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The Dark Side

The Predatory Beat Goes On

I’m not the least bit surprised by this effort. The predatory junk journals will do what ever they can think of to bring in customers and cash, with no restrictions and no shame:

. . .we created a profile of a fictitious scientist named Anna O. Szust and applied on her behalf to the editorial boards of 360 journals. Oszust is the Polish word for ‘a fraud’. We gave her fake scientific degrees and credited her with spoof book chapters. Her academic interests included, among others, the theory of science and sport, cognitive sciences and methodological bases of social sciences. We also created accounts for Szust on, Google+ and Twitter, and made a faculty webpage at the Institute of Philosophy at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. The page could be accessed only through a link we provided on her CV.

The profile was dismally inadequate for a role as editor. Szust’s ‘work’ had never been indexed in the Web of Science or Scopus databases, nor did she have a single citation in any literature database. Her CV listed no articles in academic journals or any experience as a reviewer, much less an editor. The books and chapters on her CV did not exist and could not be found through any search engine. Even the publishing houses were fake.

The 360 journals were divided (120 each) between ones on the Journal Citation Reports list (which are presumably reputable), the Directory of Open Access Journals (a mixed bag), and the former Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers (not much of a mixed bag at all, unfortunately). None of the JCR journals accepted “Szust” as an editorial board member, and good for them. 8 of the DOAJ went for it, though, and 40 out of the 120 Beall’s List journals were only too happy to accept “her” offer. About 40% of the first two journal groups send an actual rejection of the idea, but only 13% of the predatory list did so (the rest didn’t respond at all).

But wait, there’s more, as the infomercials say:

At least a dozen journals appointed Szust as editor conditional on, or strongly encouraging, some form of payment or profit (see ‘Spot the predator’). In some cases, this was a direct payment, such as a subscription fee requested by one journal of US$750 (later reduced to “ONLY $650”), or a donation of $50 (although Szust was accepted without paying).

Others asked Szust to organize a conference after which the presenters’ papers would be published (for a fee) in a special proceedings issue. One publisher suggested that the profits be split (“60% us 40% You”). Twice, Szust was offered the opportunity to start a new journal as lead editor. One e-mail proposed “30% of the revenue earned thru you” for launching a new journal, but 20% for joining an existing journal as editor.

This is starting to sound like a multilevel marketing scheme – “For every new journal you start, you earn new referral fees! And if those people go on to start journals, then. . .”

The authors of this new study eventually informed all the journals that had accepted their fake editor of what they were up to, but as of press time, 11 of them still list Szuzt on their editorial boards. No word on whether she’s serving alongside Hoss Cartwright or not, though. . .


14 comments on “The Predatory Beat Goes On”

  1. David says:

    I am sorely tempted to put myself on some editorial boards…

    1. anoano says:

      and submit your current photo 😉

  2. anon says:

    Social “sciences”…. No surprise here. Have they tried it for the journals publishing in physical sciences?

    1. WhySoSmug says:

      things aren’t going to be much better there’s plenty of delightful journals out there which would no doubt snap up Szust like a shot and add them to their gallery of folks in weird aspect ratios:

      1. Allan says:

        Read their “Processing Fee” page. It states

        “We do unconventional peer review process for all the articles submitted to any of the Bio accent journals.”


      2. MITO says:

        And they also manage to have the same photo/person represented twice under different names on the Editorial Board!

  3. Anon2 says:

    Got to love the name: oszust is Polish for Liar.

    1. Andy Extance says:

      Wow, they say that oszust means fraud, so, are they lying? Liars and frauds all the way down..

  4. luysii says:

    There’s an article by Gina Kolata in today’s NYT on the same subject. Frighteningly it shows how these journals have been used to advance careers, and the pressures on young investigators to get something (anything !) published somewhere. Amazingly, for the NYT, there is no mention of the perfidious DJT.

    1. Anon says:

      Glad to see Dr.Carson in comments.

  5. Anon says:

    Did they try applying for Dean of Trump University? They could have used the name “Spicer”, which means bullshlt in English.

  6. Pennpenn says:

    Scumbags continue to be scumbags, got it. And honestly, the kinds of people who accepted Ms Szust would just as happily have accepted “Mr F. Raud” or “Mrs Liya N. Cheit” if the money appeared to be in the right place.

  7. loupgarous says:

    The host of this blog. AAAS, is tacitly encouraging this kind of thing by not defending its copyright to the magazine name “Science” and suing the “Science Publishing Group” for establishing an empire of bogus scientific journals (their bogosity being measured by the money they charge in “article preparation fees” and, probably, to would-be editorial board members).

    While the principals of this journal seem to almost all be overseas nationals living and working overseas, Science Publishing Group states its offices are on “548 FASHION AVENUE NEW YORK, NY 10018 U.S.A.”. If this is true, they’re domiciled in the United States and eminently sue-able under our trademark and copyright laws.

  8. loupgarous says:

    In case people reading the above article wonder how the Science Publishing Group comes into this discussion, they’re part of the pay-for-play market in the prestige of being on scientific journal editorial boards.

    The page on the Science Publishing Group Web site “Home / Services / Join Us / Join as an Editorial Member” begins:

    “Join as an Editorial Member
    We are seeking professionals to join our Editorial Board. You will be entitled following benefits while working with us as an editorial board member of the journal.
    1. You are enforced to read carefully various manuscripts in your area of importance and interest. This is the way you are routinely forced to keep yourself up-to-date while checking and suggesting the changes in manuscripts.
    2. This work helps to add in and provides a better way to create your identity as a well known expert in your field and may lead to increased invitations to speak at conferences or demand for invited research of your specialized area.
    3. You will be among the contributors who will shape and decide the urgent ways as required with changing societal needs.
    4. Your ideas and subject inputs may help in arranging special issues as per topics of your interest and choice.
    5. You will come across the latest research before everyone else and gives you a position of leadership in your research community.”

    and the kicker:

    “6. The editorial board members who need financial support could enjoy 20% discount to publish their articles in SciencePG.”,

    which shows the real incentive to join – you aren’t just a member of the board, but you’re encouraged to publish in your own journal with a 20% discount on the fees charged authors to publish.

    How much is that? There’s a sliding scale.

    Residents in the imperialistic “High-Income Countries” pay 370 USD from Jan. 1 to May. 31, 2017. That’s a limited-time offer, sahib. From Jun. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017 the check needs to be for 470 United States Dollars.

    The deal gets progressively better as your domicile goes from “Upper-Middle-Income Countries”, “Lower-Middle-Income Countries”. to “Low-Income Countries” where you pay USD 120 before June 1 of this year, and USD 170 afterwards.

    (These fee schedules have been recycled from year to year. but the management of Science Publishing Group know enough to use robots.txt to conceal the evidence from the Wayback Machine. But the general practice is to brandish a higher fee schedule to would-be submitters as the stick you’re beaten with for not rushing into print before the middle of the year).

    I’m pretty sure that Drs Hoss Cartwright and Anna O. Szust could get on as editorial board members at Science Publishing Group with no trouble at all.

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