Simon Chapman & Mike Daube
Every day, every academic we know receives numerous emails from purported research journals and conference organisers. But they are junk, predatory on-line journals and events. The emails never mention that they are from pay-to-publish factories often from India or China, set up to fleece inexperienced researchers who are often desperate to publish work to allow them to take their first steps up the academic ladder. This requires evidence of research publication or international conference presentation. They have portentous titles inferring that they are the key gathering (“world conference” or “summit”) in their fields, and entail substantial fees, but are often equally phoney – even run by the same groups.
The journals claim that they are peer reviewed (indeed, usually promising rapid review), indexed by renowned indexing agencies, and have impressive impact factors. But in reality they are almost invariably sham operations where perfunctory “peer review” occurs internally, if at all (see an earlier article on these journals here), and the “Impact Factors” can be as spurious as the journals. And they charge – sometimes hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars – for the privilege of appearing on their websites as “publications”.
One of us tested the bona fides of these “journals” by creating a CV for his Staffordshire Terrier, Ollie (AKA Dr Olivia Doll DCS, Senior Lecturer in the Subiaco College of Veterinary Science, with research interests including “The benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines”) and an older colleague, Professor Curig L’Épagneul, a spaniel whose CV indicates that he died in 1954, and who rejoices in the title of Macallan Professor of Alcohol Experiential Proficiency. They were both speedily accepted as editorial board members, and have co-authored papers accepted by these “journals” – notably a paper co-authored by Dr. Doll with a distinguished American Staffie, Dr. Alice Wünderlandt (who works in association with a distinguished marine scientist, Dr. Phillip Clapham), entitled “ Solicitation of patient consent for bilateral orchiectomy in male canids: Time to rethink the obligatory paradigm” – a plea for informed consent by dogs before they are castrated.
Dr Olivia Doll DCS (left)
Over the years we have shared many of the more comical attempts to extract money from our wallets from these outrageous scam publications. In the spirit of Christmas, here are some winners from the last 12 months. In the spirit of academic collaboration, we would welcome any further suggestions, which might form the basis of a paper to be submitted to one of these journals.
Bonhomie bursting out
When we receive invitations from professional journals to review, write commentaries or editorials, the tone is matter-of-fact. They write to you because of your track record and reputation. There’s no need for the saccharine. But junk journal “editors” gush all over you from their very first words: “greetings of the day!” and “Hope you are doing well”.
And they like to target their greetings with Exocet precision: “Seasonal Greetings”, Autumn season wishes” – or even “Happy Tuesday!” and “Happy August!”. Who knew there was a happy Tuesday?
Sometimes, there’s pathos too.
Dear Dr. Simon Chapman,
Good Morning! Having seen your eminent profile, I would like to send you below cordial invitation. Advances in Cancer Research & Clinical Imaging is planning to release the Volume 1 Issue 2 by the end of this month.
All the authors around the globe are cordially invited to submit any type of the article based upon your research interest for the Christmas Edition.
I really need a warm support from an ideal person like you.
Await your submission.
Awr shucks, Julia we’ve never actually met.
Or (albeit in a form of English that might not pass muster in second grade):
“Hello Editor. OLIVIA DOLL,
Hope you will available for this mail. I’m disappointed a lot with the lack of response from your end…… We feel the presence of articles from Editors in an issue is very worthful. Kindly consider about the welfare of the journal, for any credential the Editor’s activity is must so, please cooperate with us. We do accept manuscripts with your reference.
Hope to read from you at least this time.
Expecting your response!”
Slavering, obsequious, baroque praise
No recipient of these missives escapes a deluge of fawning flattery. Understand that the people at these journals have read your other publications. All of them. And, very correctly, they grasp that they are all wonderful, and that you are “a celebrated leader in this field” – even if this field is “Nano/molecular-medicine engineering”! They now want you to write more about the same thing or travel around the world to deliver a talk to a small room full of saps who have fallen for all this – or perhaps want an excuse to use unscrutinised travel funds and enjoy Paris or Tokyo.
So we get “Respected Dr. Simon Chapman”, “The interest that our team has for your expertise is immense, so please make us delighted by letting us know your possibility of article submission for the upcoming issue.” “It is a pleasure to put my request to a great scholar like you.” “I appreciate the substantive intellectual contributions to your published study.” (Ermm.. which study was that, now?) ”Having seen your eminent profile, I would like to send you below cordial invitation” “We expect your precious comments or suggestions” or “Dear Dr. Daube M, Good Wishes! Journal of Public Health Hygiene and Safety (JPHHS) aims to develop and uphold the standards by publishing the cut-edge research…..We have recently had good fortuity of reading your article…… which was rare well-written and informative……In this regard, we take honor in inviting you to contribute your upcoming research work towards our journal.”
The editors are often deaf or perhaps just persistent and undeterred by your having thrown them many times before into your spam bin.
“Please accept my apology if this email bothers you, as I have tried to send you this invitation in last months but without any response from you.” “We have tried to contact you earlier, but with no response from you, we would like to contact you again.”
Game’s up: they know your secret expertise
We both work in public health. Yes, this is a broad church. And of course we know those in public health who stand ready and waiting to run at the mouth on any topic whatsoever. So this was tempting. “Currently we are seeking contributions on food science and nutrition therapy which is relevant to the area of your expertise.”
Then there was this: “Our committee came across your profile which is very impressive and we suggest you to present a talk at our conference 2nd International Meeting on Cosmetology and Trichology which is to be held in Dubai, UAE during April 19-20, 2019. This Year we adopted a theme for the conference “Allocating new possible innovations in cosmetology and Trichology fields”.
Captain, start the engines! We’re on the plane!
In the last two weeks one of us has had invitations from journals and events in some twenty areas ranging from “Plant hormones and other growth regulators” to “Economics and International Business Management” and “Pesticide, Fertilizers and Crop Cultivation”.
It is also clear that delegates at an upcoming gene conference would be scouring the program for any papers on alcohol policy, a leading edge topic in gene therapy: “It is our great pleasure and privilege to welcome you to join the World Gene Convention-2020 (WGC-2020) conference, which will be held during June 7-9, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. On behalf of the Organizing Committee, we would be honored to invite you to be a chair/speaker at Session 4-7: Antibodies/Vaccines while presenting about “What should be done about policy on alcohol pricing and promotions? Australian experts’ views of policy priorities: a qualitative interview study” at the upcoming WGC-2020.”
Now, do you understand what we’re looking for?
The editors can give precise, helpful directions on what the hope to get from you “We are looking forward for most complicated/rare cases which may help the future residents train to tackle with challenges.” The future residents? WTF?
Great strides on a great surface
When winnowing the grain from the chaff in journal selection, we always look at what advantage the journal can offer our careers. This one almost did it for us:
“Our organization is well affiliated with giant strides in the field of sports medicine. It is providing excellent services to the researchers with knowledgeable information.”
Then we wondered whether this one might have a ballroom dancing breakout session, always a bonus: “We really encourage you by providing with this great surface to share your experience of your research work.”
The mangled English that infects nearly every one of these emails is very surprising because they are mostly signed by people with very Anglo names like Christine Moore and Peter Smith who have US or English addresses (which when you chase them down are often paid forwarding addresses) and phone numbers (which are never answered). Call us cynics if you must, but we wonder if these are real people.
Taking the piss?
It’s remarkable how many of these journals get becalmed in a publishing drought and are always falling short of their next issue’s paper quota by just one article. This urological journal went straight to a top urine researcher in its latest predicament.
“Dear Dr. Simon Chapman,
Can we have your article for successful release of Volume 2 Issue 4 in our Journal?
In fact, we are in need of one article to accomplish the Issue prior December; we hope that the single manuscript should be yours. If this is a short notice please do send 2 page opinion/mini review/case report, we hope 2 page article isn’t time taken for eminent people like you.
Your trust in my efforts is the highest form of our motivation, I believe in you that you are eminent manuscript brings out the best citation to our Journal.
Anticipate for your promising response. Hope so this invitation will gives you a better opportunity and future endorsements.”
Time to open the judging panel’s envelope
After many hours in operating theatres undergoing recurrent hernia repair from laughing so much, we have made two awards for 2019.
The Dramatic Opening Award goes to the SM Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health:
Desire to consider a proposal!
The Least Appealing Award goes to the Scientific Journal of Research in Dentistry.
The restrained opening sentence (“This is our heart whelming colossal desire to welcome you to a new era of innovative gatherings and scientific publications”) followed by the compelling incentive of “flashing with new peers” saw off all rivals. Happy Christmas to all readers.