Bullshit1 Is this journal for real?Is this paper reliable? A question that every academic will have asked themselves. We have all stumbled across a paper in a journal that on closer inspection isn’t really a journal at all.

This year 134 suspect new journals have appeared from the abyss, all published by the same clandestine company Scientific & Academic Publishing, USA. Scientists have been quick to raise the alarm and ruthless in their response (1)(2).

Scientific Academic Publishing USA Is this journal for real?The publisher seems keen to announce all of these new journals at once and accept papers yet most of the positions on the journals ranging from “editor in chief” or “editorial board member” to “reviewer” seem to be vacant. Not to worry, just send in “a brief resume (and) SAP will revert (sic) back within two working days”. I am trying to be very careful not to pass judgement on this new group, the internet will do that itself. The chatter in the blogosphere is not promising however and the discussion on their Facebook page is even less supportive.

Scientific Academic Publishing USA facebook 527 Is this journal for real?

Peer review serves a vital purpose, it is still the foundation of how scientists operate but the system is far from fool proof. Only last week I blogged about an oncology paper published in the “Breast Journal” that has “15 references, but they’re all about sex, not cancer”. The rapid and durable reaction of the science blogosphere helps immunise us against the pernicious effect of Bad Science that Ben Goldacre documents on a weekly basis.

We shouldn’t be too swift to disregard attempts to sidestep traditional methods of publishing however. Heather Morrison is one researcher stepping outside the box. She is publishing her thesis as she writes it and is inviting comment along the way. You don’t even have to wait for her to publish her work if you wish to use it, even her draft is published under “the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5″ licence. Her work in progress Scholarly Communication in Crisis draws eye watering conclusions regarding the profits of the four largest publishers who own the majority of the academic publishing market:

All are in the for-profit sector, and the profits are enormous. As reported in the Economist (2011): “ Elsevier, the biggest publisher of journals with almost 2,000 titles, cruised through the recession. Last year it made £724m ($1.1 billion) on revenues of £2 billion—an operating-profit margin of 36%”. Springer’s Science + Business Media (2010) reported a return on sales (operating profit) of 33.9% or € 294 million on revenue of € 866 million, an increase of 4% over the profit of the previous year. In the first quarter of 2012, John Wiley & Sons (2011) reported profit of $106 million for their scientific, medical, technical and scholarly division on revenue of $253 million, a profit rate of 42%. This represents an increase in the profit rate of 13% over the previous year. The operating profit rate for the academic division of Informa.plc (2011, p. 4) for the first half of 2011 was 32.4%, or £47 million on revenue of £145 million, an increase of 3.3% over the profit of the previous year.

Scholarly Communication in Crisis by Heather Morrison (Open access)

These huge profit margins are not only increasing far above the rate of inflation but publishers are now actively forcing third world countries out of academia

To our dismay and anger, a few international STM publishers, using their monopolistic position, recently demand to raise the subscription prices for their full-text database at a yearly rate of more than 14% for the next 3 years and by 2020, to raise the prices for developing countries to the level of those of the developed countries.

National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2010) cited in Scholarly Communication in Crisis by Heather Morrison (Open access)

We expect our institutions to spend millions on journal subscriptions, this is deemed essential so the fruits of knowledge help fund the research of the future. The system fails when over a third of the cash-flow is creamed off the scientific process during the publishing stage. Moreover, all those outside leading western universities are left without access to journals (assuming they do not have $799 dollars plus to spare for a subscription or $25 for one-time access, for one day, at one computer (Sage, 2011). Ironically much research is therefore unavailable to the very people it is designed to help.  This problem is something all scientists should be aware of, perhaps not only the Medline ranking but also the profit margins of publishers should be a key consideration of what journal to publish with. (Edit 16/01/2012: On the topic of impact factors, it has been revealed that some publishers are now requiring researchers to cite recent research from their own journal in a bid to artificially boost their journal’s rankings, a very dodgy practice indeed.)

The cruel irony is that for research to be placed under lock and key in a for-profit journal, the researcher will have paid for education and time spent researching; then the researcher’s institution must spend hundreds on hotel fees and flights as well as many hundreds of pounds for a conference ticket, plus an insertion fee, often based on the number of pages in the publication (as is the procedure in the world’s largest engineering journal). Even open access publishers charge hefty fees, BioMedCentral’s fee of $1,640 is described as average, even PLoS charge $1,300 to $2,900 to publish. Surely a happy medium can be found, unfortunately for Scientific & Academic Publishing, USA the blunderbuss approach is unlikely to be the way to the hearts and minds of the academic community but we shall have to wait and see.

Upon discovering that research isn’t published in a reputable journal, perhaps the real question on our lips should not be is this journal for real? But rather, has this researcher proven that they have applied appropriate rigorous controls and is there a free and fair forum for the researcher’s conclusions to be questioned? 

Morrison, Heather. (2012). Scholarly Communication in Crisis. Freedom for scholarship in the internet age. Simon Fraser University School of Communication. Doctoral dissertation (in process)

Update 16/01/2012: Further reading from today’s Guardian: Academic publishers have become the enemies of science

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  • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

    Interesting theory.. Can you give me some details of anti-OA attempts disguised as hoaxes?

    It certainly doesn’t look like a well thought out project, presumably understanding copyright is the cornerstone of being an on-line publisher so if they can’t keep that part of their house in order that’s about as bad a start as you can get.

    • jv

      what the hell? Is this serious? I just attended this conference? :(

  • A. Murat Eren


    I had been aware of a huge scientific publication laundering organization, WASET (http://waset.org/) for some time.

    WASET had published ~6500 papers in less than 5 years from ~4500 academics mainly from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Syria, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and various other Eastern Europe countries. I had written extensive articles about this fake scientific organization, in which people can publish articles by just paying the publication fee (~€200), without going through any peer-review process whatsoever. WASET organize fake conferences in fancy places with all legitimate looking paperwork as well, so you can convince your department to release some funds for you to go (see a list of conferences: http://waset.org/conferences.php). There are people in this organization who published more than 15 papers in one conference, and listed those publications in their CV’s to get academical benefit.

    This is where quantitative methods we employ to measure the productivity of a scientist lead us to. These organizations are pretty active and efficient in countries like Turkey, where there is not enough scientific know-how to assess the quality of the body of work a scientist set forth. Instead, ‘number of publications’ and ‘number of citations’ matter the most.

    Now, when I look at this “Scientific & Academic Publishing”, I see journals that were under WASET once. WASET had tens of journals a year ago, and now it seems the number of journals they mention on their web pages decreased drastically: http://waset.org/publications.php

    My articles about WASET were published/mentioned in newspapers in Turkey and created an awareness about this organization, which probably rendered the name ‘WASET’ sort of useless. WASET had changed its name from its predecessor ‘Enformatika’ for a similar reason years ago. And it seems to me this S&AP bull crap is the new WASET.

    Best wishes,

    • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

      Thanks for the information. Could you provide links to some of your articles? Are you implying the conferences they are advertising do not really happen? Do you have evidence for this? That’s a hell of a contentious claim and if true means there are thousands of academics defrauding their Universities…

      Subject: [neurobonkers] Re: Is this journal for real?

      • http://meren.org/ A. Murat Eren


        Unfortunately all my writings about academical misconducts we see in Turkey, including WASET, were in Turkish; since my original aim was to create an awareness particularly in Turkey.

        This was the original article I published:


        This was the article that appeared in news papers (including http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25165267/, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/pazar/16512276.asp?gid=59, and it also became a chapter in a book project).

        Conferences WASET advertise are ‘real’ in terms of meeting location and time. But the amount of scientific discussions take place in these events are very little, if not completely zero. When I was an undergrad student I volunteered a couple of conferences WASET people organized. This is how it works: you send them a request, they send you ‘legitimate’ paperwork to be provided to the department, department allows you to use your funds to go to this conference, you send them money and papers that are recycled from your old papers or papers that makes zero sense, and they put together a proceedings book for the conference made up by all the -mostly ridiculous, or 0 impact, or completely bogus- papers that were sent. Then people use these publications as ‘academical points’ to advance in their career.

        There is evidence to prove that Enformatika did publish articles without any peer-review, there is evidence to prove that Enformatika is the predecessor of WASET, and there is evidence to prove that people published as many as 15 identical papers with slight variations in WASET journals in less than a year. But all these discussions are in Turkish, though. So I would like to urge the reader not to take these claims for certain.

        People who published stuff in WASET journals are in academia in Turkey (and in Egypt, and in Azerbaijan, and in Turkmenistan). They have no regrets or shame whatsoever. Yes, I am accusing hundreds of academics for defrauding their Universities and the public funds they obtain.

        But they don’t care. Legislations in Turkey are so vague that you can get away with pretty much anything, I mean, this guy can get away with this for instance: http://meren.org/tmp/ici/ekinci.png (this is a little story showing a guy with 8 ‘international journal’ pubications, 7 of which are published in his own journal (moreover, those articles he published in his own “international journal” are all in Turkish, but he holds an assistant professor position in a university in Turkey), or, for instance one of these guys who appear in the retracted paper on the right is still a chancellor in a university in Turkey: http://i.imgur.com/3B1Q5.png).

        And you see articles in Nature showing the increase in the number of scientific publications in Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries, with bar charts and plots, claiming ‘science is flourishing’ in these regions of the world. Good job at quantifying science, Nature.

        Well. These academics in Turkey don’t care about me. I don’t care about them either. What I want to do is to give a perspective to the upcoming generation of students in Turkey, and I am doing it as best as I can, and I am not alone in this quest. However, I don’t have the energy to prove all my points, unfortunately. So, again, I would like to remind the reader to take my claims with doubt.

        The only thing that should be taken from these comments is this: WASET might be the predecessor of S&AP.

        Thanks for the post,

        • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

          Thanks again for getting back, that’s some nice detective work!

  • http://twitter.com/Cannabis4Autism Cannabis For Autism

    I did wonder about the financial obstacle to accessing scientific papers. I personally find it very frustrating.

    If ‘anonymous’ are so into saving the world, why haven’t they hacked all these paywalls and put all of science up on pirate bay for all third world scientists to access at will? Of course I wouldn’t condone illegal activity or illegal files haring but one does wonder?

  • http://twitter.com/bemnyax BB Nyakuma

    Nice article. I have often wondered why readers mostly researchers have to pay to access journals online. Truth is this information should be available for free since most of the research & institutions of learning are funded by the government through taxpayers money. And although the big name publishers like Elsevier are out to make money, they need to understand that most institutions in developing countries like in Africa cannot afford its huge annual subscription fees. Hence they must device a different payment regime with lower fees/packages to attract the potentially huge number of institutions who also need to access up to date scientific information, improve scholarly research and produce quality graduates. This way they can kill two birds with one stone; access a huge market for publications and improve its image (esp Elsevier) as monopolistic opportunists.

  • manpreet kaur

    i m from india
    i got an acceptance letter for my research work from WASET. i m really confuesd should i attend the conference being held at bali indonesia in oct.. plzz suggest me will it be helpful for my future or just a time pass type

  • Leanne C

    While researching my dissertation, I found an article through the Scientific and Academic Publishing website that was completely plagiarized from a well-known, reputable article written in 2001. All they did was change around the numbers (completely fabricated data!) and the rest was word for word.

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