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Towards Consistency and Transparency in Academic Integrity

Edited By Salim Razı, Irene Glendinning and Tomáš Foltýnek

This book is an outcome of the 4th International Conference «Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond» organized by Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Mendel University in Brno, and the European Network for Academic Integrity. The conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Programme of the European Union. It aims to be a forum for sharing best practices and experiences by addressing issues of academic integrity from a wide-scope global perspective. With regards to the crucial role of ethics and honesty in academic work, universities are in need of more effective policies against infringements of academic standards. The papers in this book therefore aim to contribute to the standardization of consistent and transparent approaches to issues of academic integrity from several perspectives.

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Challenges in Publishing at Newly-established Universities in Kosovo and Macedonia (Sabiha Shala / Dukagjin Leka / Mimoza Hyseni)

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Sabiha Shala1, Dukagjin Leka2 & Mimoza Hyseni3

University of “Haxhi Zeka”, Kosovo; University “Kadri Zeka” Gjilan, Kosovo; University of “Haxhi Zeka”, Kosovo

Challenges in Publishing at Newly-established Universities in Kosovo and Macedonia

Abstract: As elsewhere in the world, universities recently established in Kosovo and Macedonia are facing many challenges with regard to publishing articles. As new institutions, they have not yet been able to create the conditions for their staff to publish articles in a “safe way”; their academic staff have been unknowingly and accidentally subject to some hijacked and predatory journals. The phenomenon was noticed during the promotion process for Associated Professors. Therefore, the aim of this article is to present the challenges faced in this regard by the staff of universities, ways in which these hijacked and predatory journals were detected, and measures taken in order to prevent this phenomenon from happening again and to help staff in publishing in real and credible journals and publishing houses. Sharing their experience might be useful for other young institutions that might face similar challenges in the future.

Keywords: hijacked journals, Kosovo, Macedonia, new universities

Introduction

“The democratization of science via the Internet has brought not only benefits but also challenges to publishing; including fraudulent behavior and plagiarism, data and statistics reporting standards, authorship confirmation and other issues which affect authors, readers, and publishers in different ways” (Hausmann & Murphy, 2016, p. 280).

The democratization of science via the internet has had far-reaching effects all over the world where the internet is available (Hausmann, 2016). This process seems to have its positive and negative effects. On one side, the possibilities for academics to publish their results and work in open access journals and more specialised journals have increased. On the other side, the risk of falling victim to predatory journals, predatory publishers, and hijacked journals also seems to ← 215 | 216 → be increasing. Many scholars have explained the meaning of such journals and the elements that help in identifying such fake journals and publishers. Starting with “predatory journals”, which are described by Clark and Smith as commercial journals that are based on the pay-and-publish model and do not guarantee the quality of published papers as they are not peer-reviewed journals at all (Clark & Smith, 2015). They often claim fake impact factors to cheat the authors (Jalalian, 2015). The “predatory publishers” usually accept manuscripts that are weak or faulty in terms of scientific quality and charge substantial fees to authors without providing essential editorial and publishing services. These publishers are known as “predatory open access journal publishers” as well. Indeed, the term “predatory open access” was conceived firstly by Jeffrey Beall (Beall, 2012; Rahman, 2014). In addition to preparatory journals and publishers, scholars are facing publishing challenges from hijackers through their hijacked journals. The term “hijacked journals” was introduced to academics by Jalalian in 2012 (Dadkhah, 2015) but the first hijacked journal was reported in 2011 (Jalalian & Dadkhah, 2015). These journals, termed as “journal phishing” (Dadkhah, Sutikno, Davarpanah Jazi, & Stiawan, 2015), are described as fake short-term websites of authentic ones, utilizing the title and ISSNs of reputable journals (Jalalian & Mahboobi, 2014). Thus, some original journals stop publishing, and hijackers continue publishing in their name (Bohannon, 2015). The proof that the hijackers make money by stealing the identities of legitimate journals and collecting article-processing charges on papers that are submitted has been reported by several authors (Lukić et al., 2014).

Hence, the main difference between the hijacked journal and predatory journal is that a hijacked journal has a fake website, which mimics the website of a reputable, indexed journal; while the predatory journal has a fake name and unrecorded ISSN (Dadkhah, 2015). Predatory journals have been reported by academic researchers from almost all over the world, while hijacked journals have not been reported as often (Dadkhah, 2015). None of these journals would exist if authors or scholars stopped submitting articles. The question is why authors do submit to such journals and become victims of such hijackers and persons publishing predatory journals. Part of the answer relates to the pressure that authors have to fulfil legal requirements in order to get promoted in their academic titles. Another reason is that some of the authors are misled due to lack of experience in publishing abroad and are not familiar in detecting hijacked and predatory journals.

As he was concerned with the detection of such journals, the librarian of Colorado University, Jeffrey Beall, developed the well-known set of criteria (Rahman, Dexters, & Engels, 2014), but according to Mehrpour and Khajavi (2014), Beall’s criteria are somewhat problematic in the sense that any reactive ← 216 | 217 → blacklist inherently fails to provide a comprehensive response to the problem (Mehrpour & Khajavi, 2014). Hill developed a set of criteria for identifying authentic and credible journals instead of developing a list of hijacked and predatory journals and publishers (Hill, 2015). Indeed, this challenge and many other challenges exist mostly for authors from developing countries. The risk seems to be higher for some academics that are working at universities in developing countries, especially those countries that have recently (in the last ten years) established new public and private universities and require high standards of publishing as in developed countries; such is the case with some western Balkan countries. The academics and scholars of these countries face financial problems in publishing via credible journals due to lack of access to reputable scientific resources, means and research source databases.

Kosovo and Macedonia are countries of the western Balkans that have established new public universities working under limited financial circumstances but aiming for high standards, especially in research and publishing. The academic staff working for the universities of such countries, unintentionally, have been victims of some hijacked journals. The aim of this article is to present the challenges faced in this regard by these universities and their academic staff, show ways that these hijacked journals were identified, and measures taken to prevent this phenomenon from happening again. The academic staff need to be encouraged to publish in credible journals and publishing houses. Publishing is very important not only for their advancement; their promotion is a condition for the universities to open programs at doctoral level.

The hypothesis is that the academic staff of such universities are facing many challenges in fulfilling the publishing criteria for their career advancement set by the institutions, while receiving very limited support by the institutions to reach such high publishing standards. In order to test this hypothesis, the following research questions are addressed:

What are the main challenges faced by the academic staff of such universities?

Did they pay for publishing in journals, attending conferences and how much did they pay?

Are they receiving financial support from their institution in order to publish and participate at conferences?

To which journals did they submit articles and did these articles help them in their career advancement?

The methodology used to answer these questions and test the hypothesis is explained below. ← 217 | 218 →

Methodology

Due to the lack of scientific materials and studies related to this topic, the research methods used for testing the hypothesis of this article are both the Qualitative Method and the Quantitative Method. The total number of academic staff employed at public universities in Kosovo is around 1, 307, while in Macedonia the number of academic staff (including research staff) is around 3,769 (UniRank, 2018). The present research covers only the academic staff of public universities, as in Kosovo only these universities can give academic titles, such as: Professor, Associate (Assoc.) Professor, Assistant (Asst.) Professor, and Assistant. Respondents are classified based on their gender, education level, academic and scientific title, and institutions at which they work. The sampling method is a census sampling in this study. A questionnaire was distributed to all 235 academic staff (professors and assistants) at the universities of Kosovo and Macedonia, and the response rate was 50.33% (n = 117). The questionnaire was sent to the respondents online and to some of them as hard copies. Of the respondents, 38.5% were female and 61.5% were male; 35.9% of them were aged between 25–35, 61.6% between 36–56, and only 2.1% were aged between 57–65. Furthermore, 71.8% were holders of a PhD degree (asst. professor, assoc. professor, regular professor) and 28.2% holders of a master degree. In terms of their faculties, 25.6% are from Economics, 33.5% from Food Technology, Environment, Biology, and Agronomy; 10.3% from Law, 2.6% from Education and Pedagogy, 2.6% from Music, and 25.4% from other fields.

Interviews with open questions and discussions (individual discussions) were conducted with 20 high-ranking administrators at public universities in Kosovo and Macedonia (rectors, vice-rectors, deans and vice-deans of faculties).

In addition, the method of desk research was conducted on the legal acts and policies related to research, publishing, recruitment and advancement of academic staff.

Results

The data and analysis of respondents’ replies to the questionnaire was carried out through SPSS 19.0 statistical program. On the questions related to publication during the last ten years, all the respondents had published. As presented in Figure 1, 61.5% of them were men and 38.5% were women. Out of these, 71.8% hold a doctoral degree and the rest hold a master degree. About half of them are assistant professors (44.4%). Respondents from the fields of agriculture, tourism and environment had published more than other fields (33.5%). The second most common research area was economics. Most of the respondents were from Kosovo ← 218 | 219 → (84.6%) and 15.4% were from Macedonia. Most of the respondents said they had participated in an international conference before they submitted their papers to scientific journals (71.1%).

Figure 1: Publishing scientific papers in last ten years in international journals

illustration

Figure 2: Conference participation

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Respondents answered the question about whether they had paid for the publication of their article(s) and participation at conference(s). About half of respondents (39.5%) that participated in our study had paid for publication of their papers, 34.2% of them had sometimes paid for publication of their papers and only 26.3% of them had never paid (Fig. 3). The majority of them also had paid for their participation at a conference. As presented in Figure 4, 73.7% of respondents had paid for their participation in scientific conferences.

Figure 3: Payment for publication of scientific papers

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Figure 4: Payment for conference participation

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← 219 | 220 →

Those that had paid declared the amount and 39.5% of them paid between 100 and 350 euro for their publications, 23.7% paid between 350 and 550 euro, whereas 28.9% had never paid. A small percentage (5,9%) paid from 550–1000 euro and above 1000 euro.

Figure 5: Amount paid for publication of article

illustration

Most of the participants (68.4%) had paid for their participation in various scientific conferences with an amount of between 100 and 350 euro, and only 13.2% of them had paid between 350 and 550 euro.

Figure 6: Amount paid for conference participation

illustration

Most of the respondents were satisfied with the quality of the conferences in which they participated and 60.5% evaluated them as excellent while 23.7% rated them as very good. About 60% benefited by advancement in terms of academic title from their scientific conference participation (Fig. 7). ← 220 | 221 →

Figure 7a: Satisfaction with quality of conference

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Figure 7b: Benefits from conference participation

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Almost all of the participants (86.8%) felt they had never been a victim of publishing in fake scientific journals, and only 5.3% were victims of false journals. When asked if they had received comments and suggestions before their papers were published in fake journals, only 2.6% of them answered yes (see Fig. 8).

Figure 8: Victims of false scientific journals

illustration

On the question related to the support received by respondents, the support of their home institution for publication of scientific papers seemed to be very little as the majority did not receive any at all. Only 13.2% of respondents said that they had financial support on a regular basis from their institution (see Fig. 9). Respondents said that sometimes the cost of conference participation or paper publication was affordable if they paid from their own budget, while 23.6% said that it was not affordable, and only 2.6% said yes (Fig. 10). ← 221 | 222 →

Figure 9: Financial support from home institution on paper publications

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Figure 10: Affordability of expenses

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While interviewing and discussing with some of the high level managerial staff of the universities (rectors, vice rectors, deans and vice deans), it was stated that some of their staff applying for advancement of their academic title included in their CV articles that were published in some journals included in Beall’s list. The interviewed officials explained that those articles found on Beall’s list were not taken into consideration for the advancement of academic position of their academic staff, and due to such articles and the lack of articles published in credible journals, some lecturers were not promoted from Assistant Professor to Associated Professor and other academic titles.

In order to help their staff, the Senate of two public universities in Kosovo approved the recommendations of the 34 databases of journals and publishers in which the articles of their academic staff were published, and this was a condition for accepting an article for their advancement (Haxhi Zeka University, 2016). Web of Science and Scopus were listed as the first two databases. According to this recommendation, articles listed in the databases 3 to 34 (different from Scopus and Web of Science), but at the same time listed as hijacked or predatory journals, were not counted for the academic advancement of staff. This Recommendation was issued due to the lack of definition as to what an “International Journal” means in Kosovo. This year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology issued an Administrative Instruction recognizing the principles of international magazines with a review and defining the coefficient (1 or 100%) of five (5) international platforms (MEST, 2018): 1) Web of Science, 2) Scopus, 3) EBSCO, 4) World Cat. and 5) DOAJ. The Ministry allows a university to add platforms but with a lower coefficient starting with 85%. All these legal interventions took place as the Law on Higher Education in Kosovo (Kosovo Parliament, 2011a), and the Statute of Public Universities (Kosovo Parliament, 2011b, 2011c, 2011d), foresaw only a ← 222 | 223 → requirement for academics to publish in peer-reviewed international journals; however, they did not define what an international journal means.

In Kosovo, the legal requirement to become a Professor is to hold a PhD degree (except staff from Arts), to have three years of working experience (for first-time elected Assistant Professors) and to publish an article in a peer-reviewed international journal (three articles to become Associate Professor and five articles for ordinary Professor). In addition, to obtain the title of Associate Professor, they have to publish monographs, while for the title of ordinary Professor they have to mentor a PhD student. Since the debate about Beall’s list appeared, public universities are checking whether the articles of their staff were published in journals included in Beall’s list. However, the universities and the Ministry of Education in Kosovo have not yet clarified legally what it means to publish in an international peer-reviewed journal. The Ministry of Education in Kosovo this year has included the above-mentioned databases in order to ensure that an article is published in a credible journal, meaning those listed on those databases.

The criteria for recruiting academic staff are almost the same in Macedonia but the situation is better in terms of “international journal with peer review”. The legislation on higher education in Macedonia defines what it means to be an international journal and includes Web of Science as a recognised platform (Macedonia Parliament, 2015).

Discussion

The present results are evidence that the academic staffs of the universities under study, especially those in Kosovo, face many challenges in fulfilling the publishing criteria for their career advancement set by their institutions. There was not a clear legal basis for awarding an academic title regarding the condition of “publishing in an international journal with review”. As a result of such a legal gap, some of the academic staff, especially in Kosovo, were not promoted in their academic titles and a lot of publications were not taken into consideration by the University, even though they paid quite a lot of money for their publication. This challenge was mostly faced by the academic staff of Kosovo universities, while in Macedonia this legal gap was removed in 2015 with a Law on amending the Law on Higher Education. In Kosovo, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology approved this year the Administrative Instruction, in this regard. In Kosovo, the criteria for electing academic staff are defined under the above-mentioned law.

In addition, lecturers are very rarely supported by their institutions, as the majority of the respondents declared that they did not receive support from their institutions at all (59%), 23.1% very little, and only 13.2% get support on regular ← 223 | 224 → basis, while 2.6% did not ask for support (see Fig. 9). Therefore, the majority have to cover all expenses themselves in order to publish in international journals and platforms, even though they do not speak the English language, which is not a requirement to become an academic at their institution. This financial aspect is another challenge for the academic staff: 23.6% said that those expenses are not affordable out of their own budget and 2,6% aid yes, while 66.7% said that only in some cases were these expenses affordable from their budget (Fig. 10). The above results show that the amount of money to be spent by the academic staff is very high in comparison with their income. The amount they did pay was from 100–550 euro, while the monthly salary for academics in Kosovo is around 1000 euro; The income for the academics in Macedonia is even lower, if not half of it. Thus, the hypothesis of the present article is proved by the results showing that the academic staff working for universities in these countries is getting very limited support from their institutions to reach high publishing standards.

The hypothesis raised in this article that the academic staff became victims of hijacked and predatory journals, unintentionally or by accident, proved to be true based on the above results, as 87.2% of respondents declared that they were not victims of these fake journals, 7.2% declared yes, and 2.6% were not aware which are fake journals. Indeed, these results are because the universities in Kosovo (consisting of the majority of respondents) are newly-established and their full time academic staffs (the majority of them) have not gone through the advancement procedure and did not face these procedures. Some of the academic staff that did achieve advancement of their academic title had included in their CV journals that were listed in Beall’s list.

Even though the Senate of universities in Kosovo, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Kosovo, have defined the platforms for publication, the problem is not solved as there are still cases where you can find a journal indexed in Scopus, but at the same time in Beall’s list, such was the example of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics. The Macedonian solution was to legally define the meaning of international reviewed journals as defined under the Law on amending the Law on Higher Education in Macedonia. The same solution has been proposed by Hill (2015). Hill proposed considering the following questions when submitting articles for publication: who is the ‘customer’?; inclusion in databases and indexes; awareness of ethical and legal issues; awareness of open access conventions; what is the peer review process and editorial procedure? Based on such criteria, the current legal base of Kosovo looks only at one of those five criteria, being, the inclusion of journals in databases and indexes. Answers by the respondents of the present research proves that the peer review process and ← 224 | 225 → editorial procedures are not clear in their quality, as 15.5% received confirmation for acceptance of their article for publication within a period from 1 day to 2 weeks. This is an extremely short time for providing a quality review.

Finally, it should be emphasised that Kosovo universities have used Beall’s list as a tool to identify the hijacked and predatory journals. Officials in Kosovo who were interviewed stated that Beall’s list was the only tool used to detect this type of non-credible journals, but they did not set a list of criteria regarding which journals are credible for publications, similar to what has been proposed by Hill.

Conclusions

This article presented the main challenges faced by the academic staff of newly-established universities in Kosovo and Macedonia in terms of meeting high standards of publishing articles. The main goal of the present article was to describe such challenges. The article proves that the academic staff of those universities are required to fulfil the highest standards in publishing their articles, such as publishing articles in a foreign language in an indexed journal listed on the most well-known platforms: Web of Science, and Scopus. In order to publish in such journals, academic staff almost always have to cover the expenses without being supported by their institutions. Another challenge faced by the academic staff of these newly-established universities was also the lack of legal definition of “international journal with review.” Since 2015, academic staff in Macedonia, different from those of Kosovo, do have a legal definition of an international journal with review. Due to the lack of legal advice and financial support, the academic staff are very often becoming victims of hijacked and predatory journals, especially those from Kosovo. Nonetheless, both countries and their institutions need to develop criteria to allow their academic staff to assess unfamiliar journals and make informed decisions on the assessment. As Hill stated, those criteria must first be developed and then communicated to the academic staff.

The positive effect of the proposed solution is to help the academic staff not become victims of hijacked and predatory journals by paying the journals and then not getting advancement in academic title. It is important for universities to have more staff with academic titles, which will allow them to start providing doctoral studies. In addition, the universities will benefit from the valuable work of their academic staff.

Future work will focus especially on further determining the criteria for assessing unfamiliar journals through the development of a good educational and publishing plan, as well as software tools for the detection of such journals. This will contribute also in dealing with fake conferences and bogus impact factors. ← 225 | 226 →

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1 Assistant Prof. Dr., Law, sabiha.shala@unhz.eu

2 Assistant Prof. Dr., Law, Dukagjin.leka@uni-gjilan.net

3 Assistant Prof. Dr., Environment Education, mimoza.hysenispahiu@unhz.eu