Did you know that hijacking is alive and well in the academic world?   

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of ‘hijacking’ is “to take control of or use something that does not belong to you for your own advantage”.  Various types of hijackings are instigated by predatory publishers (those that side-step international best practice and scholarly publishing standards to exploit authors purely for economic gain) and questionable publishers (those that are not necessarily predatory but offer shoddy or less than acceptable publishing standards). This blog article provides some examples of hijackings in academia. 

A common practice amongst questionable or predatory publishers is to hijack the names of reputable titles to create confusion so authors submit their manuscripts to their websites instead of the reputable publication.  In many instances, they use the same name of the journal title with a slight amendment, for example, they spell one of the words incorrectly, perhaps using the letter ‘s’ twice or omitting a letter, which is not always noticed by potential authors.  They may add a few words to the title, for example, the correct name of the reputable journal may be the ‘Journal of Hydraulic Technology’, but a slightly different name is provided by the hijackers. The hijacked title may appear as the ‘Journal of Hydraulic Technology and Systems’, or the ‘Journal of Hydraulics and Technology’, or the ‘Journal of Hydraulic Technology, USA’.  Unless the author is in the habit of checking titles to see that they are on accredited journal lists and that the publishers embrace international best practice and standards, the author may be duped into publishing with the hijacked title. Once a paper is published with a predatory or questionable publisher, it is a lost paper to the author.  Savvy researchers will not cite the paper, which means the author and his/her institution will not receive recognition for the paper or research incentive funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa 

Once a paper is submitted to a questionable or predatory publisher, it is difficult to withdraw it. In one instance, an academic and postgraduate student submitted a manuscript to a publisher which they believed was reputable.  Whilst checking whether the title was listed on the South African Department of Higher Education and Training’s accredited list, for purposes of assisting them with payment of the article processing charge (APC), a librarian pointed out to them that this was on a blacklist or list of predatory publishers. They were advised to ask the publisher to withdraw the paper, ‘on the basis that their Faculty required them to expand on some sections of the paper before it was published’.  This was the excuse used to try to get the paper withdrawn, without raising any issues about the publisher being predatory.  The authors requested a withdrawal of their paper. The publisher responded by saying that the paper could be withdrawn on payment of a fee of $500, and if this fee were not paid, their paper would be published without the names on it.  To assist the authors, the librarian periodically checked to see whether the paper had been published.  A few months later, the paper was found online. It had been published under fictitious names but stated they were affiliated with a reputable institution.  This situation created two problems for academia – firstly, the authors lost their quality journal article to a predatory publisher and would not get any citations in the future; secondly, anyone citing the work would be citing fictitious authors, and in the process, contributing to citation pollution and the spread of false information in the broader knowledge pool.  

Paper hijacking, copyright infringement, and plagiarism have become serious challenges in academia. In some instances, hijackers seek to steal unpublished manuscripts and then sell them to people intending to publish their own works.  Some hijackers create fake CVs and then try to join journal editorial boards to steal unpublished manuscripts for their own financial benefit (Dadkhah, 2015)1.  Many hijackers lift or steal large sections from other authors’ papers and include them in their own papers, without acknowledgement. This is blatant plagiarism, and without permission to use so much content, this is copyright infringement.  Unless the plagiarised and infringed work is accessible online, legitimate authors would not know that their works have been hijacked in such a way.  

The hijacking of personal names is also a problem for you, as scholarly authors.  This is when unscrupulous publishers add your name as an author or editor, without your knowledge. Your name appears on the publication as a co-author or editor, even though you have had nothing to do with the creation of the work.  It is difficult to have your name removed from such works once they are published or translated into another language, especially if the work is not published online.  It is wise to set up online alerts to receive notifications when your name has been used in a publication, so you can check your name has not been hijacked.  

It is important that scholarly authors become vigilant about the abovementioned practices by questionable and predatory publishers, who fail to follow international best practices and scholarly publishing standards and devalue the author’s papers.  

Some additional reading: 

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