Friday, December 30, 2016

Fake academic enterprises

 In the Upshot, Kevin Carey scrutinizes the thriving business of fake academic conferences and publishing, staring with OMICS (does it rhyme with "comics"?)
OMICS is on the far end of the “definitely fake” spectrum. Real academic conferences evaluate potential participants by subjecting proposed papers and presentations to a rigorous peer-review process. Some 15,000 people attend the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference, for example, and only about a third of submitted proposals are accepted.
In October, a New Zealand college professor submitted a paper to the OMICS-sponsored “International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics,” which was held last month at the Hilton Atlanta Airport. It was written using the autocomplete feature on his iPhone, which produced an abstract that begins as follows: “Atomic Physics and I shall not have the same problem with a separate section for a very long long way. Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year he added the two sides will have the two leaders to take the same way to bring up to their long ways of the same as they will have been a good place for a good time at home the united front and she is a great place for a good time.”
The paper was accepted within three hours.
An OMICS employee who identified himself as Sam Dsouza said conference papers are reviewed by its “experts” within 24 hours of submission. He couldn’t provide a list of its reviewers or their credentials.
Having dispensed with academic standards, OMICS makes money on volume. Its website lists hundreds of so-called academic meetings, many at vacation destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. On Dec. 1 and 2, the “2nd International Congress on Neuroimmunology and Therapeutics,” the “13th International Conference on Vaccines, Therapeutics and Travel Medicine: Influenza and Infectious Diseases,” and the “International Conference on Clinical and Medical Genetics” were all held, simultaneously, at the Hilton Atlanta Airport.
The upshot author turns to Jeffrey Beall for some guidance:
Mr. Beall’s list, which has grown to 923 publishers from 18 in 2011, also includes a British company called the “Infonomics Society.” Like OMICS, it publishes a raft of journals, 17 in all, with legitimately dry-sounding titles like “International Journal of Sustainable Energy Development.” Mr. Beall calls Infonomics an “impostor scholarly society” that is “designed to generate as much revenue as possible.” All 17 journals are run by a single person named Charles Shoniregun out of a modest two-story attached brick home in the outer suburbs of London.
Infonomics also sponsors a series of conferences. But when I looked into one of them, the “World Conference on Special Needs Education,” or W.C.S.N.E., the story was more complex than I expected.
Like many predatory publishers, the Infonomics website for W.C.S.N.E. has a certain word-salad, shaky-command-of-English-syntax quality familiar to anyone who reads the spam folder in their email. “The Infonomics Society has an established reputation for promoting research esteem that is valued by research community,” it says. The W.C.S.N.E. is attended by “Policy Makers and Stakeholders who care deeply about bringing creative, innovative and rigorous learning practices barriers.”
The W.C.S.N.E. paper submissions guidelines warn that all papers must be strictly limited to “a total of 4 to 6 pages.” That includes all figures, tables and references. Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall, says that this is “a red flag.” Education research papers are typically much longer, he notes — the tables and reference pages alone can run to double digits. But short papers are easier to pack into a single “journal.”
The website included a long list of “Program Committee members” with impressive academic credentials, as well as “Keynote Speakers” for the coming conference, scheduled to be held in August at Temple University, the W.C.S.N.E. host for the last three years.
But when I contacted those identified as committee members and speakers, many immediately replied that they had no idea they were on the website and had no affiliation with the W.C.S.N.E. The announced keynote speakers told me they were nothing of the kind. Within 24 hours of my inquiries, someone removed their names and biographies from the site and replaced them with a page that said “Keynote Speakers to be Announced!”
The scams are infecting what might have been legitimate scholarly organizations:
Take the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), by all accounts a legitimate organization. This year, Peter Dreier, chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy department at Occidental College, described how he submitted a proposal full of jargon, misquotation, non sequitur and general academic gobbledygook to an international conference sponsored by the 4S. It was accepted. “I look forward to meeting you in Tokyo,” the panel organizer wrote.
Lucy Suchman, a sociologist at Britain’s Lancaster University and the president of 4S, acknowledges that the abstract review process is “not perfect” and that she would have rejected Mr. Dreier’s submission. But, she notes, 4S reviews hundreds of submissions every year with an “assumption of good faith.” It would not have occurred to them that someone of Mr. Dreier’s standing in academia was engaged in such an “unfortunate prank,” she said, emphasizing the overall high quality of 4S presentations.
Didn't Social Text say something similar about Sokol's hoax paper twenty years ago?

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