Evaluation of Predatory Journal Publication in Systematic Reviews in the Top Five Cardiology Journals: A Cross-Sectional Analysis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Predatory journals are those which take advantage of the open access model of peer reviewed research by implementing unethical submission practices. This includes publishing manuscripts without peer review in exchange for large publication fees, among other questionable conduct. These published articles may lack scientific merit and threaten the integrity of other medical research. Publications from predatory journals have the potential to be cited in systematic reviews; this can threaten clinical practice guidelines and clinical decision making. Thus, we investigated whether systematic reviews from the five most-cited cardiology journals included primary studies published in predatory journals.

Methods: In a cross-sectional design, we systematically identified five cardiology journals using Google Metrics based on their H-5 index. Using PubMed, we designed a search string to ensure we obtained the proper list of systematic reviews from each journal. The following search query was used for the top five cardiology journals: (("systematic review"[Publication Type]) OR ("meta analysis"[Publication Type])) AND ("journal name"[Journal]). The first ten qualifying systematic reviews were then analyzed, and the journals cited were obtained. An algorithm created by author A.C. was used to determine predatory journals categorized by Beall’s list, an online public collection of journal titles which have demonstrated predatory submission tactics. Any matches were verified to be predatory by comparing it to the publication website listed on Beallslist.net. Systematic reviews that were deemed to include a predatory journal citation were further analyzed in a masked, duplicate fashion by C.S and D.B. After the extraction process, result differences were adjudicated by C.S. and D.B. with authors R.O. and A.C. available for consult.

Results: Of the 50 systematic reviews analyzed, we found one instance (1/50, 2%) where a primary study published in a predatory journal was included in a systematic review. This systematic review was published by Circulation Research, the fourth most cited journal in cardiology (Table 1). This systematic review dealt with a potential treatment strategy of myocardial infarctions; it has been cited by 80 other publications, but was not included in a clinical practice guideline (Table 2). The primary study published in the predatory journal has been cited by 36 other publications. Of note, the predatory publication was referenced by a recommendation article from the American Heart Association.

Conclusions: We identified that systematic reviews published in the top cardiology journals do contain predatory publication. Including unscrupulous research as primary studies in systematic reviews or clinical practice guidelines threatens the integrity of the synthetic data, which may ultimately play a role in clinical decision making. More research needs to be done to investigate this issue in greater sample sizes across more journals. It is imperative that this problem is investigated to ensure the validity of medical literature.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 22 Feb 2021
EventOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Days 2021: Poster presentation - Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Campus, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 22 Feb 202126 Feb 2021


ConferenceOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Days 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Cardiology
  • Predatory journals
  • Systematic review


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