Madhu Kannan

KNOW THY PUBLISHER

Cover story in Lab Times 03-2015

Publish, publish, and publish, lest you perish. In this Darwinian struggle in the academic world, selection pressures come from our competitors, reviewers, editors, and so on. But topping them all, is the growing pressure of predatory publishers – ones that seek to endanger not only our careers but also the very credibility of scientific research.

In the summer last year, two e-mails popped up in Alex Smolyanitsky’s inbox. Like most invited paper requests that the materials scientist receives, these letters, from two scientific journals, directly addressed him. They used a language that Alex describes as “impressive,” and lured him into submitting a paper. So, he prepared a manuscript in less than 15 minutes and sent it off to both journals. Within a few days, he got great news. Sure enough, the paper was accepted for publication.

acceptance letter_spoof

The funny spoof paper received a funnier acceptance letter

The manuscript “Fuzzy, Homogenous Configurations” was a joke, admits Alex. In fact, the authors are cartoon characters from The Simpsons, affiliated to a fictitious university. “I never wrote that paper. It’s all from SCIgen,” he says, referring to an online research paper generator. The text is a bunch of gobbledygook. The figures are a child’s doodles. Had even a high-school student sat on the review panel, the paper would have been rejected. Yet, both the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and Aperito Journal of Nanoscience Technology promptly approved the manuscript. They even published it on their websites and kept invoicing Alex for hundreds of dollars.

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