Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More adventures in science spammer land

Thus writeth the Open Journal of Plant Science, whose mass eMail is totally not spam, oh no sir:
Please Note: This is not a spam message and has been sent to you because of your eminence in the field.
Alright then.
Greetings for the day!
If you don't want to be taken for a spammer, perhaps try not to begin the eMail like every other science spammer.
Peertechz was launched this Journal to support the Open Access in the way of publishing manuscripts, new technics and methods in science.
I was decided any papers not to submit to journals whose editors not write coherent sentence.
Open Journal of Plant Science published articles are freely available online to the readers for life time.
They don't specify, but presumably they mean the life time of their website, right?
The journal encourages the authors to publish their manuscripts in a large Open Access network: Peertechz and its looking for the manuscripts from selective scientists like you who have enormously contributed to the scientific community.

It would really be grateful to you if you can send us energetic and enthusiastic submission to successfully release the upcoming issue. Send us any type of article to increase the visibility of the Open Journal of Plant Science.
Sadly I don't think that I have ever had a manuscript that I would have called 'energetic', be it as an author or as a reviewer. How do they differ from non-energetic ones?
If you are interested, please respond us on or before 48 hours and send your paper by July 15th, 2016.
I have seen that with quite a few journal spammers before. They have a very close deadline and then a more distant deadline in the very same sentence. So which is it? Why would an author have to respond in two days? I strongly suspect that they would also accept manuscripts on 15 July from people who didn't contact them tomorrow. In fact if we are talking a regularly appearing journal here then it should accept manuscripts on 16 July, so why claim that there are deadlines at all?
We are looking forward to have valuable submission from you soon.
Darauf kannst Du lange warten.


I also recently saw an example of what comes out at the other end of the process. One of my publication alerts notified me that I had been cited, and the paper was curious enough that I followed the link. It is
Gayathiri et al. 2016. A review: potential pharmacological uses of natural products from Laminaceae. International Journal of Pharma Research & Review 5: 21-34.
Yes, "Laminaceae". Seven authors have written an alleged review article on the mint family Lamiaceae and have consistently misspelled its name throughout the entire manuscript. Ah no, I lie; they spelled it "laiminace" in the keywords, so scratch consistently.

This alone is just... indescribable. Seriously, how can somebody write a review about something and not know how it is spelled? How can seven authors and presumably at least one editor miss that, even in that journal?

Also, my name is misspelled in the reference list, the species I am cited about is misspelled, and as for the text itself, let's just quote a single sentence from the abstract.
Although, medicinal plants continue provide a new drug leads in drug discovery, and numerous challenges are encountered in procurement and selection of plant materials, screening method and the scale up of active compound, hence this brief review work presents a study of the importance of natural products, especially those derived from higher plants and aims to the highlight the pharmacological significant of Laminaceae family in terms of drug development.
Yay for science!


On Jeffrey Beall's blog, which has already covered criteria for (1) what it calls predatory journals and (2) fake impact factors, a discussion has been started about criteria to similarly classify conferences as "predatory". Suggestions by contributor James McCrostie are, in short:
  1. Any kind of deceit, such as hiding that the conference is for-profit or claiming that the organisers are based in a different country than they really are;
  2. No or inadequate peer review, including review only by the conference organisers; later fast acceptance of submitted talks is also mentioned;
  3. High conference fees;
  4. Overly broad scope;
  5. Connections to companies known for running "predatory" journals;
  6. "Regularly accepting papers by undergraduates";
  7. Advertising the conference like a holiday;
  8. Spamming, especially to random people outside of the relevant field of science;
  9. People are allowed to give multiple presentations at the same conference.
(Numbers mine, the original list is more extensive and not numbered.)

I have received quite a few spam eMails advertising in broken but hyperbolic English for obviously crappy conferences, often from fields I have no relation to whatsoever, such as fertiliser research or medicine. This is clearly a problem, although as with the journals I would argue that no competent scientist should ever fall for them. People should know what the relevant conferences in their field are and be able to delete these spam eMails at a glance. I assume they mostly prey on the desperate.

Still, I can see how a list of dodgy journals, for example, is useful to people outside of a field or totally outside of science, to help gauge if somebody's CV is inflated. I am just not so sure that it is quite as easy to develop useful criteria for recognising dodgy conferences as it is for journals.

Points 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 are clearly valid. Deceit, spamming and being run by a crappy journal company are obvious alarm bells, and overly broad scope makes a conference practically useless for networking and learning. But the others? Not so much.

Maybe it is different in other fields, but I do not think that I have ever participated in a professional conference that peer reviewed the abstract submissions except for whether they fit into the scope of the meeting. In other words, the organisers of a systematic botany conference will look over the abstract, and if it were on theology or law or perhaps obviously pseudoscience they would kick it out, but that's that. The closest I have ever seen is that the committee would demote some talk submissions that were deemed less important to posters, and even that only at the very most prestigious meetings.

High fees? Well that is in the eye of the beholder I guess, but some legitimate conferences can be terribly pricey.

"Regularly accepting papers by undergraduates"? What? Are there seriously fields of research where the quality of work doesn't matter but only one's status and age? Luckily I am not working in one of them.

Similarly, what is the problem with giving two talks at the same meeting? At most conferences in my field there are two or three people who do that. Nobody has ever had an issue with that as long as they don't do it every time, and as long as nobody gives five or something like that.

Perhaps practices are just too different between the various fields of science and scholarship to find easy agreement on this.


  1. I received the Peertechz Greetings for the Day too:

  2. Google scholar turned up a citation from one of these journals a few weeks ago for a species I am working on. Being thorough (ok, curious and enjoying car-crashes) I ploughed beyond the incomprehensible abstract. It was also a review of (pseudo) medicinal properties of plants (ayurvedic ≠ medicine) in similarly mangled prose, liberally sprinkled with literary references and hyperbolic quotes. So poor was it that I began to think that maybe these predatory journals pad themselves out with algorithm-written fake articles (I mean, there are examples of similar hoaxes passing legit peer review!). I followed up one of the authors, and he appears to be a legit person in India with a string of similarly dodgy papers.
    My conclusion was that these journals are a vehicle for people with no data or fringe ideas to crib a veneer of credibility, and/or pad their cvs. However it still intrigues me that it would be relatively easy for a journal to set up fake researcher profiles, auto-generate papers to populate fake journals, and pull in a few paying suckers. As algorithms improve (and maybe the proof reading of scammers??) this is going to get harder and harder to distinguish.

    1. My conclusion was that these journals are a vehicle for people with no data or fringe ideas to crib a veneer of credibility, and/or pad their cvs.

      That is also my conclusion, and it is why I find it so strange that the scholarlyoa blog constantly discusses the problem as one of "abusive, exploitative, and unethical actions ... against honest researchers".

      I am sorry to be so blunt, but knowing the relevant journals in one's field is a core part of competence, equal to how to design a study or how to write a paper in the first place.

      People who just submit their paper randomly to a journal with a vaguely appropriate-sounding name promising one week peer review (and who act surprised at a hidden article fee because they are too obtuse to realise that somebody has to pay for open access) should at some point sit down and read up on some basics.

      This is the science equivalent of "but that guy had a firm handshake, and how was I to know that an investment opportunity promising 300% profit in six months is unlikely to be legit?"

  3. We list all Peertechz related domain names and IP addresses we can find. The latest we have is from today (July 7, 2016), and we listed SiteGround's "mailspamprotection.com" mail cluster (that apparently exists to protect the outgoing spam) in its entirety over the matter.