Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to turn a journal into junk

I am not familiar with this journal, so I don't know what its quality was, but if the changes to its direction under new ownership are as alleged, I'm pretty sure that its quality will take a dive into junk:
For much of its 22-year existence, few outside the corner of science devoted to toxic chemicals paid much attention to the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.
But now, a feud has erupted over the small academic publication, as its editorial board — the scientists who advise the journal’s direction and handle article submissions — has accused the journal’s new owner of suppressing a paper and promoting “corporate interests over independent science in the public interest.”
More is at stake than just the journal’s direction.
IJOEH is best known for exposing so-called “product defense science” — industry-linked studies that defend the safety of products made by their funders. At a time when the Trump administration is advancing policies and nominees sympathetic to the chemical industry, the journal seems to be veering in the same direction.
“There are many scientists who work for corporations who are honest scientists,” said David Michaels, the former head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President Obama. “What we’re concerned about here is the ‘mercenary science’ … that’s published purely to influence regulation or litigation, and doesn’t contribute to public health.”
“I think the IJOEH articles were threatening to that whole industry,” said Michaels, now an environmental and occupational health professor at George Washington University. While Michaels has never served on the journal’s editorial board, he has published an article in the journal and peer-reviewed others.
The journal was one of the relatively few places that provided an outlet for “scientists whose work is independent of the corporations that manufacture chemicals,” he said. “The silencing of that voice would be a real loss to the field.”
Last Thursday, the journal’s 22-member editorial board, along with eight former board members and the journal’s founding editor-in-chief, wrote a letter to the National Library of Medicine requesting disciplinary action against the academic journal’s new publisher, Taylor & Francis Group. In particular, they asked the Library of Medicine to rescind the journal’s listing in the Medline index, which could drastically reduce its scientific influence.
In other words, the editorial board is alleging that under Taylor and Francis control, the journal is no longer to be considered reputable. Specifically, they claim:
Taylor & Francis has done the following since taking over:
  • Selected a new editor-in-chief, Andrew Maier, without consulting the editorial board. Board members said it’s “highly unlikely” that they would have approved of Maier. Their letter said he had a tendency to reach scientific conclusions “highly sympathetic to parties with an economic interest in favorable outcomes,” which is at odds with the journal’s mission.
  • Withdrew a peer-reviewed article by the journal’s former editor-in-chief David Egilman that criticized Union Carbide Corporation’s efforts to oppose workers’ claims of asbestos exposure. “Suppression of an accepted paper is a direct assault on academic freedom,” the board members wrote to the Library of Medicine.
  • Flagged three additional studies approved for publication under Egilman as “raising potential concerns,” according to a May 8 email the publisher sent to the board.
Not all that is junk starts out that way; rapacious publishers can take something of value and spin it into junk.
Read the whole article here. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More from Medcrave

 I couldn't resist sharing the whole of this adorable email from Sociology International Journal.
Hope you are doing well.

Apologize if I am disturbing you with my email.

I am pleased to inform you that Sociology International Journal is planning to release the Volume 1 Issue 4 by 25th of November and we are in need of two articles to accomplish this issue. But I am afraid as I am now on 14th November. Hardly I am having few more days in hand to accomplish the task.
Hence I have chosen some illustrious people like you to support us for release the upcoming issue. So will you please help us by submitting a Research/ Review/2 Page Opinion/Mini-Review/Case Report for publication.
Your single article sustains us a lot and impacts my ranking in end of this month.

Await your precious submission.
Best Regards,
Levi Martin
Somehow, I doubt that "Levi Martin" is the real name of the author of this solicitation from a fake academic journal spawned by Medcrave. When you check out the editorial board, however, you find that at least some of the names listed appear to belong to accomplished academics. I don't know whether these folks are really attached to this "journal" or whether their identities have been hijacked.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mass shootings and the legitimacy of the state

Not that it matters in the larger scheme of things, whether I contribute anything to the sporadic conversations triggered by a mass shooting, suspended in a few days in the wake of other events, and picked up again after the next shooting, not that it matters in a world that sees entire families wiped out in seconds and offers prayers in response, blind to the realization that prayers provide ineffective protection against bullets, that these families were in fact praying at the very moment of their destruction, not that any of this matters.

But I was thinking that the advice and conclusions of some government officials (Paxton of Texas, of course and others) that citizens need to be armed and prepared to protect themselves and others with these arms against gun wielding attackers undercuts the very rationale of the state they lead. States, after all, and the governments they institute, gain and retain their justification for limitations of individual free range of action by creating and maintaining zones of relative safety in public and private spaces for citizens to work, play, love and live their lives, reasonably secure in the persons and property. You don't have to be a social contract theorist to hold a view that sees this as an essential function of a legitimate state.

For Paxton and his cohort to now devolve that responsibility to individuals is for them to surrender one strand of the argument legitimating the power of the state. Each mass shooting, each official offering thoughts and prayers and no policy proposals to use the law to lessen the carnage, each person, school and church pushed to resort to private arms and security services, is a sign that the state has surrendered its legitimate authority and one of its main rationales for existence.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Real newspaper explores fake academic ecosystem

At the New York Times, (and no, it is not fake, unless by 'fake' you mean 'high quality') Gina Kolata explores the rapidly expanding world of fake academic publishing and conferring.
As it turns out, many of their articles are appearing in “journals” that will publish almost anything, for fees that can range into the hundreds of dollars per paper. These publications often are called predatory journals, on the assumption that well-meaning academics are duped into working with them — tricked by flattering emails from the journals inviting them to submit a paper or fooled by a name that sounded like a journal they knew.
But it’s increasingly clear that many academics know exactly what they’re getting into, which explains why these journals have proliferated despite wide criticism. The relationship is less predator and prey, some experts say, than a new and ugly symbiosis.
Many faculty members — especially at schools where the teaching load is heavy and resources few — have become eager participants in what experts call academic fraud that wastes taxpayer money, chips away at scientific credibility, and muddies important research.

“When hundreds of thousands of publications appear in predatory journals, it stretches credulity to believe all the authors and universities they work for are victims,” Derek Pyne, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, wrote in a op-ed published in the Ottawa Citizen, a Canadian newspaper.
The number of such journals has exploded to more than 10,000 in recent years, with nearly as many predatory as legitimate ones. “Predatory publishing is becoming an organized industry,” wrote one group of critics in a paper in Nature.
Many of these journals have names that closely resemble those of established publications, making them easily mistakable. There is the Journal of Economics and Finance, published by Springer, but now also the Journal of Finance and Economics. There is the Journal of Engineering Technology, put out by the American Society for Engineering Education, but now another called the GSTF Journal of Engineering Technology.
Predatory journals have few expenses, since they do not seriously review papers that are submitted and they publish only online. They blast emails to academics, inviting them to publish. And the journals often advertise on their websites that they are indexed by Google Scholar. Often that is correct — but Google Scholar does not vet the journals it indexes.
Kolata turns to fake conferences. My only surprise about the one she looks into is that it is New York, rather than a sunnier or more exotic locale.
The journals are giving rise to a wider ecosystem of pseudo science. For the academic who wants to add credentials to a résumé, for instance, publishers also hold meetings where, for a hefty fee, you can be listed as a presenter — whether you actually attend the meeting or not.
One of those meetings, held in New York in June by a group called the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, seemed more like a Potemkin village. On the publisher’s website, the convention promised to be large and lavish.
As if.
But when I visited, the only venue was a small windowless room on the sixth floor of a hotel undergoing renovation. A handful of people sat in the room, diligently listening to a talk. Most who were listed on the program were not in attendance.
To be fair, I have attended sessions at a fair number of official and perfectly legitimate philosophy conferences (and yes, I am looking at you, Eastern Division APA) where the number of panelists exceeded the number of people in the audience, and that might include a janitor on a coffee break.

What spurs this fake academic ecosystem? Kolata justifiably pins it on the way academic institutions evaluate their faculty for employment and promotion---by lines on the CV. Present at a fake conference, you get another line. Publish in a fake journal. Another line. Edit a fake journal. Yet another.

Dying to give birth:why is maternal mortality so high?

We can't welcome the news, but we can welcome the fact that the dangerously high and rising US maternal morality rate is finally getting more attention, most recently in this excellent Quartz article by Annalisa Merelli.
With an estimated 26.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2015, America has the highest maternal mortality rate of all industrialized countries—by several times over. In Canada, the rate is 7.3; in Western Europe, the average is 7.2, with many countries including Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Austria showing rates around 4. More women die of childbirth-related causes in the US than they do in Iran (20.8), Lebanon (15.3), Turkey (15.8), Puerto Rico (15.1), China (17.7), and many more.
(Ahem---Puerto Rico, though not a state, is part of the US)
While most of the world has drastically reduced maternal mortality in the past three decades, the US is one of just a handful of countries where the problem worsened, and significantly.
Between 700 and 1,200 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth every year in the US. Fifty times that number—about 50,000 in all—narrowly escape death, while another 100,000 women a year fall gravely ill during or following a pregnancy.
The dire state of US data collection on maternal health and mortality is also distressing. Until the early 1990s, death certificates did not note if a woman was pregnant or had recently given birth when she died. It took until 2017 for all US states to add that check box to their death certificates. Calculating the number of near-deaths and severe illnesses related to pregnancy is still guesswork. There is no standard or official method of tracking, and cases are not routinely documented. In other words, data collection about maternal health and mortality is a complete mess. Even gathering reliable data for this story was difficult. Quartz was forced to turn to state data where there was a lack of national data, and to supplement gaps of any data with anecdotal evidence.
With poor statistics, it becomes harder, but no less pressing to ask why so many American women are dying. Experts often blame---guess who? the women:
Other, related trends were evident in the US over that 1990-2015 period, in particular steep increases in the rates of obesity and diabetes. Couple that with a growing trend of women deciding to delay motherhood until they were older, and you very quickly arrive at a refrain that is often used to explain why America is failing to keep its number of maternal deaths at acceptable levels: that new mothers are “older, fatter, and sicker.”
“The increasing number of women who enter pregnancy with higher rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, abnormal placentation…are typically the first and only factors considered,” points out Christine Morton, a researcher at the CMQCC, in a commentary paper.
In other words, she notes, it’s presented as the women’s fault.
In a culture that places such emphasis on the value of self-determination and personal responsibility, it’s perhaps not surprising that expectant or new mothers would be judged deficient in their apparently poor life choices. But that ignores the fact that increased rates of obesity and related chronic health conditions are global, not just American, and that in other countries, they do not amount to a death sentence. Obesity among white mothers worldwide nearly doubled between 1980 and the early 2010s. Maternal deaths nearly halved (pdf, p.5-6).
Suellen Miller, a professor of gynecology and director of the Safe Motherhood Project at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), told Quartz that “all over the world, there is an obstetric demographic shift to older women, to more obese women, to women with more chronic conditions, and in many places to women who smoke.“ And yet, outside of the US, many women are safely delivering babies despite conditions that, some years ago, would have made that impossible. In certain parts of the world—Scandinavia and Western Europe, in particular—a focus on more dedicated care, before, during, and after birth leads to dramatically different results.
It’s not enough to say “that women are entering pregnancy ‘older, fatter and sicker,’ although that may be part of the story,” Morton insists. Instead, we need to understand why American women are fatter and sicker in the first place, and why manageable conditions end in women dying.[my bolding]
Did you know that suicide accounts for 20% of these post-partum deaths? Neither did I, until I read the Quartz article. You should too.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fake academic conferences outnumber genuine conferences

Fake academic conferences have gotten the attention of Times Higher Education :
Predatory” conferences now outnumber official events organised by scholarly societies following an explosion in the number of such symposia held across the world, a researcher has warned.
Tens of thousands of academics are now likely to be paying to give papers at conferences of questionable value because of the “incredible demand” to present at international events, often the “difference between getting hired or promoted or not” said James McCrostie, associate professor at Daito Bunka University in Japan, who researches the issue.
I am not surprised. I have lost track of how many spam fake conference invitations have filled my inbox just in this week---my junk file runneth over.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dying to give birth

Opioid use is indeed an emergency. So too is the rising mortality rate among pregnant women. Ground zero: Texas.
A woman in the U.S., where the maternal death ratio more than doubled between 1987 and 2013, is more likely to die as a result of pregnancy-related causes than in 31 industrialized countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, aside from Mexico.
There are various theories why — persistent poverty, large numbers of women without adequate health insurance, risk factors related to stress and discrimination. All come together here in Texas, with a twist that has become one of America’s most confounding public health problems: African American women are dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes here at stunningly high rates.
The maternal death rate in Texas after 2010 reached “levels not seen in other U.S. states,” according to a report compiled for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, based on figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Black women in Texas are dying at the highest rates of all. A 2016 joint report by Texas’ Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and Department of State Health Services found that black mothers accounted for 11.4% of Texas births in 2011 and 2012, but 28.8% of pregnancy-related deaths.

Friday, October 20, 2017

More spam from RIPK

I received yet another 'call for paper' from one "Dr. Willard Nicholas" trolling for paying customers to submit papers to the fake academic journal International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Review, published by the anti-illustrious Research Institute for Progression of Knowledge (RIPK). This time, "Nicholas" uses a commercial email address (@jhssmet.com) instead of hotmail.
So far as I can tell from my friend google, Dr. Willard Nicholas doesn't exist except as an editor for this outfit, and yes, it was Beall listed.