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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Oct 2020 - 9 Oct 2020

Human Studies




Inflated citations and metrics of journals discontinued from Scopus for publication concerns: the GhoS(t)copus Project.


Cortegiani A, Ippolito M, Ingoglia G, Manca A, Cugusi L, Severin A, Strinzel M, Panzarella V, Campisi G, Manoj L, Gregoretti C, Einav S, Moher D, Giarratano A
F1000Res. 2020; 9:415.
PMID: 33024548.


 Scopus is a leading bibliometric database. It contains the largest number of articles cited in peer-reviewed publications The journals included in Scopus are periodically re-evaluated to ensure they meet indexing criteria and some journals might be discontinued for publication concerns. These journals remain indexed and can be cited. Their metrics have yet to be studied. This study aimed to evaluate the main features and metrics of journals discontinued from Scopus for publication concerns, before and after their discontinuation, and to determine the extent of predatory journals among the discontinued journals.  We surveyed the list of discontinued journals from Scopus (July 2019). Data regarding metrics, citations and indexing were extracted from Scopus or other scientific databases, for the journals discontinued for publication concerns.   A total of 317 journals were evaluated. Ninety-three percent of the journals (294/318) declared they published using an Open Access model. The subject areas with the greatest number of discontinued journals were   (52/317; 16%),   (34/317; 11%), and  (31/317; 10%). The mean number of citations per year after discontinuation was significantly higher than before (median of difference 64 citations, p<0.0001), and so was the number of citations per document (median of difference 0.4 citations, p<0.0001). Twenty-two percent (72/317) were included in the Cabell's blacklist. The DOAJ currently included only 9 journals while 61 were previously included and discontinued, most for 'suspected editorial misconduct by the publisher'.  The citation count of journals discontinued for publication concerns increases despite discontinuation and predatory behaviors seemed common. This paradoxical trend can inflate scholars' metrics prompting artificial career advancements, bonus systems and promotion. Countermeasures should be taken urgently to ensure the reliability of Scopus metrics both at the journal- and author-level for the purpose of scientific assessment of scholarly publishing.