Meet the author who has published more than 500 letters to the editor in a year

Viroj Wiwanitkit

Hyperprolific authors have been drawing attention for some time. In 2018, for example, a Nature article reported that “thousands of scientists have published a paper every five days.” And earlier this year El Pais noted that a now-suspended scientist was publishing a paper every 37 hours.

What about an author who publishes more than once a day, on average?

Viroj Wiwanitkit has published 543 items indexed in PubMed in the last 12 months, the vast majority of them letters to the editor. Most of Wiwanitkit’s letters with colleagues appear to be only a single paragraph. Many concern COVID-19 and vaccinations, but the catalog includes letters about monkeypox, knee replacement surgery, bipolar disorder, even ChatGPT.

To be clear, most definitions of hyperprolific authors exclude such work. But the volume seemed noteworthy. We asked Wiwanitkit, now an adjunct professor at Joseph Ayobabalola University in Nigeria, some questions over the course of several emails. Below is an edited version; we have made the entire exchange available here. We have not made spelling or grammatical changes anywhere in either version. (And a researcher who flagged a May 2020 correction of a paper by Wiwanitkit reminds us of a guest post he wrote for us about the episode.)

How do you explain your productivity?

For the profilic work, I have collaboration with several other profilic authors and I take role in supervision in most cases. The type of article that our group work is usually on scientific letter to editor, which is a standard type of article in scientific journal. Our group focus to work and publish only in a standard non predatory (non-paid) journal with international indexing. For sure, the article has to pas the scientific peer review and checking for code of conduct by the academic publisher.

A way to produce the scientific work has to start with a good ideas, plan and work on the academic plan. As I am also journal editor for many journals, therefore, I usually get communicate by some academic practitioner for collaboration.

You are not the first one who ask how to produce many publications and I reply a simple concept that you have to create, idea, make a plan and practice to get experience that you can have experience in working and writing. Also, I usually teach my junior to follow the code of conduct and it is an important that if you do not follow the good code of conduct , you will not gain your own creative ideas and experience to do any work

I have work for more than 30 years, starting from a poor developing countries. At early stage, I wrote many article sand rejected (more than one thousand draft article that I submit during my early academic practice and was rejected).

If you have loss an attempt, you will not get to the target. Experience and succcess will be soon if you still walk. Without walking , you cannot reach the target. I take 4 hours every day for working and writing. Though there might be a lot of work, I use the time in the night to work. That’s all.

Why do you focus on indexed journals?

Indexed journal is a standard journal platform in academic society.

Gray journal and predatory journal is not good. I think you understand.

Do you benefit financially or otherwise from publishing these letters?

I have never receive any money from writing those works.

Academic work is by willingness. I also have ever advice some of my junior who try to make money from working in incorrect way such as ghost writing. 

Are you concerned that this volume of work leads to superficial letters?

Superficial or not depends on the view of readers. Any work go on routine academic peer reviewing process and ethical code of conduct.

Small or large piece of work is not important in my though. Ideas is more important

Have you ever heard and remembered the story of one piece of paper of famous scientific rule written by Einstein. A long article with non sense and poor idea content is not uncommon and many authors use predatory (paid) journal to be their portal for publication, which I totally not agree for that idea.

in Asian, we have idiom “have a quater first then you will get the complete whole one”

If you rely on only large long thing and devalue of the short message, there will not be scientific progression.

Another point that I do not publish long work since I already notify that there is no money to support my team academic work.

At present, I usually act as supervisor to my junior colleage and most of them are from poor Asian countries and have no mney to pay for the expensive publication charge so they usually write a short piece of work to correspond and manage the problem of publication charge.

Publishing short scientific letter usually cost me and may team no charge. Perhaps, if there is any financial support externally, a longer article might be focused (maybe, in your setting, USA??, there might be funding to support those junior authors who have willingness to do the academic work).

One who publish few works might publish either good or non sense work or ethical or non ethical work. This is the same for the high profilic author as well. 

Last, as I told do not count on other work. Counting on number of other work can let you feel fatique and loss of hope to reach the target. In some cases, a bad person might feel jealous and thing bad when he/she see the other has more success. This is an important take home message that I usually teach my junior.

Any summary thoughts?

[I] would like to let take home message for any beginner that 1. If you do not walk, you will not reach the target.  2. Rome does not built in one day!  3. Do a good thing by your own first. God will not help anyone who do not help his/her own self.   4. Do not count on other success but look to improve your ownself. Don’t waste time, everything has to start from 0 before it reach the infinity. 

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19 thoughts on “Meet the author who has published more than 500 letters to the editor in a year”

  1. There is a typo for the Doi in the links to “COVID-19 and vaccinations” and “monkeypox”.

  2. Based on a quick reading of some of the “letters”and “comments”published by this gentleman, he is clearly engaged in some questionable publishing activity. The interview responses sound disingenuous in light of the content of his 546 PubMed indexed publications.

    Here is an example from a letter: “The ChatGPT code of conduct for use in education, research, and practice also requires evaluation and modification. The ChatGPT code of conduct for usage in study, practice, and instruction has to be assessed and amended as well. The ChatGPT code of conduct for usage in study, practice, and instruction has to be assessed and amended as well. To reduce unintentional malpractice or misconduct, the exact code of conduct for using ChatGPT in practice, education, and research must be assessed and updated.”

    Drivel.

  3. The goal of using this format to help boost the careers of his students is admirable, but the results are not. A lot of these letters do almost nothing but say that “I wouldn’t have done it that way” for a given research paper, with minimal justification of their criticisms of the original. Most of these letters have very few references as well; one for the article they are critiquing, and another for one of this author’s many other letters. If I submitted a critique like this for one of my undergraduate classes, I certainly would have gotten a very poor grade. I don’t think having these letters on their resumes will help any of his students.

  4. In our Persian literature we have the phrase “کم گوی و گزیده گوی چون در” means “Speak little and speak like a pearl” in English. It is a Persian proverb that advises people to be concise and eloquent in their speech, and to avoid unnecessary or worthless words. It is derived from a poem by Nizami, a 12th century Persian poet2.
    However I as sientific author prefer publish one or two full reseach paper rather than 500 short letter
    I respect his perspective that hint for stabelity and consistency in our scientific journey.

  5. The gentleman has not, obviously, got a grasp of ChatGPT. If he had, he would have used it to check the grammar and form of his replies.
    One would expect that for one who is supposedly prolific at writing, some basic command of the language (of academic writing) would be evident. Sad.
    Sadder that he is wood-winking some poor African countries too starry-eyed to see the truth. I hope this article will be a wake up call.

  6. Many famous publishers are just some paper printers. I usually find many papers, mostly review articles, containig lots of english grammatical errors. Also, there is no chision and coherence. However, they are published in high IF journals, particularly in Elsevier and Springer. It is really aweful for scientific society. We need to change the rules for publishing academic papers. Journals just want to earn money via open access publishing. The quality of manuscripts does not matter!

  7. I am sorry, but such speedy publications has many issues. I’m also researcher, and has been working on research areas such as digital healthcare and intelligent, cloud scheduling since 2005. In my opinion, publishing works with high quality is important. We can’t publish a good paper in days. Atleast we need to spend quality time on article writing and simulations.

  8. Proliferation of hyperprolifc authors is an interesting topic.
    Maybe, the second most prolific author in the world is prof. Dumitru Baleanu, from University of Çankaya, Turkey (he has however other affiliations as well).
    According to Scopus, during his academic activity (less than 30 years) he published more than 2,100 papers. He published 376 papers in 2020 (one every 23 hours) and 270 papers in 2021 (one every 32 hours).
    Unlike prof. Wiwanitkit, Baleanu’s papers are all real papers (not just letters or comments) in Mathematics. Usually, a good researcher in Mathematics is able to write no more than 2-5 papers/years. In approximately the same years’ range, prof. Terence Tao (a Field medal winner) published “only” 303 papers.
    According to data in Scopus (based on 1,699 documents for 2013-2022), only 2 papers are single authors. The number of co-authors huge and it is even difficult to evaluate. Co-authors are from almost the entire world. These strange numbers are highlighted by the Turkish press https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2022/yazarlar/sultan-ucar/akademide-the-end-6915946/
    Prof. Baleanu serves as member of the editorial board of several journals (a, maybe not updated, list is available here: https://retractionwatch.com/2013/12/02/mathematicians-have-second-paper-retracted/#comment-14651 However, despite Fractional Calculus is the main research field of prof. Baleanu, he is not member of the editorial board of Fractional Calculus and Applied Analysis, the main journal for research in this field https://www.springer.com/journal/13540

    1. Re: “Baleanu’s papers are all real papers”
      The ones I have read are generally not good, featuring some vague concepts stitched together, often sprinkled with math and physics errors due to misunderstanding the notions of fractional calculus. It is not hard to write 2000+ such “papers”. As an expert in the field, I cannot call them “real”.

      1. I mean “real papers” since they are not just letters as the ones from the guy in this post.

        I agree that quality is generally quite low. In particular, the so-called Atangana-Baleanu (AB) derivative (named after Baleanu and Atangana) has produced a huge numbers of very low quality papers. Essentially, all these papers should be retracted because in almost all cases the solution of differential equations with the AB derivative does not satisfy the initial condition. In most of these works a non-existing solution is numerically “approximated”. And this is clearly a nonsense.

  9. One of my articles had a letter from this author which I started to respond to. Mostly appeared not to understand the paper itself. But then justified their position by citing another of their letters to the editor. So I thought best to read that to understand the argument (which was hollow) but noticed that letter had been cited by this author in 4 other letters to the editor. So I looked at the 2 authors and together as a duo they had 112 letters in 6 months. It is more than letter writing, it is citation generating. I reported it to the journal suggesting not to publish the letter but they said it had already been accepted (within 2 days of my actual article being ahead of print letter written, submitted and accepted). So I wrote a letter responding to their queries but also calling out the serial behaviour. The journal won’t publish unless I say nothing about the poor practice. So I refuse to reply so I do not contribute to citation count. Sad because letters are really important in research dialogue and self citation is sometimes appropriate – this serial behaviour demonises both.

    1. This is exactly why they get away with it — the journals actively look the other way (and penalize anyone who calls them out) because it “boosts engagement”. Rotten industry.

  10. he has ‘ published ‘ more than 3500 letters. all same format. not more than 2 Paras. in all specialities including veterinary sciences. most of them are Indian journals who are more than happy to publish ‘ papers’ by foreigners.

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