Over 6,000 Russian Academic Journals Face Increased Scrutiny

Russian academic journals retracted over 800 papers in January 2020 after the completion of a probe into unethical publication practices. The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) appointed a commission to look into issues of self-plagiarism, gift authorship, and outright copying to allow academics to become co-authors without contributing anything to the published work.

Over 6,000 academic journals in Russia now face increased scrutiny because of the results of the commission’s findings. It also reinforces the suspicions from the rest of the world that the country isn’t going down the correct scientific path. The RAS is taking this step to begin the correction process.

Russian Academics Publish Far More in Domestic Journals

The RAS conducted a study in 2019 that found Russian academics publish domestically far more often than their counterparts in the region.

Dissernet discovered over 4,000 instances of plagiarism or questionable authorship in a 2018 study of Russian literature. That figure covered 1,500 journals and about 150,000 papers.

One of the most significant problems that the academic journals face is the tendency of authors to republish their work. Over 70,000 instances of double publication were found during the investigatory period of this issue. 

Some items received publication almost 20 times.

What Is the Reaction from the Russian Scientific Committee?

During the summer of 2019, the RAS requested over 540 journals to retract a total of 2,528 papers because of the issues. Out of that figure, 263 of them stated that they would remove every suspicious paper. Others said that they would retract the highlighted ones from the commission, but they wouldn’t pull others – including giving legitimate reasons to maintain them.

Eight of the journals explicitly refused to address the problems brought up by the commission. The report from the RAS recommends that five of them get removed from the Russian Science Citation Index because of their behavior.

This outcome followed an incident when the RAS recommended that 56 candidates not receive votes during membership elections because of their involvement in misbehavior – including plagiarism.

The levels of tension and conflict in Russia are high because of the recommendations provided by the RAS. The goal is to reduce distortions within the scientific community while removing publications that don’t contribute valuable data. Some journals didn’t know about the internationally accepted standards of ethical publishing or retraction, so the educational process has started.

Only time will tell if the RAS commission has the leverage to make its needed changes.