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Bad Science Publishing: Retractions And Predatory Journals On The Rise

By Jack Dini | Principia Scientific International | November 26, 2021

Hundreds of articles published in peer reviewed journals are being retracted after scammers exploited the processes for publishing special issues to get poor quality papers—sometimes consisting of complete gibberish– into established journals.

In some cases, fraudsters posed as scientists and offered to guest edit issues that they then filled with sham papers. (1)

Elsevier is withdrawing 165 articles currently in press and plans to retract 300 more that have been published as part of 6 special issues in one of its journals, and Springer Nature is retracting 62 articles published in a special issue of one journal.

Fraudsters have been caught several times in recent years while trying to use special issues as a way to get low quality papers published in legitimate journals—but the number of affected paper seems to be increasing. In some cases the evidence points to an organized network that tries to infiltrate scientific journals with the objective of easily publishing manuscripts from pseudo-scientists or less productive researchers who want to appear in respectable journals. (1)

This leads to the topic of predatory journals which are becoming a serious nuisance in science. They actively masquerade as legitimate journals, often with similar layouts and names—although they very likely have essentially zero threshold for publication, despite typically claiming to operate with rigorous peer review processes. These predatory journals are undermining the credibility of scientific publishing because the research they publish appears to be largely unvetted. (2)

Predatory Journal Examples

Big Birds

Assistant zoology professor Daniel Baldassarre at SUNY Oswego published a paper in a supposedly scientific journal, The Scientific Journal of Research and Reviews (Iris Publishing), with the following abstract:

“Many people wonder: what’s the deal with birds? This is a common query. Birds are pretty weird. I mean, they have feathers. Most other animals don’t have feathers. To investigate this issue, I looked at some birds. I looked at a woodpecker, a parrot, and a penguin. They were all pretty weird! In conclusion, we may never know the deal with birds, but further study is warranted.” The paper’s acknowledgments: “We thank Big Bird from Sesame Street for comments on the manuscript. Several trained monkeys transcribed videos.” (3)

Iris Publishing is part of a much larger problem of journals that publish low-quality research for exorbitant fees. These journals will often spam scientists with requests for submissions or asking them to be on their editorial boards.

Ottawa Citizen Experience

In the three years since the Ottawa Citizen started covering fake science publishers, the constant question had been: how bad can they get?

Then, the Indian company OMICS (a giant company, 700 online journals, in Hyderabad) set a new low. It published meaningless garbage submitted as a test by the Ottawa Citizen the previous fall, then got exposed for it, but then once again accepted the same garbage all over again. Verbatim. (4)

Jerry Seinfeld’s Disease

John McCool submitted a paper on Jerry Seinfeld’s imaginary disease, ‘uromycitsis poisoning’. It was accepted for publication even though a simple Google search for ‘uromycitisis’ returns thousands of references to Seinfeld. (5)

Fake Editor-In-Chief

Polish researchers 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.’ They gave her fake scientific degrees and credited her with spoof book chapters. In many cases, they received a positive response within days of application and often within hours. Four titles immediately appointed Szust editor-in-chief. Forty predatory and eight directory of open access journals appointed her as an editor. (6)

Concluding Comments

The number of predatory journals has increased at an alarming rate. By 2015, more than half a million papers had been published in predatory journals, and at the end of 2016, the number of predatory journals approached about 10,000. Predatory publishing is becoming an organized industry. As of June 2020, there were 13,000.

Gary Lewis reports, “In a nutshell, predatory journals are contaminating the scientific literature by providing ostensibly rigorous reports of studies that in reality are often far from acceptable. Work published in such journals is occasionally used in serious public debates, such as climate change. They present a serious credibility for science.” (2)

Scientists are trying to make others aware of these journals. Daniel Baldassarre hopes that papers like his will spread awareness of the existence of these predatory journals and what they look lie, and hopefully get people to stop publishing in them. (3)

References

1. Holly Else, “Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published,,” nature.com, November, 20212.

2. Gary Lewis, “I got a hoax paper published about how politicians wipe their butts,” realclearscience.com, July 23, 2018

3. Ryan F. Mandelbaum, “Sketchy science journal publishes article titled – What’s the deal with birds?” gizmodo.com, April 17, 2020

4. Tom Spears, “Fake science publisher accepts (again) a paper already exposed as a ‘pile of dung’”, ottawacitizen.com, June 1, 2017

5. John H. McCool, “Opinion: why I published in a predatory journal,” The Scientist, April 6, 2017

6. Piotr Sorokowski et al, “Predatory journals recruit fake editor,” Nature, 543, 481-483 (2017)

November 26, 2021 - Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular

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