FTC Calls Several Online Academic Journals a Scam

LAS VEGAS (CN) — Author beware, when paying fees to publish in online journals claiming to be peer-reviewed, the Federal Trade Commission says in a scorching lawsuit against three India-based companies with offices across the United States.
     The FTC says the companies and the Indian man who runs them tell authors that they owe hundreds to thousands of dollars only after the articles are “approved for publication,” then refuse to withdraw them, making it impossible for the scientists to publish in real, peer-reviewed academic journals.
     Defendant Srinubabu Gedela runs all three companies out of an office in Hyderabad, India, the FTC says in its Aug. 25 federal lawsuit. He incorporated his three defendant companies in the United States — Omics Group Inc., iMedPub LLC, and Conference Series LLC — and has mailing addresses for them in Nevada, California and Delaware. Through them he conducts business across the United States.
     Since at least 2009, Gedela and his companies “have published numerous online publications styled as academic journals,” the FTC says. They claim to have “academic experts” as editors, that articles are “subject to industry-standard peer review before publishing,” and that their journals have high “impact factors.” This means they are cited frequently using a metric calculated by Thomson Reuters, and are listed in PubMed Central, a well-known, prestigious database maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
     But it’s all bogus, the FTC says.
     In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Division sent a cease-and-desist letter to the defendants in April 2013, “because of defendants’ claims that their journals are indexed in PubMed Central and for using quotes from and photographs of NIH employees on defendants’ websites without permission.”
     The 16-page lawsuit, with 38 pages of exhibits, describes the defendants’ operations as fraudulent from top to bottom.
     “(I)n many instances, the academic experts identified by defendants lack any connection with defendants’ journals. Further, in many instances, articles submitted for publishing do not undergo standard peer-review before publishing,” the FTC says.
     Nor are their journals’ impact factors calculated by Thomson Reuters.
     Nor are they included in PubMed Central.
     Nor do the defendants disclose, or disclose adequately, that they charge a fee to publish each article.
     “As a result, in many instances, consumers only discover that their articles will not be peer-reviewed and that they owe fees ranging from several hundred to several thousands of dollars after defendants inform them that their articles have been approved for publication. Consumers’ attempts to withdraw their articles are frequently rejected, thereby preventing them from publishing in other journals.” (Italics in complaint.)
     This can be ruinous for scientists and other scholars, who may up with nowhere to publish the results of years of work.
     The defendants also organize “scientific conferences” in the United States and overseas and advertise that “academic experts” will attend, though the experts have agreed to do nothing of the kind. Scientists then spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to register and travel to the fraudulent conferences, the FTC says.
     Academic journals specialize in a field of study and typically do not charge for publishing, but pay authors for their work.
     The defendants maintain their own websites, including OMICSonline.org and iMedPub.com, which “contain so-called academic journals on a wide variety of topics, including medicine, chemistry, nursing, engineering and genetics, among others.” They “represent that their journals are reviewed and edited by specific scientists, researchers and academics, whose names, pictures and biographies” are listed on the websites. But many of these so-called editors “have not agreed to be associated with defendants’ journals or initially agreed to serve as editors, but later changed their minds and asked to be removed from defendants’ websites, with no success,” the FTC says in the complaint.
     Gedela registered and administers many of the defendants’ websites and pays their hosting fees with his personal credit cards, the FTC says.
     It seeks a permanent injunction, rescission of contracts, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and penalties for violations of the FTC Act, misrepresentations, deceptive failure to disclose publishing fees and consumer injuries.
     Omics Group did not respond to an email request for comment.
     A number for Gedela in Hyderabad could not be located.

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