In late August, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against OMICS, an open access academic journal publisher that has long been at the center of the debate over “predatory” publishers. The complaint lists several practices that the FTC believe is anti-consumer and needs to stop.
That list includes:
Having journal names confusingly similar to major publications
Concealing publishing fees from prospective submitters
Overstating how regularly OMICS journals are cited
Not providing adequate peer-review processes
Holding scientific conferences of little to no value
According to the FTC complaint, the basic business model of OMICS is to accept and publish nearly any material submitted to it so long as the submitter paid the necessary filing fee. However, when some researchers balked at the high filing fees, they were told that OMICS was going to hold the work, preventing the researcher from going elsewhere.
According to a press release from the FTC, OMICS, “Used false promises to convince researchers to submit articles presenting work that may have taken months or years to complete, and then held that work hostage over undisclosed publication fees ranging into the thousands of dollars.”
These allegations have been backed by anecdotes from within the industry, including a recent article on Discover Magazine that highlighted a heavily-plagiarized article published by OMICS and that the journal failed to retract even after being twice notified of the issues.
To make matters worse, the article was co-authored by Dr Srinubabu Gedela, the CEO and managing editor of OMICS.
OMICS, however, has released a statement of its own calling the lawsuit “frivolous and baseless”. The company defended its practices saying that it does disclose its publication fees and only charges for withdrawals after it goes through processing.
But while the lawsuit, even if successful, isn’t likely to stop the practice of predatory publishing, it will definitely change one thing: Reignite the debate over open access publishing.
If the lawsuit is successful and does shutter or limit OMICS, it may have an effect on other publishers. We saw something similar in January 2012 when the file sharing site Megaupload was shuttered and its founder arrested. Shortly afterward, other, similar services closed or changed their practices voluntarily.
However, the effect, in that case, was largely short lived, with other sites and services coming along to fill the void.