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

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Since the early 2000s, the “open access” digital space of published science has become popular for new and established journals alike. However, because of the open access business scheme, pernicious predatory publishers are looking to profit off of charging exorbitant publication fees to would-be published researchers. These journals offer a “rapid turnover” of “a few days or, sometimes, even within hours.” With such rapid review and publication time, these journals’ publishers are suspected to forgo a proper peer review or decline one altogether. The goal of our research here is to determine if these predatory journals have been cited in systematic reviews or meta-analyses - the gold standard of evidence-based medicine - coming out of the top five journals of general medical sciences. Another goal of this research is to determine if the data cited from these journals are used in clinical practice guidelines.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, we selected the top five general medicine journals (based on H-5 index) using Google Scholar Metrics: The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), The Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and PLoS One. To filter for the most recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses, we applied this PubMed search string: (("systematic review"[Publication Type]) OR ("meta analysis"[Publication Type])) AND ("journal name"[Journal]). We analyzed the first 10 systematic reviews or meta-analyses from each journal and extracted each citation of every included primary study. A pilot tested Google Sheets script was used to compare and match the journals of publication of the primary studies with the listed journals of Beall’s List: a compendium of potential predatory journals. Exact matches of primary study journals and those from Beall’s List were analyzed in masked, duplicate fashion. After data analysis and extraction, we mediated and resolved our findings.

Results: We identified three systematic reviews containing predatory publications (3/50, 6%). One systematic review published in PLoS One contained two primary studies that had been published in predatory journals; thus, a total of four predatory publications were identified. One systematic review published in The Lancet and one systematic review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences each contained a primary study published in a predatory journal (Table 1). The systematic review that was published in The Lancet was included in clinical practice guidelines. The systematic reviews which contained a predatory publication were cited a total of 208 times (Table 2).

Conclusion: We found that predatory publications occur in some of the most highly recognized journals in general medicine and these systematic reviews containing predatory publication can be referenced in clinical practice guidelines. Predatory journals are then a significant concern as they could directly influence patient care. Further research needs to be performed to better understand predatory journals as a whole and how to best keep them out of science and research.
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


  • Systematic reviews
  • Predatory journals
  • General medicine


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