India’s higher-education regulator has culled hundreds of journals from a list of approved titles, after finding that many are “predatory or dubious”.

“Unethical research practices leading to ‘pay and publish trash’ culture need to be thwarted immediately,” wrote Rajnish Jain, secretary of the University Grants Commission (UGC), in anannouncement on the updated list on 14 June.

A rise in Indian scientists publishing research in low-quality journals prompted the UGC to create a ‘white list’ of approved journals in 2017. Universities use the list to evaluate researchers for promotion and hiring.

But researchers quickly noticed that the list included a large number of sub-standard journals, including many that did not perform the services they promised, such as peer review and editing. These are known as predatory journals.

In May last year, the UGC removed more than 4,000 spurious journals from the white list. In November, it set up a Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE), comprising representatives from universities, scholarly academies and government institutes. The consortium’s goal was to create a strict protocol for screening journals and to maintain a continually updated list.

Its assessment group screened more than 3,800 mostly Indian journals, recommended by universities, using an algorithm to verify that the journals are legitimate, and other measures to appraise their quality. Previously, universities could simply recommend journals for inclusion, and the UCG provided little scrutiny of their quality or legitimacy. The updated list now contains just 815 mostly Indian journals spanning the sciences and humanities.

Many journals proposed for the updated list were weeded out for having missing or false information on their websites, says Bhushan Patwardhan, a biologist at Savitribai Phule Pune University and chair of the CARE committee. The protocols, algorithms and metrics used to assess journals will remain confidential because they are part of internal assessment processes, he says.

The updated list also includes more than 50,000 journals indexed in large international journal databases including Scopus and the Web of Science. CARE does not assess these journals.

Predatory publishers are thought to be behind a fake website posing as the consortium’s homepage that was set up in November 2018. The UGC has filed a police complaint.