Weekend reads: Dissertations for sale, spurious impact factors, the roots of plagiarism

booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of yet another spoof article, and the temporary shutdown of a journal. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

12 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Dissertations for sale, spurious impact factors, the roots of plagiarism”

  1. The paper by Beall and colleagues, the blog post by Neuroskeptic and the criticisms of Elsevier/Wiley by Barbara Fister begin to paint an uncomfortable picture, one in which it is starting to get difficult to differentiate a predatory OA publisher, as profiled by Beall, and one which is a supposedly long-standing and reputable STM publisher. The dividing line is going to get murkier and murkier.

    The advertisement by the Cloud Consulting Company in Toronto is scary:
    “Requirements:
    Ghostwriting…experience is desired”

    And this refers to theses, but what about academic papers? The blogger critiques the practice perfectly:
    “Yes, it pays a lot, but it seems illegal to me, for it’s fostering a duplicitous practice: passing off the work of others as your own. Can this possibly be legal? Even if it is, it’s unethical,”

    RW has a neat page on this topic:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/21/is-it-ethical-to-ghost-write-a-paper/

    1. Well, in my view there are a small number of excellent open access publishers that I would be comfortable dealing with (and in some cases have dealt with.) These include PLoS, Frontiers, BioMed Central, and a few others. I’m fully in favor of open access as a model.

      But there’s a huge number of terrible OA publishers nowadays, even though some of them appear successful at first glance (as in the one I blogged about.)

      1. Not to forget Journal of Vision, which is up there at the top of the field.
        Some of the Frontiers journals can be flaky.

  2. Does anyone find it a little scary that a computer algorithm will soon determine if your research paper is truthful or not, based on prevailing opinion/known facts. Add to this irony they use the anti vaccine group (among others) as the reason for this. Example, if your start date was before Wakefield the algorithm would have been pro vaccine, if your start date was after Wakefield the algorithm would have been anti vaccine (more or less), now we’re back to pro vaccine. Maybe we should go back in time to geocentric, pro blood letting, the piltdown man etc. how many other things were true/accepted science but now proven false.

    ipcha mistabra

  3. Does anyone find it a little scary that a computer algorithm will soon determine if your research paper is truthful or not, based on prevailing opinion/known facts.
    I am also concerned about the prospect of a search engine that ignores satire and humour and general counterfactual frivolity.

  4. On January 8, 2015, I sent a small mini-review that I was struggling to get published in the mainstream publishers’ plant science journals to an OMICS journal, The Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology:
    http://esciencecentral.org/journals/plant-biochemistry-physiology.php

    In late February, after a pathetic peer review, followed by an acceptance in late February of the paper that was “officially” accepted on February 2 (without having been informed), I received a PDF proof with an invoice, as follows.
    Web-page advertised publication fees for a review: 1200 US$.
    The invoice of my accepted review: 3619 US$

    I immediately contacted the publisher, and all editors, providing them with the two documents, withdrawing my paper immediately, and advising the editors to stay clear of what appeared to be a scam.

    Within one week, the following 9 members of the editor board resigned:
    Fedora Sutton, Vice President of Research at MYOBiofuels LLC, USA
    David Honys, Deputy Director, Institute of Experimental Botany, Czech Republic
    Angelo Santino, National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Sciences of Food Production, Italy
    James G Tokuhisa, Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA
    Benjamin Rodriguez Garay, CIATEJ, México
    Nijat Imin, Plant Science Division Research, School of Biology, College of Medicine, The Australian National University, Australia
    Georgia Tanou, Laboratory of Agricultural Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
    Raul Alvarez Venegas, Departamento de IngenieríaGenética, México
    Pia Parolin, Department of Plant Biodiversity, University of Hamburg, Germany

    I received an e-mail from OMICS management trying to convince me [1]. I also received at least two OMICS “advertising” e-mails in the precise same few days.

    Soon after the EIC resigned, I asked here three questions, which remain unanswered:
    “a) How were editors vetted and recruited, and based on what qualifications? Did OMICS use spam e-mails to attract and lure editors?
    b) What benefits (position, financial, or other) do these editors receive from OMICS?
    c) Some of the editors appear to have papers published in this journal. Were they given fee waivers? If yes, partial or full? Can details be provided?”

    See blank page here of the EIC:
    http://esciencecentral.org/journals/editorinchief-plant-biochemistry-physiology-open-access.php
    The new editor board exists, simply with resigned editors spliced out and absolutely no public explanation of these changes in the editor board.
    http://esciencecentral.org/journals/editorialboard-plant-biochemistry-physiology-open-access.php

    In 2013, the same journal had listed the former Executive Editor, David L Herrin, University of Texas at Austin, USA and Dr. Luca Espen, University of Milan, on the editor board, and in July, 2014, the EIC was Prof. German Spangenberg:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20140704151914/http://esciencecentral.org/journals/editorialboard-plant-biochemistry-physiology-open-access.php
    I count approximately 10-15 editors who disappeared from July 2014 to March 2015.

    OMICS then contacted me again asking me to become a member for about 5000 US$, which would then allow me to publish as many papers as I wanted, for free, within a year.

    All this information was supplied to the editors, inducing one response from the at least third ex-EIC on March 4, 2015 [2].

    The was followed by the first resignation on March 5, 2015 [3]. Within 72 hours approx., the remaining 8 resignations came in, using more or less the same wording provided in [4].

    The resignation of Prof. Jim Tokuhisa [5] is particularly poignant.

    On March 13, Prof. Sutton states: “I have just returned home. I am going to contact the Better Business Bureau of America and see what advice they have for us. I will also attempt to find out what governing body can investigate this matter for us.”

    Later on the same day, Sutton files a complaint with the CCA: “Dear Colleagues
    As per attachment, a complaint has been filed with the consumer compliance agency (CCA). As soon as I have a response from their investigation, I will pass it on to you. Fedora Sutton Ph.D.”

    Sometimes between March 14 and March 15, 2015, the names of the 9 editors disappear from the OMICS JPB web-site. Those who continue to support the journal remain:
    http://esciencecentral.org/journals/editorialboard-plant-biochemistry-physiology-open-access.php

    [1] “Greetings! I would like to inform you that “Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology” is one of the quality Journal of our organization which is becoming popular day by day. Your query regarding the legitimate journal’s title, I would like to inform you that for each and every journal, CrossRef provides one ISSN number which is an unique number. When any publisher request for the ISSN number, they cross-check with all the journal and then, they provide an unique standard number which cannot be copied by any publisher. Also, they check whether the journal name is existing already or not. So, there is no problem with the journal name and ISSn number. Also, we have no conflict with the other publisher too.
    Regarding these links, it is a world known fact that there are always a group of people who oppose the success of anyone. If there are appreciators, there are also the back barkers. Fortunately, we have more quantity of the eminent personalities who occurred in the first cadre and happily associated with us. Please go through our official website where you can find Testimonials & the Press releases of so many renowned personalities who have already experienced our quality services which we provide to the scientific community worldwide. As we have seen this publishing industry grow manifolds, we have certainly seen many ups and downs in bringing what we have really wanted to. And all these facts are assertive. The industry will seek competition and these competitors will try to subjugate our reputation through online reserves, which masses have commonly started in believing more. I do not envy them, nor does my organization, but we have seen this in the past many times, have gone through various embankments, but without fail have stood up every time and to the fact: we are not giving up. OMICS Group is an honorary member of the Society for Scholarly Publishing and has deeply abided the rules and ethics of open access publishing. OMICS Group is also a member of Publisher International linking Association, PILA, which clearly states to protect publishing practices and to raise awareness for publishing as a force for economic, cultural and political development. OMICS Group, always, has absorbed the essence of publishing for the sake of scientific development and this is the only possible reason why we are being supported by more than 30,000 eminent scientists all over the world. The Open Access publishing has stood as a controversial practice always but the strong are those who have always defined the proper structure and practices. When OMICS Group started with the Journal of Proteomics and Bioinformatics and World Congresses on Biotechnology, International Conference on Analytical and Bioanalytical techniques, World Congress on Bioequivalence and Bioavailability, only few resources were there in hand but a far more of vision. But they have developed achieving International benchmarks and accreditation standards in recent years. Now OMICS Group organizes around 300+ International Conferences and World Congresses and likewise hosts more than 500+ open-access journals. Regarding PubMed, we have so many authors who have submitted their valuable articles in all OMICS Group journals which are supported by NIH grants and they successfully indexed in PubMed and other valuable Indexing databases. On a concluding note, I would like to mention that OMICS Group has already agitated a global platform to bring together variety of collaborations with non-profit research organizations all over the globe, in effort of supporting them with corroborative development and growth which does not stands otherwise. We don’t feel to prove anyone, our quality and the explicitness of our services we provide to the renowned Scientific Community across the globe. Also, as we are an open- access group with no funding support from any subscription, we need the support from our generous authors. If you have any financial constraint, we are obliged to provide you reasonable discount on publication fee. We have allotted the DOI link to your article and done with the peer-review process. We request you to support our functioning by paying USD $1219. If you have any query, please do not hesitate to contact us. On behalf of Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology, With best regards for your ongoing research.
    Joseph Marreddy
    Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology
    731 Gull Ave, Foster City, CA 94404, USA
    Phone: +1- 650-268-9744; Fax: +1-650-618-1414; Toll Free: +1-800-216-6499”

    [2]
    “Dear Editorial board, I know nothing about this offer. I am out of the country at this moment and cannot investigate fully. I suggest you all send a letter to the editorial office asking for an explanation. If we are not provided an explanation as to who is sending out these notices before the end of the week, we should all resign. I take this very seriously. I will be asking for an audit of the funds that have been provided to this journal and I will also see what recourse there is for including us in a scam. Sincerely Fedora Sutton Ph.D”

    [3]
    “Dear Colleagues, It is with great disappointment that I resign from the editorial board and as Editor in Chief of JPBP. I had hoped to move the journal to higher levels of transparency and strength. Unfortunately, I have not received any responses to my queries from the editorial office. I will continue to investigate the recent allegations of scam. However, since I am unable to perform my job as Editor in Chief in the manner that I would like, I must resign. All the best to you. Sincerely Fedora Sutton Ph.D.”

    [4]
    “Dear Editorial management, dear colleagues, As the situation in the journal has not improved, I also officially resign from the editorial board of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology. Please remove all the information associated with my name from the journal website.”

    [5]
    “This email constitutes my letter of resignation from the Editorial Board of The Journal of Plant Biochemistry and Physiology. Scientific research needs to be conducted and disseminated in an environment of integrity and honesty. Commercial scientific publishers have to navigate a fine line between profitability and scientific integrity. I believe that your behavior has crossed this line a number of times to the detriment of scientists and scientific publication. For this reason, I will not be a participant in your journal.”

      1. Sylvain, it consisted of three sentences: the first was a compliment, the second was the request to add some sub-titles and the third was to create a table. The last request had been ignored as it was a redundant addition to the paper.

  5. The above post by JATdS: withdrawal of accepted paper is a bit confusing. I don’t understand the relevance here. You say “Sometimes between March 14 and March 15, 2015, the names of the 9 editors disappear from the OMICS JPB web-site. Those who continue to support the journal remain” Today is March 15, 2015.

    If you are following J Beall’s comments here and elsewhere, you must be aware of OMICS group already. Why did you submit a review to them in the first place? Have you ever searched for 731 Gull Ave, Foster City, CA 94404, USA in google maps? Just check where it leads to? Who is Joseph Marreddy
    http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/08/07/omics-publishing-groups-abuse-of-researchers-more-evidence/
    http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/03/14/spam-from-predatory-open-access-publishers-is-dominating-my-inbox/
    https://tagteam.harvard.edu/hub_feeds/2007/feed_items/1473183

    So sorry to hear about this…

  6. Kadubu X2, thanks for the feedback. We all know the risks with OMICS, and we also know the risks with Springer, Elsevier, and other mainstream STM publishers, so Beall’s list is neither a fail-safe list, nor a perfect list that has been accurately quantified. My personal criticism of OMICS is restricted exclusively to this one journal, and thus I do not wish to characterize the remainder of the operation of this rapidly expanding publisher to all its journals. I think, in this particular case, OMICS made a serious mistake, and so I am glad that a nasty experience and wasting 2 months of time and energy has led to this result. Because it serves as a learning experience and warning for others. Of course, I knew the risks in submitting to OMICS, but I was willing to take that risk. Unfortunately, the mini-review that was submitted was not substantial enough for the main-stream STM publishers’ plant science journals, 3-4 of which had rejected the review for being too “narrow” in scope. So, this case in fact exposes one reason precisely why the “predatory” OA journals that Beall lists are expanding: because there is alot of valid work that should be published, but is unable to find itself into the pages of IF journals. So, this negative experience with OMICS is simply one sub-set of dozens of trials that I am now conducting, using my own work, to “test the publishing waters”. In some cases, I have identified a small cluster of fairly professional OA journals, not on Beall’s list, but these are extremely limited and one cannot flood them with 2-3 papers at a time. In other cases, we have some nasty falls and clashes, as already documented at RW twice, one with a Serbian OA journal (Archives of Biological Science):
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/07/07/serbian-journal-lands-in-hot-water-after-challenge-on-24-hour-peer-review-that-cost-1785-euros/
    and one with a Taylor and Francis OA journal (GM Crops and Food):
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/11/20/journal-retracts-paper-when-authors-refuse-to-pay-page-charges/

    So, those who know me, know that I am not shy about exposing negative situations that also shed a negative light on me, because they serve as important learning cases for the community. If more and more scientists could come forward with their negative experiences, not only about the journals on Beall’s blog, but also about main-stream STM publishers, then we might be able to start cleaning up a really messy science publishing field. The problem lies in the fact that many scientists are too afraid to speak out, and to speak up, for fear of damaging their own reputations, and thus the chances of publishing in journal X, Y or Z. But this fear of publishers has got to end, and the reinstatement of trust, respect and accountability can only take place when we expose the problems and the ills.

    As for Joseph Marreddy, I had no idea about him, so thanks for adding those links. I only became aware of him after I withdrew my paper. And as for your last comment, no need to feel sympathy, or feel sorry, at all. I have not posted this experience to try and gain sympathy. I posted it to serve as a historical document that when publishers try and cheat a scientist, there is a strong possibility that they will suffer negative consequences. In the case of OMICS, 9 editors quit in 72 hours, but I believe that they will easily find another 9 “suckers” to replace them pretty soon.

    As for the timing, indeed, it is not exactly a “weekend”, it is a case that has spanned at least 3 months, and if we look at the basal problems of this journal dating back as far back as 2013, then it is not exactly a weekend read. But, because sometime between Saturday and Sunday (March 14 and 15) the names of the EIC and 8 other editors were wiped off the OMICS web-page, I decided to come forward to publicize this story and case study. Apologies to readers for my verbosity.

  7. E-mail received on March 16, 2015:
    “Dear Teixeira da Silva,

    We have received several enquiries from the ASPB community regarding emails promoting a meeting formally entitled “the International Conference on Plant Biology” that is being held in September in San Antonio. Although we appreciate that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the fact that subject lines associated with these emails include phrases like “Plant Biology 2015 – Honourable Speaker” and “Plant biology2015-Organizing Committee” (to say nothing of the fact that a hyperlink to the conference site in the body of these emails appears beneath the words “Plant Biology-2015”) is clearly confusing – perhaps deliberately so.

    Please know that the advertised conference is an independently organized event and has no affiliation with ASPB or the society’s Plant Biology 2015 conference, which is being held from July 26-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    If you have any questions or are confused about whether any communications you receive are related to ASPB programming, please do not hesitate to contact our office at info@aspb.org.

    Thank you for your time and attention,

    Crispin Taylor
    Executive Director”

    The link provided to the words “deliberately so” is this one:
    http://news.sciencemag.org/sites/default/files/media/0mics-Letter.pdf

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