Wednesday, June 18, 2014

First-world Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Problems

Problem #74: Academic Journal Identity Theft.
Imagine the disappointment here at the Riddled High-Energy Library. We had thought to see the light of a new Renaissance dawning across the scientific world; a new generation of polymaths, transcending the boundaries of nations and traditional turf-conscious disciplines. The harbingers of this transformation include a cell biologist in Moscow, who boasts of publishing in the botanical journals Bothalia (South African) and Wulfenia (Austrian) and the wine-and-fruit-specialising Mitteilungen Klosterneuburg and the Polish arboriculture journal Sylwan...
Sylwan's logo: Pirated
portrait of Another Kiwi
a Taiwanese mathematician who has published a proof in Bothalia, Wulfenia, Mitt. Klost. and the Icelandic glaciology / geology journal Jökull...

a Brazilian entomologist whose outlets include Sylwan, Bothalia, Mitt.Klost. and Pensée (French politics) and Ciência e técnica vitivinícola (Portugal, grapes & wine)...

an Iranian surgeon reporting in Wulfenia and Emergencias (Spanish, emergency & trauma medicine) and Vitae (Colombian, pharmaceutical chemistry) and Nautilus (mollusc-research-related activities)...
It transpires, alas, that although the websites hosting these articles claim ISSN numbers and eminent Editorial Panels, they are not the venerable obscure journals they purport to be, with the select readership and the rigorous standards and all. They are all shiny new websites of the bog-standard 'Open Access' template, that announce an extension of the original subject area to include "anything an author might care to blather about" while instructing contributors to chip in a few hundred Euros to cover the expenses of posting a PDF -- but promising an expedited peer-review process in return, i.e. 'however long it takes for the cheque to clear'.

They are all fake. They are irruptions from a secondary, irreal world, straight out of a Philip Dick nightmare. A shadow ecology of fictions, trying to displace the familiar world of academic standards. It is like that scene in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep where Deckard visits a publishing house police station but it turns out to be set up and managed by replicants.
Printery run by poorly-maintained replicants
Information purist Jeffrey Beall has started listing identity-stolen titles in the hope of slowing their corrosive effect. In Iran, Dr. Mehrdad Jalalian maintains a second independent list. The authors themselves must be aware that these journals are a scam, but evidently they fill a need. When promotions and tenure rest on publications, people grow desperate to find outlets for third-rate essays on The Chemical Properties and Phenomological Significance of that Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in my Left Armpit; so scam journals provide a chance to piss away one's university's publication budget, and to pad out one's CV. In fact you can pay to display the same essay in several places without having to worry that the editors will retract it for self-plagiarism.*

I wouldn't be surprised if authors are checking Beall's list for ideas on where to send the manuscript next. One way to discover new cases of journal-jacking requires no sophisticated detection, just the Google; you look up the name of some random contributor to Stolen Title #1 to see where else they have published.

What is doubly disappointing is that Riddled didn't think of it first.

The usual pop-up vanity-press 'on-line journals' -- the ones styling themselves as International Journal for Scholars Who Can't Write Good but Wanna Publish Stuff -- must deal with the problem that Volume 1, Issue 1 of the IJSWCWGWPS lacks a certain gravitas and loses its appeal to all but the most desperate of contributors.** Hijacking an established reputation finesses the whole problem. Unfortunately there seems to be no long-extant Stercoria / the Journal of Bullshit Studies for us to appropriate, so it's back to Plan B in which we invite submissions to the Intergalactic Journal of Polymathematics.

* Gratifying though it is to imagine a cross-over between Beall's Index of Hijacked Journals and Retraction Watch.

* Some ingenious scoundrels have constructed years of fictitious back-issues for their on-line suppositories depositories, filling up the Table of Contents with lorem ipsum by stealing published papers and making up others with JanusNode, but that requires breaking a sweat.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that INVITATIONS TO SUBMIT ARTICLES have only just turned up in the spam tray, one from the hacked Mitt. Klost. site and one from the hacked Sylwan. YAY ME! Recognition at last!


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Finally, I have a list of journals that will publish my derivitato ex ano work on Morgellon's.

I can taste the money flowing in... and all for a small initial cash outlay.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

I'm intrigued by the beard horn-- Viking mead horn? muted post horn? misplaced ear trumpet?

Smut Clyde said...

muted post horn?
Perhaps he is awaiting silent Tristero's empire.