Background. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has expressed its concerns about predatory journals using the list of ICMJE Recommendations (ICMJE-R) followers to “gain the appearance of legitimacy.” We assessed the presence of potential predatory journals on the ICMJE-R list and their adherence to ICMJE recommendations.
Methods. A random sample of 350 journals from the estimated 3,100-3,200 biomedical journals listed as ICMJE-R followers was chosen. Data collected from the
ICMJE and journal webpages in English were: adherence to six ICMJE-R policies/requirements, year of journal’s listing as ICMJE-R follower, discipline covered, publisher and its country of origin and existence of article processing charge. Potential predatory journal was considered as one open access journal not being a member of a recognized listing in COPE, DOAJ, OASPA, AJOL and/or INASP.
Results. Thirty-one percent of journals were considered to be potentially predatory; 94% of them were included in the ICMJE-R list in 2014-2018. Half were published in the United States and 62% were devoted to medicine. Adherence to five of the six policies/requirements was infrequent, ranging from 51% (plagiarism) to 7% (trial registration). Seventy-two percent of journals mentioned a policy on authors’ conflicts of interest. Information on article processing charge was available for 76% journals and could not be found for 22%. Authorship policy/ instructions were significantly more present in journals with publishers from India than from the USA (53% vs 30%; p = 0.047), with no differences in the other five policies.
Conclusion. Predatory journals should be deleted from the ICMJE-R list of followers to prevent misleading authors. ICMJE-R following journals need to be reevaluated with pre-defined published criteria.