It’s not every day that you get an email like this:
Dear Dr. Renan Gross,
Greetings from Journal of Insights in Biomedicine
It gives us immense pleasure to e-mail an eminent person like you.
We have chosen few scientists who have contributed excellent work in the field of Medicine and it will be our honor if you could contribute a research, review, short Commentary.
Your valuable manuscript will be published in the upcoming issue, to boost the quality and value of our journal “Insights in Biomedicine Journal! “
Actually, I get one like it about once a week, ever since I joined the Weizmann Institute, and this is an interesting phenomenon by itself. But perhaps you should know a few facts first:
- I just started my Masters a month ago. In expectation, I have at least five more years until reaching doctoral status.
- The amount of “excellent work in the field of Medicine” that I have contributed is exactly 0.
- The top three images when googling “eminent people” yields Malala Yousafzai, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Gandhi. Further search reveals that, shame, I’m not even shortlisted.
This is not suspicious at all; in fact, I am deeply honoured! This email was certainly crafted personally for me, and I will be glad to contribute a research, review, and short Commentary. So I went to their site (http://biomedicine.imedpub.com).
Ok, so the homepage seems nice: they have a list of subtopics with descriptions that are related to biomedicine (including some weird ones, such as biophysics, and biomedicine itself…). On the right there is a list of suggested conferences, all of which are about a year(!) away and have an almost identical web-page because they sit under the same organizer (omics): there are no individual university conferences and this is not suspicious at all.
But enough about that – I want to see what sort of papers they already accepted, to see if I should write something in a similar format. They have an “articles” tab. Here is what they have under “articles in press”:
What is this? It seems like the cover page of a journal. But is it? it has no date. It has no “see page 47 for full paper”. It has NOTHING. And this is the only thing on the page.
They also have a “current issue” tab. It has EXACTLY the same image, and nothing else.
Ok, but what about past issues? Well, the “archive” currently holds the following: “No Volumes and issues availiable.. [sic]!”
Not suspicious at all.
One possible explanation is that it’s a new journal, and doesn’t have any older issues available. This would sort of fit in with the fact that they sent that highly-flattering-yet-totally-off mail: they are not well known yet, so they want to recruit more authors. (Exercise for the readers at home: try googling “Insights in Biomedicine” and explain the results).
We can explore the site a bit more. For example, go and see who the editors are. There are plenty: Paulo Marcos Pinto, who is a doctor from Brazil; Wei-Lan Yeh, who is a doctor from Taiwan; Dr. INTHRANI RAJA INDRAN, who is a doctor from Singapore (his name was written in caps on the site). And there are 11 more, all doctors and professors. Quite a big team, yes? You can try googling their names. While some of them are real professors with a university site and all, for most part you don’t get as many results as you might think. It seems as if most of these people really haven’t published enough material in their life to have the needed expertise to edit a journal; at least, that’s by googling. (I wonder if they published enough to exist; not suspicious at all).
But it’s not like I care about the editors; what’s really important is handing in manuscripts. The “Author guidelines” quickly shows that submitting a manuscript costs anywhere from 320 USD to 520 USD (it’s an open access journal, after all). This is not a trivial amount, but other open access journals have been known to charge a lot more – the more famous ones may take thousands of dollars per submission.
Here is what “author guidelines” says about this:
Publishing with open access is not without costs. Journal of Neoplasm defrays those costs from article-processing charges (APCs) payable by authors onces [sic] the manuscript has been accepted for publication.Insights in Biomedicine does not have subscription charges for its research content, believing instead that immediate, world-wide, barrier-free, open access to the full text of research articles is in the best interests of the scientific community.
Whoops! What the hell is “Journal of Neoplasm”? Sounds like a journal name to me. Either the two hold a shared bank account, or else we witness a copy-paste error of the type that causes your code to crash in the middle of the night.
Luckily, Journal of Neoplasm also has a website (http://neoplasm.imedpub.com).
Not-suspiciously, it looks exactly the same as Insights in Biomedicine. Same colours and fonts and everything. In fact, they also have a “current issue” tab. It holds only this:
Needless to say, the archive shows “No Volumes and issues availiable..!”.
Maybe it’s time to visit the source: the publishing company behind these journals, Insight Medical Publishing. (http://www.imedpub.com). Their homepage shows all the journals they have under their wing, as well as the holy grail: recent papers!
Finally, we see some actual, peer reviewed papers! The “recent articles” box on their site contains eight papers. Some of them are not in English (but that’s ok, we don’t judge by language). The latest of them is from 2015 (no specific date, but there is something about “volume 6”), while the last one on the list is from 2014. Interesting – in the eight most recent papers, some are from 2014. That’s it? Well, you can press a “view more” button, but can you guess where that leads? Yup:
Yes, they have two !! in there, and that’s legitimate for a respectable publication company.
Now, you might be led into thinking that this is odd, and that there aren’t any papers at all in this entire network of journals, but that would be wrong. Because this error message is indeed followed by a list of all their journals, of which there are over 200. Every one of these has its own identical-looking website, complete with a list of editors, information for authors, ethical malpractice information, and articles.
Some of these journals have an astounding number of editors. I picked one at random, on orthodontics and endodontics, and it had 18 editors, one of which is “Vincenzo Grassia, Professor of the master 2014 ‘Orthodontic therapy in adult patients’ of the Sun”. Another, Journal of Informatics and Data Mining, has about 23 editors. Unlike Insights in Biomedicine and Journal of Neoplasm, this one had some papers in the “articles” tab: two grand issues, each of which has about six papers. Overall, this journal has more listed editors (each with a doctorate!) than papers.
It seems like people have put a lot of work into these sites, and yet many of them are almost empty. It turns out that “Insight Medical Publishing” is redirected to “OMICS” in Wikipedia, and there it is stated, “According to a 2012 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about 60 percent of the group’s 200 journals had never actually published anything.” The same Wikipedia entry also has all sorts of scary words, like “predatory publishing”, “cease-and-desist letter”, and “false claims of affiliation”.
Now, I could say a lot of bad things about giving open access journals a bad name and luring unsuspecting scientists and how the hell did they get my email and know I’m into science did they dredge all of Weizmann’s address lists?!, but I digress. I think for the present, I’ll skip the opportunity to publish with Journal of Insights in Biomedicine. Maybe I’ll return to it at a later time, after I finish my homework on Markov Models.