 283-285  

Solutions for commandeered journals, debatable journals, and forged journals

Editor-in-Chief, Electronic Physician, Mashhad, Iran

Date of Web Publication31-Jul-2015

Correspondence Address:
Mehrdad Jalalian
Editor-in-Chief, Electronic Physician, Mashhad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-237X.161852

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How to cite this article:
Jalalian M. Solutions for commandeered journals, debatable journals, and forged journals . Contemp Clin Dent 2015;6:283-5

How to cite this URL:
Jalalian M. Solutions for commandeered journals, debatable journals, and forged journals . Contemp Clin Dent [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jan 26];6:283-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

It is difficult to ignore about commandeered journals, forged journals, doubtful journals, and fake impact factors are the today's hottest discussions that involves all scholars in the world and not limited to specific field of science and human health. We can certainly realize a growing number of case reports, analytical news, opinions, and even research articles on above revealed topics are published in almost all types of journals regardless of their areas of coverage. There are also hundreds of weblogs and forums spending a lot of pages, posts, and discussion covering those topics; and specialized workshops and speeches are held now and then about hijacked journals, questionable journals, and related topics. The main concern is how to avoid those swindles and how to protect the academia from such swindles. However, the author of this guest editorial is deeply involved in those areas by communicating and sharing knowledge and information with the scholars almost from around the world is mainly concerned about the nonspecialist opinions that are disseminated different phenomena. This paper aims to provide clear definitions about the phenomena hijacked journals, sham journals, questionable journals, and misleading metrics.

   Definitions and Solutions Top

Hijacked journals


Some journals are printed only; the others are published only in online, and many other journals are published in online, as well as print. The printed journals do not have websites or any other type online presence. The other journals are available online (open access or by subscription), and may also printed versions. If a person who is not the owner of a journal register a domain (.Com, Net, ORG, etc.,) for the journal and claims that the website is the official website of journal. This is definitely a cybercrime that we termed as "journal hijacking;" and that journals is hijacked journal, The hijacked journal may have two (or more than two) websites. One (or more) of those websites are authentic, that means they belong to and administered by the legal owner of the legitimate journal. The other websites are then considered counterfeit websites that have nothing to do with the legitimate journal. As I stated, a journal may have more than one authentic website as many of journals have an official websites, as well as one or more other online presence in uploading their papers. In the same way, some hijacked journals have more than one counterfeit websites that may be registered by the same cybercriminal. This happened specifically in a case of South African Journal "Bothalia," which have been hijacked twice by the same cybercriminal who registered two different domains for it to be misused as the counterfeit websites, and the Switzerland Journal "Archives Des Science." Some other journals may be hijacked by different cybercriminals, a story that happened on the Texas Journal of Science, Wulfenia, Afinidad, etc., There are some other cases of hijacked journals that refers to creating counterfeit websites for ceased publications like "Reef Recourses Assessment and Management Technical Paper" that is a journal that ceased the publication from more than 10 years ago but the cybercriminals created a website for it as the title was still available in the master journal list of Thomson Reuters. There might be other subtypes of hijacked journals which we may see in future, and Ihave some unverified information about those new types of scam. I specifically, refer to three legitimate journals or publishers in a country South to China and in two countries neighboring to Iran that looks new governs have taken control over them and there are questions whether those people are just managing journals that have recently ceased by the legitimate owners. Since my research on those journals has not been finalized yet; therefore, I may not add this type of controlling over legitimate journals to my earlier definition of hijacked journals.


The solutions for this scam can be either short term or long term. The short term measures are developing and constantly maintaining a list of hijacked journals, which I did in June 2014 by developing the list of 19 hijacked journals, and in June 2015 by presenting the comprehensive list of 90 hijacked journals. A second short term measure is to educate the researchers about how to identify and avoid hijacked journals through workshops, short courses, and speeches. Another short-term solution for the hijacked journals is legally fighting against them and asking the international domain registration companies to terminate the counterfeit websites. This is, what I assume happened at least once in the history of hijacked journal, on "Bothalia" journal as the first counterfeit website for this hijacked journal is currently redirected to the authentic website of the legitimate journal. The long-term solution might be developing a list of legitimate journals. By the term legitimate journal, I mean all journals that are legally registered by real persons or real organizations, even those journals that may have predatory or questionable behavior. By this measure, we will have a full list of legitimate journals (that some of them may be high quality peer-reviewed journals, and some may be low quality journals); but all of the journals in these, are real journals which are created by real legal entities and not by the fake owners. The list of legitimate journals should present the authentic websites of the E-journals, and clearly mention those journals which do not have any online presence or website. If any researcher is suspected of any call for paper in a journal, the author can search the list of legitimate journals to confirm whether the journal has a website, and in that case, the real address of the journal. The importance of developing a list of legitimate journals is when a new hijacked journal comes to existence, it publishes tens of articles before anyone detect it and before it is added to any list of hijacked journals; but if the researchers stick to the list of legitimate journals, they are automatically protected from all of the previously detected and new established hijacked journals because they can easily see the suspected website does not exist in the list of legitimate journals.

Fake journals or publishers


It is a common mistake that scholars mistake the fake journals for hijacked journals, but there is a clear difference between a hijacked and a fake journal. The term fake journal or fake publisher refers to a journal or publisher which are not legally registered by any organization. Yes, there are people who govern those journals, but those journals are not recognized legal publications by a governmental or international agency. This phenomenon is specifically happened on Donnish Journals, Intuition Journals, Swift Journals, etc., and mainly is originated from the African country (redacted).


The only practical measures against fake journals and publishers is to develop a comprehensive list of them and maintaining it up to date. The legal measures are the other solutions against fake journals as we mentioned this measure as a short-term solution for hijacked journals in the previous section.

Questionable journals


I used the term "questionable journal" for the first time in my recent paper in June 2015 to refer to the journals which may have some predatory behaviors or the journals that seems questionable in one or more aspects of their peer review, editorial workflow, and publication. Therefore, it is obvious that all of the journals are questionable journals, even those which are published by most reputable publishers as there are at least one question to be asked regarding its review and publication procedures. However, the difference is with the high quality journals have logical answers for those questions, or their weaknesses are a few when the low quality and commercial journals that masquerade the peer reviewed journals are not able to answer the questions we may have about their peer review, editorial workflow, and publication procedure. Regardless to how reputable, big, or unknown is the publisher, we may have big questions about the huge amount of money they charge the authors for open access publication of their research. We may also have significant questions from some of the so-called top ranked journals (ranked based on journal metrics) why some of them postpone the processing of received manuscripts for long times to force the authors to choose the fast track option (that is definitely a paid service) for peer review process of their manuscripts. In my experience, which happened specifically on the #1 ranked journal (redacted) when they failed to process a one page manuscript for within 6-12 months even though I contacted them several times and all the time I received an answer that I can choose the fast track option. Another question to be answered by some journals it that why they do not answer the emails or letters of the authors who are inquiring about the status of their manuscript. I am sure I do not need to present a case for this type of dishonest or low quality editorial work because almost all of us have experienced a lot of such cases even in communicating with some of the so-called reputable journals. I used the term "questionable journal" for a very practical reason, and that reason is how we should design our strategies for finding the best practical solution for these journals.


Using the term questionable journal makes us to have questions about any journal, either the low quality or the high quality and peer reviewed journals. A practical solution is to ask any journal the questions (usually through letters to editors [LTE]) as writing LTE is a proper communication with journals about having questions or comments on their previously published articles. In a specific case, I found overt invalid research findings in an article published by the journal (redacted) that is one of the world's leading journals in the areas of hematology science. I wrote them a LTE on that specific case, but they ignored it because they could not publish a LTE in their journal that proves they have published invalid research findings. We may have experienced a lot of similar cases that shows being a famous title and publishing by a reputable publisher does not necessarily mean that no one can question the reliability and validity of the research findings they publish. A main concern about questioning the journals is that there are a lot of forums and weblogs in the internet that list tens of journals and ask authors to avoid them, which I consider it unethical and illegal. Presenting a list of hijacked journals and fake publishers is a must, but it is neither ethical nor legal to develop list of banned journals by persons and offering space for publishing unbiased questions about weaknesses of legitimate journals (even if we have big questions about their process of publishing and peer review) and chuckling on those journals, which mainly are from developing countries. I checked some of those forums and weblogs and never found a legitimate question about any of the big publishers in the west world, and most of those comments and posts are published by people who neither are editor of journals nor they have published a research article nor they are a lecturer in an academic arena; but for intention they think they are allowed to broadcast any baloney they want against the newly established journals and publishers in developing countries. Such weblogs can be misused by people who have conflict of interest with some journals and broadcasting lies and drivels against those journals when the legitimate journal does not have the chance to answer them; who is able to search all weblogs and spend his time to answer those questions? Those weblogs may be a place for biased discussions and personal fights between the weblog developer and some specific publishers. An ethical and legal replacement for weblogs that broadcast nonspecialist comments against the quality of legitimate journals is that we put it in a civilized way. This civilized solution for questionable journals is to develop an unbiased forum or center for publishing questions about all legitimate journals and provide researchers and publishers to question and answer in a civilized manner. There is no doubt that such forum or discussion platform should be developed and maintained by a well-known International Organization such as Committee of Publication Ethics, or a Department of an Academic Institute to make sure the contents of the discussions and questions are unbiased, ethical, and legal.

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