We've talked in the past about the ridiculous nature of the academic publishing world these days, which involve a variety of questionable tactics mostly focused on (1) predatorily preying on those who "need" to be published, (2) enabling researchers (and sometimes large companies) to whitewash shoddy research by "publishing" it for a fee, and (3) making the "publishers" filthy stinking rich despite doing no actual work. The problem is that, while much of this is scammy, the line between fraudulent practices and more "legitimate" practices are pretty damn blurry. After all, when you have "legitimate" names like the American Psychological Association trying to charge $2,500
to "deposit" newly published papers with PubMed (as required to do for NIH funded papers) or publishing giant Elsevier having an entire division
devoted to publishing fake journals paid for by giant pharmaceutical companies promoting their drugs, sometimes it's tough to tell who's legit and who's the out and out swindler.
But, there's definitely been a flood of "predatory" publishers lately, who will basically offer to publish absolutely
anything for a fee. This has resulted in some amusing stories of purely gibberish papers
getting published as "legit" (that link points to a paper that directly claimed in its own text that it was a fraud and also widely quoted My Cousin Vinny
). There are reports of such gibberish papers flooding academia
, sometimes in attempts to highlight how lax publishers are, and what a giant scam all of this is.
The Ottawa Citizen has a story highlighting yet another twist and turn in this ongoing battle of bogosity in academic research, involving sketchy people stepping in to buy a formerly respected journal and turning it into a pure pay-to-play publication
willing to publish absolute gibberish (which the Ottawa Citizen tested and easily proved). The Ottawa Citizen was turned onto the story by Jeffrey Beall, author of Scholarly Open Access
, a site that chronicles predatory publishing scams, and who was last mentioned on these pages after being threatened with a $1 billion lawsuit
and "criminal charges" for outing a predatory publisher based in India.
In this case, the Experimental Clinical Cardiology journal had been a widely respected publication covering research on (you guessed it) experimental and clinical cardiology. However, last year it got sold to some unknown folks who appear to have turned it into a pure gibberish publishing enterprise -- so long as you can pay the $1,200 fee. In other words, the new publishers are trading on the old reputation of the journal, now allowing it to publish junk science or nonsensical rantings. Here's how Tom Spears at the Ottawa Citizen tested it out:
To test the journal, the Citizen sent in an outrageously bad manuscript. The title is a hodgepodge of medical-sounding words adding up to nothing: “VEGF proliferation in cardiac cells contributes to vascular declension.”
For the rest we plagiarized a study on HIV but replaced “HIV” with the word “cardiac” throughout, to make it look (sort of) like cardiology. But it wouldn’t impress anyone who knows the subject.
We submitted detailed captions for graphs — but there are no graphs.
In case you're wondering, Spears notes that "declension" is not a medical word. "It means a group of nouns in Latin that behave the same way." And, it appears that other articles in the same journal have gone through a similar level of review (i.e., none, so long as the check clears):
This is paying off spectacularly. Experimental Clinical Cardiology published 142 articles in July alone, worth a total of $170,000 U.S. for one month. It operates online only and doesn’t bother with editing, so it has almost no costs.
The result is sloppy, or worse. Some articles are called “Enter Paper Title” — the layout instructions instead of the intended title. One is filled with visible paragraph markers (). Some authors’ names are missing.
The academic publishing world is already massively profitable, and with that it appears that the scammers have jumped in and are abusing the system to make money. Of course, the "legit" publishers made this quite easy in the first place, and now it appears that there are opportunities to jump in by using previously respected journal brand reputations as part of furthering these kinds of predatory practices. Permalink
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