OMICS Publishing Group
OMICS Publishing Group is a publisher of open access journals that is widely regarded as predatory. It started publishing its first journal in 2008. By 2015, it claimed over 700 journals, although about half of them were defunct. Its subsidiaries include iMedPub LTD and Conference Series LLC LTD.
|Parent company||OMICS Group Inc|
|Country of origin||India|
|Publication types||Open access journals|
|Nonfiction topics||Science, technology, and medicine|
|Revenue||$11.6 million (2016)|
|No. of employees||1500|
OMICS has come under attack by numerous academics and the United States government over the validity of the peer review by OMICS journals, the appropriateness of its fees and marketing, and the apparent advertising of the names of scientists as journal editors or conference speakers without their knowledge or permission. The U.S. National Institutes of Health sent a cease-and-desist letter to OMICS in 2013, demanding it to discontinue with false claims of affiliation with U.S. government entities or employees. In August 2016 OMICS became the first academic publisher to be sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which alleged deceptive practices.
OMICS has responded to criticisms by avowing a commitment to open access publishing, claiming that detractors are traditional subscription-based publishers who feel threatened by their open access publishing model. It responded to the FTC suit by maintaining that their practices were legal and claiming that corporate interests were driving the suit. It has also threatened a prominent critic, Jeffrey Beall, with a US$1 billion lawsuit for defamation.
OMICS Publishing Group was founded in 2007 by Srinubabu Gedela, who remains the company's director. He apparently founded OMICS because of his difficulty in accessing high-cost journal contents as a PhD student.
It started its first open-access journal, the Journal of Proteomics & Bioinformatics, in 2008. In 2012, OMICS Group had more than 200 journal titles, about 60% of which had no content. By 2015, it claimed over 700 titles, but about half of them were defunct. Several OMICS journals have names similar to existing publications. For instance, BioMed Central established the Journal of Biomedical Science in 1995, while OMICS established the Journal of Biomedical Sciences in 2012.
In 2016, OMICS had revenue of $11.6 million and profit about $1.2 million.
OMICS operates on an open access model, wherein the author pays for publication and the publisher makes the articles available for free. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, some open access journals are legitimate, while others are vanity publications "that accept virtually any article to collect fees from the authors." There is not always a clear distinction between the two. The publication fee for OMICS journals vary from the low hundreds up to $4,000. There is no charge to withdraw a manuscript, as long as it is withdrawn within ten days of submission.
In addition to publishing journals, OMICS also organizes conferences. In 2017, about 3,000 such conferences were organized. The conference arm makes up about 60% of OMICS' revenue.
Criticism of publishing practices
OMICS is widely regarded as a predatory publisher. It has been subject to widespread criticism, notably by Jeffrey Beall, who included OMICS in his list of "potential, possible, or probable predatory" publishers. Among the criticism leveled at OMICS are that its journals are not actually peer-reviewed as advertised, often contain mistakes, and that its fees are excessive. OMICS says that its activities are legitimate and ethical, and that the quality of its editorial control does need improvement. Other criticisms of OMICS include the publication of pseudoscientific articles, deceptive marketing practices, targeting of young investigators or those in lower income regions, holding papers hostage by disallowing their withdrawal (preventing them from being published by other journals).
It has also been suggested that OMICS provides fake lists of scientists as journal editors to create the impression of scientific legitimacy, even though these are editors in name only and are not involved in the review or editing process. One such editor-in-chief was contacted by Science, where he stated that he had never handled any papers; in an interview with The Hindu, another said he had not been informed of his purported editorship. Other academics have said that OMICS published articles unaltered in spite of their request for revisions. The company has also been slow to remove the names of editorial board members who requested to terminate their relationship with OMICS activities, in some cases taking almost two years. One author received an invoice for US$2700 after her paper was accepted; this fee was not mentioned in the email message OMICS sent her to solicit a submission. In 2012, while one OMICS journal rejected a paper after the reviewer noticed it was plagiarized from one of his own co-authored paper; another OMICS journal published the same paper later that year. When the reviewer again pointed this out, the paper was removed from OMICS' website in 2014 but no official retraction was posted. In 2013, an OMICS journal accepted a bogus and obviously flawed publication submitted as part of a sting operation by Science. As a result, some critics have asserted that the main purpose of the publisher is commercial rather than academic.
In September 2014, Pubmed Central blacklisted OMICS journals, claiming serious concerns over OMICS' publishing practices. In 2017, Scopus delisted several OMICS journals for "publication concerns".
In 2013, Jeffrey Beall reported that OMICS has added conducting "predatory meetings" to its publications activity including under the ConferenceSeries banner. An example of such a meeting is the 2016 International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, organised by ConferenceSeries, and to which Christoph Bartneck, an Associate Professor in Information Technology at New Zealand's University of Canterbury, was invited. With little knowledge of nuclear physics, Bartneck used iOS's auto complete function to write the paper, choosing randomly from its suggestions after starting each sentence, and submitted it under the name Iris Pear (a reference to Siri and Apple). A sample sentence from the abstract for the resulting manuscript was: "The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids" and the 516-word abstract contained the words "good" and "great" a combined total of 28 times (and is available online). Despite being obvious nonsense, the work was accepted within three hours of submission and a conference registration fee of US$1099 requested. Bartneck commented that he was "reasonably certain that this is a money-making conference with little to no commitment to science," a comment he based on the poor quality of the review process and the high cost of attendance. In another example, Tom Spears of the Ottawa Citizen repeatedly submitted to OMICS conferences several sting abstracts that included "Evolution of flight characteristics in avian-porcine physiology" and "Strategies for remediation of benthic and pelagic species dependent on coral reefs: Cases of T. migratorius and G. californianus." which respectively claimed to explain how pigs fly and claimed roadrunner birds lived underwater. In yet another case, OMICS accepted a randomly-generated nonsense paper to an ethics journal, and later accepted the same paper to a conference on geriatrics and nursing.
Beall criticised the financial arrangements for OMICS conferences, noting that the "registration policy shows that they never grant refunds for registration fees – even if they themselves cancel or postpone the conference. Instead, they grant a credit for other OMICS conferences." He also recommends, "in the strongest terms possible, that all scholars from all countries avoid doing business in any way with the OMICS Group. Do not submit papers. Do not agree to serve on their editorial boards. Do not register for or attend their conferences."
It has been also found that many academic or government scientists are advertised as speakers or organizers for OMICS conferences, without their agreement.
Action by US government agencies
In April 2013, OMICS received a cease-and-desist letter from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) after a complaint filed by Ken Witwer, who said he had been fooled by OMICS's deceptive marketing. The letter alleged that OMICS used images and names of employees that either no longer worked at NIH or did not provide permission, and asked OMICS not to use the name of its agencies institutes or employees for anything other than "true factual statements". OMICS responded by modifying its website and providing emails and letters from the NIH employees ostensibly agreeing to serve as editors of OMICS journals. Those employees later said that while they did agree to serve as editors, they did not provide permission for their names to be used in marketing materials; furthermore, they had not actually handled any manuscripts.
In August 2016 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a suit against OMICS, two affiliated companies, and Gedela, charging them with deceptive publishing practices. This was the FTC's first-ever suit against an academic publisher. The federal court of Nevada handed down a preliminary injunction in November 2017, preventing OMICS from "making misrepresentations" about their journals and conferences, as well as requiring that OMICS clearly disclose all article processing charges. In response to the lawsuit, OMICS lawyers took issue with the various allegations, maintaining that their processes were legal and claiming that corporate interests were driving the suit.
Legal threat to Jeffrey Beall
In 2013, OMICS Publishing Group sent a letter to University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall stating that they intended to sue him and were seeking $1 billion in damages. In their six-page letter, OMICS stated that Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent", and "smacks of literal unprofessionalism and arrogance". Beall said that he found the letter "to be poorly written and personally threatening", and that he thought that "the letter is an attempt to detract from the enormity of OMICS's editorial practices".
OMICS' law firm said it was pursuing damages under India's Information Technology Act 2000, referring to section 66A, which makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" or to publish false information. It stated that three years in prison was a possible penalty, although a U.S. lawyer said that the threats seemed to be a "publicity stunt" that was meant to "intimidate". An editorial in the New Delhi-based India Today cited the incident as evidence that Section 66A should be discarded to eliminate its use in "stifling political dissent, crushing speech and ... enabling bullying". In 2015, section 66A was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in an unrelated case.
Acquisition of Canadian publishers
In late September 2016, OMICS acquired two Canadian publishers, Andrew John Publishing and Pulsus Group, and sixteen journals published by them. The acquisition led to a decline in publishing standards, caused concern that the names of the publishers were being hijacked to lend credence to bogus science, and led to six of the sixteen journals stating their intention to terminate their publishing contracts with OMICS. Gedela claimed that the publisher will only have minimal influence on the editorial policy and content of the journals, and reiterated OMICS' position that they are a legitimate publisher.
- Medical Journals Have a Fake News Problem, Bloomberg, 29 August 2017
- "Chanting success mantra, scientific way". The Hindu. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Beall, Jeffrey. "The OMICS Publishing Group's Empire is Expanding". Scholarly OA. Archived from the original on 2015-10-22.
- Stratford, Michael (2012-03-04). "'Predatory' Online Journals Lure Scholars Who Are Eager to Publish". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
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- FTC, "FTC Charges Academic Journal Publisher OMICS Group Deceived Researchers"; Complaint Alleges Company Made False Claims, Failed to Disclose Steep Publishing Fees. Press Release, 26 Aug. 2016. Complaint filed with the District Court of Nevada, 25 Aug. 2016 (PDF available).
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- Hunt, Elle (22 October 2016). "Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
- Bartneck, Christoph (20 October 2016). "iOS Just Got A Paper On Nuclear Physics Accepted At A Scientific Conference". University of Canterbury Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab, New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
- Spears, Tom (3 March 2017). "When pigs fly: Fake science conferences abound for fraud and profit". Ottawa Citizen.
- Spears, Tom (5 June 2017). "Fake science publisher offers shoddy continuing education for doctors, nurses". Ottawa Citizen.
- McCook, Alison (26 August 2016), "U.S. government agency sues publisher, charging it with deceiving researchers", Retraction Watch
- ""U.S. court temporarily halts 'deceptive practices' of so-called predatory publisher". CTVnews. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
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- Rohan Venkataramakrishnan (2013-05-19). "Send Section 66A bullies home". India Today. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
- Jayant Sriram (2015-03-24). "SC strikes down 'draconian' Section 66A". The Hindu.
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