Mystic Conferences

A dark and anonymous reception

Anonymity is not a good thing for journals and conferences, especially not when it comes to the organizations backing the journal and the journal “editorial board”.

We have described spamming journals and spamming conferences. Conferences that have found you and want you to come to their conference. Or to quote “Andy Warhol” from JPmonfort:  “You are receiving this communication because you have been identified as an Expert in you area of activity. You Are Invited To Join Us in Stockholm!”

Or his colleagues:,, and so on.

Few are as transparent as Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort, that probably wants me to buy his book “The Monfort Plan”. This kind of spam can more or less drive us insane:

“This guy won’t stop, he is the energizer bunny of spam. I have requested him to stop sending me his mindless drivel. I block his e-mails but he just changes names and domains. He has my university e-mail, and he has my consulting e-mail. Mr. Monfort, please stop.”

It is worse when predatory journals like OMICS earlier mentioned in the post Bluff conferences buy journals that are published in Pubmed. Making it harder for us to distinguish the predatory journals and conferences. They can also say that researchers are part of their editorial board. Researchers that don’t necessarily know that this journal even exists.

Another example is: “Journal of International Scientific Publications: Language, Individual & Society”. That have sent out conference invitations. So how can we say that this is a predatory journal? We can start with the fact that they spam invitations through email. But let’s check if there is any validity connected to the journal anyway.

I start by finding information about the journal in Ulrishweb. We can see that the journal is connected to an organization called “Info Invest Ltd” we should of course look this up. I also find a link towards the journal webpage. When it comes to the bibliographic databases that index the journal we find three sources all connected to Ebsco but does not seem to have any visable indexes. When it comes to the company Invest Ltd I have some problems finding an official website. When I try to look for the editorial board on the journal webpage I also find nothing.

I will stop here. It takes a lot of time to thoroughly evaluate all the spamming conferences and journals that send emails. Do we want to receive journal and conference tips this way? Is it maintainable to use time to look up every conference or journal that send us spam like advertisement and see whether we find one that is actually legitimate. Or is this time better spent looking for conferences and journals that have high or good enough quality. And simply ignore all the spamming emails? Well the risk is that we miss something intresting.

Anyway if you are suspicious of an invitation to publish or to take part in an conference, contact me or one of my colleagues so we can discuss the invitation together.


Lack of quality control

Retraction Watch, a blog about retractions in academic journals, published on Monday an interesting post about Springer and IEEE retracting over 120 computer generated articles. This post was based on an article published in Nature. A researcher, Cyril Labbé, has for a couple of years cataloguged computer genereted articles from 2008 to 2013. These articles were published in Springer and IEEE’s conference proceedings.  Many of the articles have made-up author-names but it seems that even legitimate researchers are connected to these articles, although they do not have anything to do with the article or even have been aware of the fact that these articles exist.

Labbé has developed an automatic way to discover articles generated with SCIgen – software which combines strings of words to create papers in computer science. The software was created in 2005 by MIT in order to show that conferences were accepting papers which were not properly reviewed.

The interesting part in this story is that it hits Springer and IEEE, two traditional scientific publishers. Last fall, Science published an article by journalist John Bohannon pretending to be a journalist. He wanted to show that open access publishers would publish anything. The study shows that Bohannon’s gibberish article was accepted by approx. 150 open access journals of approx. 300 open access journals. The study was widely criticized because none of the traditional subscription based articles were included in the selection.

Both studies show that the peer review system is broken or misused. One of the readers of Retraction watch left a comment asking “the fraud is so wide and so broad, will retractions even be a solution to fix this mess?” Maybe one way to work against this problem is to continue to develop initiatives such as open peer review, British Medical Center is working with it (check the example how open review looks), PubMed has started with PubMed Commons where articles are commented after publication and Peer J recommends authors to be open with the review process. Perhaps open peer review is not the definitive solution to the problem but it is one way of avoiding or fighting it.

Pieta Eklund

Two perspective on peer review

To publish articles open access has been discussed for a long time and we have come a long way. We have not come as far when it comes to publishing scientific books open access. The book is still an important form for publishing in many sciences – mainly Humanities and Social Sciences. A project with members from five Swedish universities and financed by the National Library, Swedish research counsil and The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences have been investigating how the book could be strengthen as a publishing form and meet the new demands in scientific publishing. The final report is now available and the main recommendation is to start a national consortium which would peer review scientific books. Read the whole report A national Consortium for Open Academic Books in Sweden.

The other perspective on peer review is Scholarly Kitchen’s newest podcast about PeerJ – a peer review journal which uses open review and a different kind of business model for publishing scientific journals. Scholarly Kitchen interviews Peter Binfield, one of the founders. PeerJ publishes peer reviewed articles and pre-print articles. According to a survey PeerJ conducted among its authors, 42% of authors think that the publishing process was the best they had ever been involved in and 94% would recommend PeerJ to their colleagues. According to the business modell all co-authors must become members (life-time membership) but they will be able to publish their following articles in PeerJ with no other costs. To publish open access might cost anywhere between $1000 and $3000 per article! For PeerJ means peer review an objective determination of scientific and methodological soundness and not subjective ideas about impact, novelty or intrest. Read an interview with an author who has published with PeerJ. Unfortunately PeerJ only publishes articles in Biological Sciences, Medical Sciences and Health Sciences.

Pieta Eklund