Pseudoscience and speculators. Fake science journals

    Recently, a lot of talk is about the " fake news ", which are published in the garbage media and bots unwind in social networks. But no less of a problem are fake scientific studies, which manage to crawl into scientific journals. Once on the pages of such a publication, the author can refer to a “officially published” scientific work and obtain the corresponding benefits, which are laid for publishing articles in the scientific press. If these scientific articles refer to each other, the author will even earn a good citation index. He becomes an "authoritative scientist", has the right to read reports at conferences, to act as an expert in the media. It can even rise to the post of Minister of the Russian Federation. But this authority is bought for money.

    There are a number of scientific journals, ready to put in print almost any article. Often they pursue commercial benefits.

    Science Text Generators

    The problem is quite serious. For example, two years ago, the German publishing house Springer and the American IEEE deleted more than 120 scientific articles published in 2008–2013. Many of these articles were compiled using the SCIgen scientific text generator .

    Including Springer deleted 16 articles, and IEEE - more than 100. Among these works, for example, an article from the final collection of the International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Support and Secure Design, which was held in 2013 in Shanghai. The authors of the scientific work “TIC: e-commerce methodology” (“TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce”, partial copy) talk about the “current status of effective archetypes and developments in the field of congestion control emulation”, but the study “concentrated on refuting the fact that spreadsheets can be based on knowledge, while being empathetic and compact”.

    Such works effectively increase the citation rating of individual scientific institutions and the number of publications with individual scientists. Universities and scientists can then report to the authorities that they have effectively mastered the budget, increased the number of publications - and in general, scientific work is in full swing.

    In addition to the SCIgen scientific article generator, there is a specialized Mathgen mathematics scientific article generator . A few years ago, the scientific journal Advances in Pure Mathematics , one of the many journals of Scientific Research Publishing , accepted for publication the article generated by this generator.

    An article entitled “Independent, negative, canonical Turing arrows in equations and problems of applied formal PDE” (pdf ) was accompanied by an intriguing annotation: “Let ρ = A. Is it possible to expand the isomorphism region? We show that D ′ is a stochastic orthogonal and trivial affine correspondence. In [10], the main result was the construction of the Cardano set, the Erdшаos function, Weil, which can shed important light on the Convey-D'Alembert hypothesis ”.

    Both the abstract, and the entire text, and the bibliography in this “scientific article” were generated by the Mathgen program , which was written by the mathematician Nathan Eldridge (Nate Eldredge).

    Sales Magazines

    Why do magazines accept such low-grade or completely fake articles for publication? The answer is simple: this is their business. Scientific journals of the lower level, such as the aforementioned Advances in Pure Mathematics, require a fee to be paid for “processing an article” before printing. In that case, the fee was $ 500. In other journals, the amount may be greater.

    The problem is that, earning from the publication of scientific articles, receiving money from the authors, these journals are faced with a conflict of interest. On the one hand, they should filter scientific publications, carry out a quality check and review, screening out weak publications with questionable studies. On the other hand, it is profitable for them to publish everything. If they refuse to author in the publication - he will carry the money to another publisher, and it will certainly publish it. The client will go to a competitor, but this can not be allowed. Therefore, such journals rarely refuse to publish, trying not to lose a single client. The quality of publications suffers, but it does not bother the publisher who deliberately sacrifices quality for the sake of cash flow.

    Many of these corrupt scientific journals are now published only online, not releasing a paper version. Their clientele is real scientists who for some reason need to urgently and quickly publish a scientific work, and it is not accepted by authoritative journals or delayed with reviewing. The authors urgently need publication in a scientific journal to impress the employer (usually the university) where he wants to get a job.

    In genuinely reputable journals, reviewing really takes a long time. For example, reviewing the latest scientific article by NASA engineers about testing the “incredible” EmDrive engine that violates the laws of physics in the authoritative journal Journal of Propulsion and Power dragged on for a whole year , but the authors showed patience - and yetwaited for publication .

    Moreover, magazines can even compete with each other, fighting for customers. According to some estimates, the number of sales magazines ranges from several hundred to several thousand.

    By what criteria can determine the dishonesty of a scientific journal? It's a difficult question. There are no formal criteria. Probably the most reliable way is to send a fabricated article for publication to a publisher, which should not be reviewed and in no case should not be published. If the magazine accepts it for publication and asks to pay a fee, it means that the quality assessment of the articles is below the baseboards, and the magazine simply earns money. In 2014, one of the researchers, Tom Spears, conducted such an experiment.. He compiled a scientific work by copying text fragments from various scientific works. He even took the title of the article "Acidity and aridity: Soil inorganic carbon storage exhibitors complex relationship with low-pH soils and myeloablation followed by autologous PBSC infusion" partly from soil science work (first half), and partly from work on treating cancer tumors (second half). The text of the paper is copied in part from works on geology and medicine, there is even a fragment from an article on Mars. The notes in the paper are mainly taken from work on the chemistry of wine. The final article is completely meaningless, plus as authors were identified fictional personalities from the University of Ottawa-Carleton, which does not exist in reality.

    The author sent a fake scientific work, which the plagiarism detection program rated plagiarism to 67%, in 18 scientific journals and waited. It would seem that such an obvious discrepancy will be immediately noticed by the editors of scientific journals. But no.

    Selling editors responded first. During the day, the author received several replies from editors, who happily agreed to publish the work of a young geologist from the University of Ottawa-Carleton.

    The first was a response from the editor of the magazine Merit Research Journal of Agricultural Science and Soil Sciences . He reported that the scientific article was sent to an independent reviewer for review, and he left a brilliant review of it.! thus, the magazine agrees to publish this outstanding work after paying a small fee of $ 500. Publication in the online version of the journal is guaranteed for 48 hours.

    The site of the magazine Merit Research Journal of Agricultural Science and Soil Sciences

    It was cheap, because these journals charge for publication from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000.

    The author did not pay. Soon came the answers, even from the seven journals: International, Journal of Science and Technology , Science Journal of Agricultural Research and Management , International, Journal of Current Research , Science Park then , the Australian Journal of Basic and an Applied Research ( «Australian» magazine in reality is based in Jordan) ,American Journal of Scientific Research and International Journal of Latest Research in Engineering and Computing .

    Only 2 of 18 journals rejected work due to plagiarism. They probably used text-checking software. It should be noted that the same work to identify plagiarism is carried out by activists of the Russian dissertation community , which reveals dozens of fake candidate and doctoral dissertations, including from Russian officials and even Russian ministers. Among the officials caught in plagiarism are the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky , the director of the Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov and the Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev (they wrote off each other ), the Minister of Communications Nikolay Nikiforovand many others. Suspicious work for the thesis is identified using software, and a detailed analysis of each work is carried out by independent community experts.

    As you can see, fake scientific works and sales certification commissions find their clients when a person’s degree is required for promotion. The same situation with unscrupulous scientific journals.

    The researcher, who received proposals for the publication of eight scientific journals with a request to pay a fee of $ 500, wrote them answers. He pointed out that his work is very weak, and the conclusions are worthless. What was answered to him? The journals proposed to slightly change the scientific work, to refine the individual parts - and reminded about the unpaid contribution of $ 500.

    Determining the corruption of a journal by formal criteria is not very easy, but some still try to do it. For example, here is a list of criteria based on the materials of the Publishing Ethics Committee . Among these criteria:

    • specifying the publisher as editor in several journals,
    • lack of academic information about the editor and staff of the editorial board,
    • re-indication of the editorial board in two or more journals,
    • lack of transparency in the procedure for publishing an article,
    • the lack of a digital data security policy in case the log ceases to exist,
    • the massive opening of simultaneously a large number of magazines with a common web template,
    • ban on content indexing by search engines,
    • a bunch of PDF files to make it difficult to check for plagiarism,
    • the name of the journal, which does not coincide with reality (“Canadian” or “Swiss”, although neither the editors nor the topics have anything in common with these countries),
    • spamming by the editors,
    • publication of scientific papers previously published in other scientific journals,
    • minimal editing of scientific articles,
    • the absence of a real physical address in the section "Contact information" on the site, etc.

    There are several dozens of other criteria in the document.

    A list of potentially, possibly, or likely sales scientific journals, in accordance with the criteria of the Publishing Ethics Committee (last updated November 21, 2016)

    If you meet a scientific article in a journal about which you have never heard of, then it is highly advisable to consult the list that is hidden under the spoiler above. The compilers of this list are trying to replenish it as much as possible, but this is also not an easy task. The fact is that corrupt scientific journals are becoming increasingly difficult, skillfully masquerading as real journals. Literally every week there are new editions in different scientific fields, so it’s not so easy to keep track of them and identify fake scientific work.

    The authors of scientific works have two options: send the work to one of the recognized, authoritative journals, where the payment for publication is several thousand dollars, and reviewing takes weeks and months (but this is a 100% quality guarantee), or published in open access on free and free publishing sites, such as This is a radical decision that not everyone dares. Some employers do not consider free platforms as authoritative sources. Moreover, even authoritative scientific journals criticize free platforms , reproaching open access journals in low quality publications and mixing garbage sales and open access journals in one pile.

    The situation with the corruption of scientific journals is only one of the problems of a scientific publishing house. There is still a serious problem of free access to scientific knowledge. Scientific publishers like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer and Wiley sell a subscription for as low as $ 2,000 for $ 35,000 for one magazine, and at a discount offer to buy the entire set of scientific periodicals worth millions of dollars at once.

    In any case, problems with the availability of scientific knowledge and the quality of scientific articles will have to be addressed. I wish these two concepts were not mutually exclusive.

    How to solve the problem of corrupt scientific journals and fake scientific articles? Probably, first of all, employers should stop considering the number of scientific publications on a formal basis, and really read these scientific articles.

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