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The results of Eykens et al. (2019) give reason for some optimism: at least as far as VABB-SHW is concerned, publications in questionable journals appear to be on the decline in Flanders. It would be naïve, however, to assume that the problem will disappear by itself. Indeed, it seems likely that the decline is largely due to active countermeasures that have been taken in Flanders and internationally. Sustained efforts are needed to make sure that the positive trend continues in the future.
What measures can be taken? As mentioned before, regular screening is useful to assess the scope of questionable publishing and to make sure that researchers are not somehow ‘rewarded’ for such publications. In the case of VABB-SHW, the latter is obtained through the VABB-SHW’s goal in the regional performance-based research funding system (Engels & Guns, 2019).
It is an important question whether researchers have sufficient information to decide which journals to choose or avoid. Nowadays, there are several excellent resources that help researchers to recognize questionable outlets, such as ThinkCheckSubmit and ThinkCheckAttend (for conferences). While for most practical purposes checklists like ThinkCheckSubmit are sufficient to recognize bad-faith outlets, researchers can also consult ‘positive’ lists like DOAJ or the VABB-SHW journal list as well as ‘negative’ lists like Cabells Journal Blacklist to obtain more information on a specific source.
Given the existence of various information sources, it seems that the problem is often not so much a lack of available information, as much as a lack of awareness. Hence, we believe that raising awareness with researchers is crucial. Many actors in Higher Education can play a role here. Universities can raise awareness with their researchers through various means, including the doctoral schools’ training on scientific integrity. Learned societies can play an important role as well, by making their members aware of the dangers of questionable journals. Funding agencies can advertise more clearly their own policy regarding publications in questionable journals.