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2nd NAS Ambassador Lecture; Researchers, Scholars Warned Against Patronising Predatory Conferences, Journals

Professor Friday Okonofua (FAS) has highlighted the need for scholars and academia to be careful of predatory academic conferences and journals as they are the channel through which fraudulent, questionable, and unethical practices with varying degrees of low-quality practices are brought into the academic space.

Professor Okonofua gave the warning during the 2nd Nigerian Academy of Science Ambassador Lecture with the theme, "Combating Predatory Academic Activities," on Thursday, June 23, 2022. He said these kinds of conferences are set up to appear as if they are legitimate scientific conferences, but which turn out to be exploitative.

Professor Okonofua highlighted characteristics that should help a scholar in ranking an academic conference. He stated that the modes of papers, ideas, and academic footprint of the people involved; pricing structure; credibility of previous conferences; and conference substance towards development objectives are key indicators that must be evaluated before subscribing to such conferences.

The Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology said most of the predatory conferences' activities are targeted at junior academics, and as such, young academics must be careful when registering to attend such conferences.

He said this drew participants’ attention to vital indicators in recognizing if a conference was predatory. These include, when such a conference covers a wide range of topics, other conferences planned at the same time in the same venue, accept/reject decisions promised promptly after submission, and deadlines for abstracts often close to the conference date with presenters often paying for privilege.

In addition, the organising organizations and individuals are not known, and may be phoney. There is no evidence of past conferences organized by the group, and conference fees are unreasonably low or outrageously high. Professor Okonofua said predatory conferences most of the time are driven by improper or no peer review, all submissions are almost accepted, keynotes and committee members are not fully involved and proposed with false claims of institutional approval.

The lecturer said predatory publishing is a growing concern in publishing, especially with the onset of online open-access publishing and with the ‘publish or perish syndrome’ in our academic culture. It’s also being potentiated by academics themselves.

Professor Okonofua submitted that predatory journals or predatory publishers are all about circumventing the rigour of academic and publishing processes by prioritizing self-interest at the expense of scholarship, and as such, they deviate from international best practices in editorial and publishing processes.

He identified science, medicine, technology, business, education, humanities, and multi-disciplinary programmes as most affected by predatory journals in that order, with science attracting 30.5% of the total predatory journals in circulation.

Professor Okonofua said the solution to the challenges should be the joint responsibility of the government, the educational sector, universities, and scholars themselves, because they have the responsibility to ensure that their own research and publication practices comply with the highest standards of quality and integrity.

"Predatory practices attack the very nature and fabric of science, and if allowed to continue, public trust in science will decline, with potentially disastrous consequences for public funding of science in this country," he warned.

He stated that the high rate of predatory publishing in Nigeria is unacceptable and must be addressed through institutional policies on research and publication – authorship, avoidance of predatory journals and conferences, plagiarism, amongst others.

In his opening remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, said the theme of the lecture is pertinent to a contemporary challenge in academia that, if unaddressed, may erode the continued relevance of researchers and higher education institutions to the development of society.

Professor Adebayo said predatory journals, publishers, and conferences have increased and are becoming more adept in their activities. "It is worth reiterating that academic research aims to seek the truth and explore new knowledge, which enhances socio-economic development. Predatory academic activities do not advance this purpose and may lead to public distrust in science," he added.

While commending the Nigerian Academy of Science for acquainting Nigerian researchers and the scientific community with the detrimental effects of this scourge and also providing the needed knowledge and tools to combat it.

Professor Adebayo said Covenant operates a zero-tolerance policy for predatory academic practices with policies and regulations to stymie these unpalatable and unacceptable acts.

"Some faculty and staff members who were found to have compromised the integrity of academic processes have faced the Disciplinary Committee of the University. Depending on the degree of the involvement, there are penalties that have been set out for erring faculty and staff, which range from sanctions to suspension without pay, forfeiture of promotion up to 5 years, termination and dismissal, "he stated.

The Executive Secretary, The Nigerian Academy of Science, Dr. Oladoyin Odubanjo, took participants at the lecture through the processes and procedures for becoming a Fellow of the Academy. The Nigerian Academy of Science is the 3rd oldest academy on the African continent, as it was established in 1977 and incorporated in 1986.

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