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Fake Academic Journals Are a Very Real Problem 248

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the as-seen-on-tv dept.
derekmead writes "Because its become so easy to start a new publication in this new pixel-driven information economy, a new genre of predatory journals is emerging at an alarming rate. The New York Times just published an exposée of sorts on the topic. Its only an exposée of sorts because the scientific community knows about the problem. There are blogs set up to shame the fake journals into halting publishing. There are tutorials online for spotting a fake journal. There's even a list created and maintained by academic librarian Jeffrey Beall that keeps an eye on all the new fake journals coming out. When Beall started the list in 2010, it had only 20 entries. Now it has over 4,000. The journal Nature even published an entire issue on the problem a couple of weeks ago. So again, scientists know this is a problem. They just don't know how to stop it."
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Fake Academic Journals Are a Very Real Problem

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  • Re:'fake'? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rbprbp (2731083) on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:11PM (#43396635) Homepage
    Fake journals let anything and everything in, so you can pretend you have lots of papers published. Some of them pretend to be prestigious jornals: can't get published in Nature or Science? Why not Nature and Science []?
  • Re:'fake'? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:15PM (#43396665)

    A "fake" journal would allow anything in, just to make a profit and allow anybody with money to get their work published, with a pretense of quality peer review.

    Or to push an agenda.

    A famous example is the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, which published only articles favorable to Merck drugs and was paid for by Merck. There was no disclosure of the conflict of interest. Well-known scientists and doctors were added to the list of "honorary editors" without their permission.

    The journal, along with several others like it, was published by Elsevier. Go figure.

  • by backslashdot (95548) on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:40PM (#43396829)

    Huh? It's very easy. If your paper is good, just submit it to a known prestigious journal .. a list would be published in mainstream journals -- and you dont really need one .. you can go by citation indexes or just *gasp* read some of the entries in existing publications and see if they are coherent. Or you can ask around by attending seminars at colleges that are reputed.

    It's easy to get familiar with who the top researchers are in any field .. it really doesn't take a lot of effort. If you are in a particular field you would know, so all you have to do is find out where their publications are .. (you can find this out easily from their corporate webpage or university department links).

  • Re:'fake'? (Score:5, Informative)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:44PM (#43396855)

    A third class is politically/ideologically/commercially motivated journals, like the young-earth-creationism journal in the pharyngula link, or Elsevier's fake pharmaceutical journals. These will publish "research" supporting particular unscientific bullshit that serves the interests of a particular group, so that unqualified/uniformed decision makers (think, e.g., right-wing politicians wanting justification for unregulated pollution or teaching "creation science") can be handed "sciency-looking" reference to back up their policies, so they have something "equal" to fire back with when the "other side" brings actual scientific facts to the table.

  • Misunderstandings (Score:5, Informative)

    by slew (2918) on Monday April 08, 2013 @09:11PM (#43397023)

    It seems that many posters are coming to the conclusion that the journals are "fake", but that's not fully understanding the issue.

    There are apparently some organizations that go the whole fake journal/conference route, but these have always existed and are no different than the diploma mills (except at the post-graduate level). Or those places you can order "trade-rag" magazines with your picture on the cover that you can put in your waiting rooom to impress your clients. Or those fake conferences where people get their employer to pay for their vacation (or in some cases the government in the form of tax breaks). These will never be quashed because the customers are often not really victims, but co-conspirators (although they may claim to be when outed).

    It appears that another part of the issue is that criminal organizations are putting up fake websites that masquarade as the official website of real, but obscure journals (that don't have a website) or a website that is confusingly similar to a well known journal and then using these websites to trick people into sending them submission fees. Often these websites have scraped academic search sites for TOC and other publically available information to fool people.

    This aspect is like people putting up typosquating websites, cloning websites in different top level domains, or setting up fake websites for businesses that don't have a website (kind of like what domain tasters do, but in a more malicious manner) and doing a bit of SEO...

    Sadly these two problems are conflated.

  • Global warming (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @09:43PM (#43397283)
    Like global warming?
  • Re:'fake'? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Reality Man (2890429) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:03PM (#43397395)
    Can you read, my son?
  • Re:'fake'? (Score:5, Informative)

    by GoogleShill (2732413) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:03PM (#43397397)

    Precisely like this one. [] Or should I say "Ron Paul's propaganda machine."

  • Re:Global warming (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:04PM (#43397403)

    Like global warming?

    Yes exactly. There is a famous journal which blurs the distinction between a real and fake one called Energy & Environment. It's famous for it's low standards of peer review and because it explicitly pushes the "[editor's] political agenda."

    "But isn't that the right of the editor?" Well no, Sonja, not for a reputable scientific journal it isn't.

    Despite this E&E is listed in several respected indexing services, which ought to be the touchstone by which we easily distinguish between real and phish journals.

  • Re:Fakery (Score:4, Informative)

    by starless (60879) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @12:21AM (#43398123)

    up with inordinately complex solutions to everyday problems... it's like guys who insist on not stopping for directions... they'll drive in circles for hours when all it would have taken was to walk into a gas station and ask where to go.

    Off topic but: When I lived in the UK I used to ask for directions at petrol stations very often and always got good information. But, when I moved to the US I tried asking for directions at gas stations and never got any useful help at all. So, asking for directions at gas stations is not useful, based on my research...

  • Re:'fake'? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @02:25AM (#43398631) Homepage
    As there are two companies named Merck, and both are working in the same field, it would be nice to say which Merck you are actually talking about, Merck & Co., Inc [], or Merck KGaA []? (Both are among the largest pharmaceutical enterprises, with US$ 48 billion resp. US$ 14 billion annual revenue.)
  • Re:Even worse (Score:4, Informative)

    by hazem (472289) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @03:22AM (#43398793) Journal

    The vast majority of papers suffer from a weakness I call, "lack of robustness."

    That sounds something like what Richard Feynman called "Cargo Cult Science". Researchers go through the motions and make sure to include p-values and other statistics to make it look like they've done real science. They might even think they have. []

  • Re:'fake'? (Score:4, Informative)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @06:06AM (#43399305) Homepage Journal

    Some "fake" journals have peer review, but it is really a group of professors teaming up, who already hold the same opinion, or support each others non-mainstream position in the respective fields. This can be problematic because it does not provide independent, skeptical review.

    That said, main-stream journals are also not fair. Payment increased by a huge fraction (4x IIRC), countries are paying triple (publishing, reviewing and accessing), which effectively blocks out a large fraction of the population. see here for a introductory video []. This leads to a big demand in cheaper publications also for legitimate research.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley