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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Serbian journal lands in hot water after challenge on 24 hour peer review that cost 1785 euros

with 6 comments

naslovna1This story began as a report of a one-off case of potential predatory practice last month, and has escalated to an official call to disband an entire international editorial board, and an accusation against the editor of mass-scale nepotism and other publishing misconduct.

The journal, Archives of Biological Sciences (ABS) is the official publication of the Serbian Biological Society, co-published by ten organisations in Serbia and Bosnia. It was accused (on June 12) on the Scholarly Open Access blog of accepting a paper in 24 hours with no peer review, and demanding 1785 euros for publishing it.

After receiving a quick acceptance letter for his plant sciences paper, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, an outspoken critic of what he considers corruption in scientific publishing, said he was “extremely concerned” and demanded “a full explanation of the predatory publication charges” in an e-mail to the editor.

The apparent lack of peer review and request for a publishing fee when “when DOAJ indicates that there are no publishing costs” lead him to request explanation before revealing “this serious academic fraud.”

A week later – after the case was aired on Scholarly Open Access blog – he sent another e-mail asking for the paper to be withdrawn:

I am very disappointed that one week after my complaint that you have not had the courage, or the decency, of responding, or even providing an apology. This simply fortifies a dishonest attitude and position. I have thus decided to expose this case publically because it endangers the integrity of science and science publishing.”

The journal’s editor, Božidar Ćurčić from University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Biology, initially defended their procedures in an e-mail to me, as I reported on Balkan Science Beat blog, claiming the peer review had been done by two anonymous reviewers plus the editor, that it took 36 hours rather than 24 hours, and that the money was for ‘support’, not publishing costs. He also claimed that allegations in the blog about as an extremely high level of self-citation do not stand: “the self-citation is within the limit of normal procedure.”

But the Centre for Evaluation in Education and Science (CEON/CEES), which runs the Serbian national citation index in cooperation with the National Library of Serbia, started its own investigation.

Now, they have issued preliminary findings, calling for the entire editorial board and the editor to go, and for the Serbian Ministry of Science to suspend the journal and deny it funding for at least two years. According to Serbian media, the editor has now resigned, as did the management board of the Serbian Biological Society.

CEON/CEES notice says the editor did not reply to their questions, but they also examined the ethical publishing practices of ABS and their preliminary results are pretty shocking:

“The editor has systematically published in ABS an unacceptably large number of articles of his own and articles of the two members of his immediate family, a son and a daughter. Only in 2013 and in 2014 they jointly or in collaboration with other authors published in ABS between 3 and 5 papers per issue.

In ABS, we found numerous evidences of manipulative citation behaviour, aimed at boosting the impact artificially. Even a quarter of citations that ABS obtained in WoS in 2013 stems from the papers of the Editor and his family, which contributed to the ABS Impact Factor almost as much as all other Serbian authors together.

In ten of his WoS articles the Editor cited his journal more than 10 times per paper. ABS self-citation rate in WoS at the author level is far greater than of any other Serbian WoS journal. The accumulation of ‘fresh’ citations, ie. those aged up to two years (the only ones to be taken into account when calculating Impact Factor) is highly atypical compared to other journals in Biology, the group it belongs to. In only four years Impact Factor of ABS increased from 0.238 to 0.791, although the number of papers in roughly the same period almost doubled.

ABS does not implement preventive measures against plagiarism, although there is a strong need for that. In our 2010 study, dedicated only to this problem, we detected in ABS 4 plagiarized and 12 self-plagiarized articles, of which at least two were of grave scale. This was more than in any other journal under study.

For this we provided the Editorial Board of ABS (as well as the Ministry) conclusive evidence, but the Board ignored our invitation to take appropriate action and kept the practice of tolerance for plagiarism. Now, by means of the appropriate software (iThenticate) we have registered only in the ABS 2013 volume as much as 21 papers that in a valid procedure must be declared plagiarised, as well as 10 papers that would have to be qualified as self-plagiarized.

ABS resorts to subtle forms of marketing that are typical of the so-called predatory behaviour. Among others, with reference to payment of fees (donations, sic) authors are informed that their papers will be published in Online First regime, although such option is not supported.

Based on these and other findings, we estimated that violation of international publishing standards in the ABS assumed such proportions that the continuation of its indexing compromises the legitimacy of the use of SCIndeks for evaluation purposes.

Along with the notice about the decision, we called for the Ministry as regulatory and at the same time financing institution to: temporarily withhold ABS the status of a scientific journal, i.e. to suppress it from the list of categorized journals until correction of all deficiencies, but not for the shorter period than two years; deny ABS funding for at least one year; and call for the ABS publishers to urgently dismiss the Editorial Board and the Editor-In-Chief, and to promptly inform the Thomson Reuters, the publisher of WoS/JCR, about the reasons for the dismissal in order to prevent sanctions against ABS.

In parallel, we submitted the request about dismissal (3) directly to all ten co-publishers of ABS. “

We’ve contacted the journal editor, and will update this post if we hear back.

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Written by micotatalovic

July 7, 2014 at 8:30 am

6 Responses

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  1. Great work to everyone involved in muzzling this predatory journal.

    • Yes, don’t mess with Jaime.


      July 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    • Jaime Teixeira, known in this blog as a prolific commentator, deserves thunderous applause for its involvement in the case.

      Sylvain Bernès

      July 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    • Perhaps to your surprise, there is one journal that I believe is many, many fold worse, highly non-academic in my opinion: Acta Horticulturae, published by the International Society for Horticultural Science (http://actahort.org/). That is my next target. An it is a monster with over 7500 members globally. I am struggling to achieve tangble results because, unlike Archives of Biological Sciences, which could be controlled by a higher power, namely the ministry of education of Serbia, in te case of the ISHS, it is the ISHS that calls all the shots, driven by a highly profitable business venture. Jozef Van Assche is a key player (http://www.ishs.org/ishs-board).

      So far, I have found what I claim are four clear cases of duplication, but only two have been retracted, and even so, only after formidable pressure and exposure. Otherwise, there is ZERO apetite to clean that hornest’s nest. The mangement of the ISHS, which has links to the Editor board of the Elsevier journal I was banned from for being so critical, Scientia Horticulturae, specifically the current (2010-2014) President, Professor Antonio Monteiro, and the manager for publications, Prof. Yves Desjardins, resist correcting their journal, despite claiming publically otherwise, and I claim that the ISHS is making profit off bad and stained science. The ISHS’s centennial celebration is coming up soon: http://www.ihc2014.org/. This will be my target audience to cause a revolt in the plant sciences, specifically in the horticultural sciences.

      It is time to stand up to Goliath (at least one of them). I am willing to sacrifice my name and my career for this. I did not become a scientists, spent several decades preparing and fighting for something which clearly has become something it was not originally perceived to be. I make my first public claim of WAR (in an academic sense) against the ISHS, which will potentially involve many of my colleagues who will then be forced to take sides: either side with or against academic integrity and open, honest and transparent change and disclosure.

      I can appreciate that not all (in fact most likely only a centisimal of a fraction) scientists would be able or willing to sacrifice everything in the name of science, but precisely yesterday I made that decision. I will fight them all until I have no strength left in my body.

      People only now have recognized my fight, now that I have finally been able to see the total collapse of one journal, but I assure you that I have been battling several dozen publishers and many more journals for their dishonest practices, some small, some large. But now it is time, using my limited financial resurces and technical skills, to expose everything I know and everything I think. RW is a great place to do this, and to use as a sand-box for testing my ideas and seeing the response of others.

      When exposing problems anonymously, one can breathe at the end of the day as one sees the complaint take effect, or die out. But when one uses one’s full name, as I have done, it is a very painful process, because everything becomes sacrificed. It is the so-called point of no return.

      I confirm that this statement was written by me, particularly the public declaration of academic war against the ISH’s fraudulent Acta Horticulturae.

      Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

      July 7, 2014 at 5:51 pm

  2. “mass-scale nepotism and other publishing misconduct”

    How common is nepotism , cronyism and favoritism in science publishing?


    July 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    • I update.
      On Monday, July 7, 2014 9:55 PM, Pero Sipka [e-mail edited out] wrote:
      Dear Dr. Beall,

      I am surprised that you already removed ABS from your list. If my info encouraged your decision, this was not my intention. I appreciate and share your stance that ABS led by the new Editorial Board deserves new chance. However, there is “no new editor and new editorial board”. We will continue to make the pressure, but there is no guarantee that the present Editorial board will resign or be dismissed. To my present knowledge professor Curcic is still fighting furiously to keep his position.

      I am extremely concerned that, under this circumstances, the fact that ABS was removed from your list will be interpreted by him and his cronies as a proof that there were no irregularities in ABS editing and that “all this was a revenge of individuals and a vain scientists from Portugal”, which was his explanation to the media.

      I am afraid that Dr. Silva, in his latest message, is 100% right in other aspects of this case as well.

      Is there any way that you withdraw your decision? The time will come soon, hopefully this autumn at the latest, that the co-publishers of ABS who are not willing to tolerate the journal’s present editorial practice do their job and made the situation for you clear enough to make your final decision. I sincerely hope that this decision will be based on the new Editor´s decision to condemn practices of previous Editor, to apologize to the authors who were victimized in any way, and to re-review of all papers accepted in an irregular way, to say the least.

      Best regards,

      Pero Šipka”

      I only did what I had to do, but note how I am characterized as some sort of an aggressor. So many allegations against this publisher, and I am the one who is labelled. I can also inform you that Jeffrey Beall has re-added the journal/publisher to his list, reinforcing the inconsistency in his criteria (which I have been cirtical of before here at RW*) (reason why I requested him on many occasions to implement a quantifiale system like the Predatory Score).**

      * http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/20/jeffrey-beall-scores-a-retraction/
      ** http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/JournalsSup/images/2013/AAJPSB_7(SI1)/AAJPSB_7(SI1)21-34o.pdf

      Finally, I maintain the following: I know alot of highly respected plant scientists from Serbia, amny of whom have secretly sided with my actions to expose this, and thus the “attack” is not on Serbia, it is on academic misconduct. It is important to maintain this distinction.


      July 7, 2014 at 4:47 pm

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