$70 million fine for predatory publisher and scam conference organiser

By David Rowley

10 Apr 2019

Predatory journal publisher and scam conference organising group OMICS has been ordered to pay US$50 million ($70 million) in fines for deceptive behaviour by a US regulator.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made the ruling against science publisher OMICS, founder Srinubabu Gedela and his Conferences Series/iMed Pub subsidiaries in 2016 following numerous complaints about shonky business practices.

Established in 2008 as a self-proclaimed open access publisher, OMICS claims to have 700 peer-reviewed scientific journals while its Conference Series claims to host 3000 scientific meetings worldwide annually.

However it has been branded as a “predatory publisher” with many academics alleging the journals  have sham peer review, misrepresent their impact factor, charge hidden fees and falsely claim the affiliation of scientists with their without their knowledge or permission.

Complaints against OMICS have included;

  • Authors not told about publishing fees until after their articles were accepted
  • Refusing to withdraw articles when asked by authors
  • Listing eminent scientists never contacted by OMICS as peer reviewers
  • Keeping those same scientists listed even after they had asked for their names to be removed
  • Failing to provide evidence of peer review in around half of articles published
  • Authors who did receive feedback describing it as “not substantive”
  • Claiming articles are indexed in public libraries such as PubMed and Medline, using their logos on its websites when they were not indexed.
  • Providing impact factors for its journals that do not refer to the established Science Citation Index (SCI) but using its own in-house methods
  • Publicising speakers for conferences who, in 60% of cases seen by the court, had never agreed to attend

A US judge agreed the company had been “engaged in unfair and deceptive practices with respect to the publication of online academic journals and organization of scientific conferences”.

A small selection of scheduled OMICS Australian conferences

The OMICS “Conference Series” website currently lists over 50 scientific meetings it will host in Australia in 2019, including the “21st Asia Pacific Diabetes Conference” on 29 July in Sydney, whose organising committee includes a Dr Hiroaki Satoh of “Juntendo University, Australia”.

Other Australian conferences advertised by the OMICS affiliate cover areas such as Hypertension, Obesity, Hepatology and Dermatology.

Similarly, OMICS journal titles appear similar to high-profile peer-reviewed publications, with its Journal of Preventive Medicine  just a couple of words away from Elsevier’s Preventive Medicine.

The court judgement against OMICS was made alone by Judge Gloria Navarro before actually going to a trial because she deemed the FTC’s evidence ample and the defence negligible.

The FTC fine of US$50,130,810 is to be used for “equitable relief, including consumer redress and any attendant expenses for the administration of any redress fund.”

It was based on the company’s entire income of OMICS for over six years to 2011 August 2017, minus money already refunded to aggrieved authors.

The FTC ruling also includes permanent injunctions against all involved with OMICS from engaging in similar misleading and deceptive publishing activities.

However there are doubts about whether the US$50 million fine can be enforced, given that most of OMICS  business activities are based in Hyderabad, India.

When the charges were initially laid by the FTC, OMICS dismissed the allegations as “fake news” and its legal representative has already indicated it will appeal the judgement.

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