Abstract: On 25 August 2016, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued OMICS Group Inc., iMedPub LLC, Conference Series LLC, and Srinubabu Gedela, all affiliated with open access mega-publisher OMICS International, for deception in their solicitation of journal articles and advertising of conferences. The ongoing lawsuit seeks to stop OMICS’s deceptive practices and disgorge US $50.5 million in ill-gotten gains. OMICS has in turn claimed over $2.1 billion for harm caused by the lawsuit to its business and employees. This article describes the main arguments, counter-arguments, and court decisions in the 5920 pages of pleadings, exhibits, and orders that have been filed through 14 October 2018. The article then evaluates the case to formulate key take-aways for publishers, editors, academics, and universities. Depending on its ultimate outcome, the case against OMICS may be a turning point in the practices of questionable open access online publishers, making this interim case assessment pertinent to all concerned about the future of academic publishing.
“In the world of scientific research, they are pernicious impostors. So-called predatory journals, online publications with official-sounding names, publish virtually anything, even gibberish, that an academic researcher submits — for a fee.
Critics have long maintained that these journals are eroding scientific credibility and wasting grant money. But academics must publish research to further their careers, and the number of questionable outlets has exploded.
Now the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in, announcing on Wednesday that it has won a $50 million court judgment against Omics International of Hyderabad, India, and its owner, Srinubabu Gedela.
Omics publishes hundreds of journals in such areas as medicine, chemistry and engineering. It also organizes conferences. The F.T.C. claimed that Omics violated the agency’s prohibition on deceptive business practices….”
“It used to be that publishing a scientific journal was a significant undertaking, requiring infrastructure for peer review, printing, and distribution, and the costs were often defrayed by charging authors for the honor of publishing. Now, it’s possible to simply convert submissions to PDFs and throw them online. With those barriers gone, science quickly became plagued by predatory publishers who decided to eliminate peer review as well. Instead, they simply published anything from people who have the money to cover the publication fees.
The profits of these “predatory publishers” come from a mixture of genuine scientists who are unwary, people who want to pad their publication records, and fringe scientists who just want to see their ideas in the literature regardless of their lack of merit. All of them can end up putting misinformation into the scientific record and confusing a public that generally doesn’t even know about the existence of predatory publishers.
Now, the Federal Trade Commission has won a summary judgement that just might cause some predatory publishers to step back from their business model. An India-based predatory publisher has been hit with a $50 million dollar judgement for deceptive business practices, along with permanent injunctions against most of the activities that made it money….”
“The Court finds that a permanent injunction against Defendants is appropriate under the circumstances to enjoin them from engaging in similar misleading and deceptive activities. Here, Defendants did not participate in an isolated, discrete incident of deceptive publishing, but rather sustained and continuous conduct over the course of years. An injunction is therefore necessary to prevent future misconduct and protect the public interest….
Where, as here, consumers suffer broad economic injury resulting from a defendant’s violations of the FTC Act, equity requires monetary relief in the full amount lost by consumers….Accordingly, the Court finds Defendants jointly and severally liable for restitution in the amount of $50,130,811.00….”
“The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has won a judgment against a publisher and conference organizer that has been widely viewed as predatory.
As reported in brief by Courthouse News Service, U.S. District of Nevada Judge Gloria M. Navarro ordered OMICS International to pay the U.S. government $50,130,810. …
Following the suit’s filing in August 2016, The FTC won an initial ruling in September 2017, prohibiting OMICS from engaging in “deceptive practices” but not banning them from publishing or organizing conferences….”
The US Federal Trade Commission has filed a motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against OMICS.
“In order to persuade consumers to submit articles to their journals for publication, Defendants make numerous misrepresentations regarding the nature and reputation of their journals. Defendants also fail to disclose the significant fees associated with their publishing services. Finally, Defendants make additional misrepresentations in connection with the marketing of their scientific conferences….On September 29, 2017, on motion by the FTC, the Court entered a preliminary injunction against Defendants…temporarily enjoining their deceptive practices. The FTC hereby moves the Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56-1, for summary judgment against Defendants. As discussed below, summary judgment is appropriate in this case because the FTC has presented overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence that Defendants violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act…and because there are no genuine issues of material fact requiring a trial….”
“After a month of intense conversations and negotiations, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) will bring the ‘Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act’ up for mark-up on Wednesday, July 29th. The language that will be considered is an amended version of FASTR, officially known as the ‘Johnson-Carper Substitute Amendment,’ which was officially filed by the HSGAC leadership late on Friday afternoon, per committee rules. There are two major changes from the original bill language to be particularly aware of. Specifically, the amendment Replaces the six month embargo period with ‘no later than 12 months, but preferably sooner’ as anticipated; and Provides a mechanism for stakeholders to petition federal agencies to ‘adjust’ the embargo period if the12 months does not serve ‘the public, industries, and the scientific community.’ We understand that these modifications were made in order accomplish a number of things: Satisfy the requirement of a number of Members of HSGAC that the language more closely track that of the OSTP Directive; Meet the preference of the major U.S. higher education associations for a maximum 12 month embargo; Ensure that, for the first time, a number of scientific societies will drop their opposition for the bill; and Ensure that any petition process an agency may enable is focused on serving the interests of the public and the scientific community …”
“Impact is multi-dimensional, the routes by which impact occur are different across disciplines and sectors, and impact changes over time. Jane Tinkler argues that if institutions like HEFCE specify a narrow set of impact metrics, more harm than good would come to universities forced to limit their understanding of how research is making a difference. But qualitative and quantitative indicators continue to be an incredible source of learning for how impact works in each of our disciplines, locations or sectors.”
“Open access for monographs and book chapters is a relatively new area of publishing, and there are many ways of approaching it. With this in mind, a recent publication from the Wellcome Trust aims to provide some guidance for publishers to consider when developing policies and processes for open access books. The Wellcome Trust recognises that implementation around publishing monographs and book chapters open access is in flux, and invites publishers to email Cecy Marden at email@example.com with any suggestions for further guidance that would be useful to include in this document. ‘Open Access Monographs and Book Chapters: A practical guide for publishers’ is available to download as a pdf from the Wellcome Trust website.”