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October 2019, Volume 69, Issue 10


Hijacked journals: A challenge unaddressed to the developing world

Aamir Raoof Memon  ( Institute of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women, Nawabshah, Sindh, Pakistan )

During the last couple of years, much has been written about the menace of predatory publishing and suggestions like "Caveat emptor", that is, "Let the buyer beware" have been floating for authors to avoid publishing in such journals and publishers.1,2 However, journal hijacking, which is relatively a new and even more wicked scam, as compared to predatory publishing in the realm of scholarly publishing, remains unaddressed to the researchers of the developing world. For example, a title search in Scopus database, for "predatory journals", results in 142 hits but for "hijacked journals", it finds only 12 documents. The term "hijacked journals" was first coined by Dr. Mehrdad Jalalian in 2012.3 The initial reports of journal hijacking came about the Wulfenia, published by the Regional Museum of Carinthia in Klagenfurt, Austria; and Archives des Sciences, published by the Society of Physics and Natural History of Geneva (SPHN), in Switzerland. 4Currently, there are more than 100 scientific journals on different lists for hijacked journals. 3,5 Hijacked journals are a phenomenon of creating fake websites that mimic authentic and reputable journals and their websites, and abuse the identity of those journals (i.e. Name and ISSN) — where authors are made to believe that their work will be published in a reputable journal. 3,6A similar phenomenon called journal phishing was described by Dadkhah et al in 2015, where a fake website similar to an authentic website is created by the cybercriminals, and sensitive information of the authors (such as credit card passwords) is gathered to make money. 3 The target journals, in most of the cases, for hijackers are multidisciplinary in scope, usually published in a language other than English and/or published by small publishers, journals that are available in-print only, and journals without a high impact factor measured by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson & Reuters). 5,6In some cases, forgers register the expired domains of reputable journals, which have ceased publishing, to launch new hijacked journals and continue publishing in their name. 6  The hijacked versions of the authentic journals flourish by promising quick publication, where peer review is light or non-existent. 6 The ideal victims are early-career researchers in a dire need for papers for promotions or career advancement. In this context, hijacked journals send invitations to 'in-need' authors, whose information is retrieved from the websites of commercial, non-peer reviewed journals, and asking them to publish in their journals. 5 They often claim indexing in reputable databases as PubMed, Web of Science or Scopus. Another method adopted by them is to launch some conferences, where authors are promised that their proceeding papers will be published in reputable and indexed journals, but then publish them in hijacked journals.3,5,6 These journals publish several papers in an issue — as high as 1500 papers — because they usually do not respect the aim and scope of the original legitimate journal. 3 As the number of papers in hijacked journals increases, there is a reduction in the number of papers published in legitimate journals. However, these journals are available for only a short period until the real journal threatens of a legal action against them. 6 Thus, anything published in hijacked journals may be the "lost science". Further, hijacked journals will not have their contents indexed in databases such as PubMed, Scopus or Web of Science. Hence, the papers of victimized authors may not be recognized by other researchers. The general assumption that hijackers target only the non-English journals or those from small publishers might apply to some but not all the cases. On January 5, 2019, I received an email that caused discomfort and worry to me. The subject of the email was "Illegal website which illegally copied the most of Biochemia Medica content". Biochemia Medica (, one of the leading journals from Croatia was hijacked by the forgers. This journal, the official journal of the Croatian Society of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine, is published in English without any article processing charges to the authors, and has indexing in several databases. This case shows that hijacked journals pose a serious risk to the scientific community and are now attempting to target the journals published in English. Apart from this, incidences of hijacking of journals published by wellknown publishers have also been reported. For example, International Journal of Game Theory ( ) of the Springer Nature, HFSP journal (now known as Frontiers in Life Science; ) of the Taylor and Francis, and the well-known Journal of the American Medical Association ( were cited as some of the hijacked journals. 3 A few papers about the predatory publishing have been published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association during the recent years, and the year 2019 began with an Editorial on this serious issue (they have not been cited here to avoid citation staking). I believe this editorial serves as the first step towards educating the readership of the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association to avoid wasting their work and money by publishing in hijacked journals. Prospective authors and readers are encouraged to go through the detailed list of publications about hijacked journals and relevant concepts, extracted from Scopus database, which may be found in Table. There are some ethical implications of hijacked journals. These journals are involved in selling the papers for money — the scholarly black market. 3 In this regard, researchers are cautioned to avoid relying only on the impact factor and such metrics for evaluating the journal quality. It is always good to do some preliminary searches and make sound decisions in terms of journal selection because it determines the legitimacy of an individual's work and improves its dissemination. In addition, papers published in hijacked journals or their findings may be hijacked by greedy authors. 3 Therefore, researchers should behave ethically and should not try to bypass the legitimate system. In addition, researchers should not deliberately publish in such journals, knowing that no one will notice and only they will be benefited.

We, the researchers aware of the complex issue of predatory publishing and hijacked journals, have the responsibility of creating awareness about this issue among the emerging, naive researchers, so that they may duly get the credit for their hard work and efforts. The journal hijackers are experts in hacking, and legal action is difficult to take place against them. Recently, Shahri et al have suggested the ways of 'detecting hijacked journals by using classification algorithms'; however, it might be difficult for a non-expert individual to understand and do it. 4  Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile step towards a systematic approach for addressing this issue. The editors of journals from developing world, organizations monitoring higher education, and senior academics have the responsibility to create ways to hamper the growth of this dark side of academic publishing. Today, apart from the originality and novelty of the research, the major challenge requiring investigations is 'the selection of a legitimate journal for publication6.

Acknowledgment: None.
Conflict of Interest: The author of this paper is Editorial Board Member of the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. He is also the Associate Editor for BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. The views of the author are his own and do not represent the journal.
Funding: None.


1. Babor TF, Ward JH. Caveat Emptor: Predatory Publishers, Rogue
Journals, and the Potential Corruption of Addiction Science. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2018;79:509-13.

2. Memon AR. End of 2016: can we save research from predators in 2017?. Sci Eng Ethics. 2018;24:1339-45.

3. Dadkhah M, Maliszewski T, da Silva JA. Hijacked journals, hijacked web-sites, journal phishing, misleading metrics, and predatory publishing: actual and potential threats to academic integrity and publishing ethics. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2016;12:353-62.

4. Shahri MA, Jazi MD, Borchardt G, Dadkhah M. Detecting Hijacked

Journals by Using Classification Algorithms. Sci Eng Ethics. 2018;24:655-68.

5. Kolahi J, Khazaei S. Journal hijacking: A new challenge for medical scientific community. Dent Hypotheses. 2015;6:3-5.

6. Dadkhah M, Borchardt G. Hijacked Journals: An Emerging Challenge for Scholarly Publishing. Aesthet Surg J.2016;36:739-41.

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