A cross-sectional study of predatory publishing emails received by career development grant awardees


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the scope of academic spam emails (ASEs) among career development grant awardees and the factors associated with the amount of time spent addressing them. DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey of career development grant investigators via an anonymous online survey was conducted. In addition to demographic and professional information, we asked investigators to report the number of ASEs received each day, how they determined whether these emails were spam and time they spent per day addressing them. We used bivariate analysis to assess factors associated with the amount of time spent on ASEs. SETTING: An online survey sent via email on three separate occasions between November and December 2016. PARTICIPANTS: All National Institutes of Health career development awardees funded in the 2015 fiscal year. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Factors associated with the amount of time spent addressing ASEs. RESULTS: A total of 3492 surveys were emailed, of which 206 (5.9%) were returned as undeliverable and 96 (2.7%) reported an out-of-office message; our overall response rate was 22.3% (n=733). All respondents reported receiving ASEs, with the majority (54.4%) receiving between 1 and 10 per day and spending between 1 and 10 min each day evaluating them. The amount of time respondents reported spending on ASEs was associated with the number of peer-reviewed journal articles authored (p<0.001), a history of publishing in open access format (p<0.01), the total number of ASEs received (p<0.001) and a feeling of having missed opportunities due to ignoring these emails (p=0.04). CONCLUSIONS: ASEs are a common distraction for career development grantees that may impact faculty productivity. There is an urgent need to mitigate this growing problem

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