Is running a journal becoming too much of a drag? Just get help from a new organization that is trying to make an offer that journals can’t refuse.
On a website splashed with pictures that connote classic mob movies (Marlon Brando as The Godfather, Al Pacino, cigars), a new service called “Journals Mafia” tries to convince journals to partner with them, or even sell the publication outright.
The company appears to act as an intermediary between authors and journals — accepting articles, formatting and fixing the language, and submitting it to the journal. Since the authors pay to publish the articles, the company shares the profits with journals that publish the paper — anywhere from $1,000-$10,000 per month:
We work with a huge amount of articles.
We work not only with people who need a publication.
We also work with the universities and scientific organizations, which give us from 10 to 100 articles….
My goal is to monopolize publication market of Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
It’s unclear how seriously to take the site, according to Charon Pierson, secretary of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE):
The general response from most (COPE Council members and Publishers) has been this is so over the top that it’s difficult to believe it isn’t a hoax of some kind. It seems so obviously unethical that it’s hard to believe anyone would fall into the trap of engaging. We have not seen anything quite this blatant, although many editors have passed along similar emails offering elaborate schemes to pay bribes for publishing without the associated website details.
The organization’s IP address is based in the Russian Federation, hosted by LLC RuWeb (which appears to host more than 1,000 other websites, as well). We contacted the organization via WhatsApp, and a representative confirmed the business model as presented on the website (and offered to pay us to help with the project — an offer we of course must refuse, sorry Mr. Corleone):
We have already published more than 1000 articles in Scopus and [Web of Science] journals, so we know the whole process. We have a great experience in this field…We can provide the articles together with the remarks of our [reviewers]. Formal double-blind review is guaranteed. Everything is usual for you, but less work and much money.
The organization has been quite aggressive in recruiting — emailing individuals, including the director of EMBO:
@NatureTractors Dear Editor, if you get tired of responding to all those dumb authors, here's a nice enterprise that will buy your journal off you: https://t.co/pvaSTFyvNR As they worte to us here @EMBO "If your journal does not bring you joy no longer, we will buy it.”
— Maria Leptin (@mleptin) May 24, 2018
The organization’s business plan depends on the rank of the journal.
For high-ranking journals, “the quality of the article is excellent:”
We put 1 article from our region for one issue.
Thus, we provide from 1 to 5 articles for an issue (no more than one article from one country):
one is from Russia, one – from Azerbaijan, one – from China, one – from Kazakhstan, etc.
This will not cause any suspicion.
For low-ranking journals, the organization says it will supply its own reviewers:
If we do not want to attract attention, to work for years and to raise the journal’s ranking, then we send from 1 to 15 articles for one issue (no more than three articles from one country).
All the articles should undergo the review stage.
We have our own team of reviewers (more than 100 reviewers from around the world).
We can review the articles by our reviewers.
We correct and edit the article taking into the account the reviewers’ comments and remarks.
If you follow the process,
this will not cause any suspicion.
For predatory journals, the Journals Mafia group promises to publish articles “in hundreds or thousands.”
Pierson told us:
The general response from publishers has been they are aware and have notified staff and external or handling editors that this is not acceptable. Some have said they have spam filters or systems in place that have caught the emails before they reached editors.
We hope that the education efforts of COPE have raised awareness of unethical practices so that editors do not think they should respond to an email like this, despite the obvious work that went into producing the website and obtaining names and email addresses of editors and editorial staff.
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