Monday, April 20, 2015

Current publications

Two links for those who read German:
  • I wrote an article for Forschung & Lehre together with my colleague Gerhard Dannemann about the universities in Germany rather dragging their feet when being informed of plagiarism cases in doctorates : Viel Licht und noch mehr Schatten.
  • The philosopher Theodor Ebert wrote a review of my book "False Feathers" for the FAZ: Fälschen ohne Folgen. In the print version the article was entitled Wer das Schweigen bricht, macht sich schuldig

Saturday, April 4, 2015

More on Brazilian science

I have been sent some interesting links recently about problems in Brazilian academia. 
  • Mauricio Tuffani, a journalist with Folha de S. Paulo, a Brazilian daily newspaper, has been publishing on some troubling situations in Brazilian academia. I just  blogged about an article he wrote about the government recommending mock conferences. He has written about academics inflating their CVs with conference papers given at a Chinese conference now appearing as peer-reviewed journal articles (one even already published in December 2015 [that is, 8 months in the future]) and the triennial report ranking graduate study institutions includes thousands of articles published by Brazilian academics in 201 predatory journals from 11 publishers. He lists the journals here. After he revealed that the Pakistani publisher of a predatory journal that also practices future publishing was not, in fact, a professor, the name disappeared from the web page. He reports on the deafening silence that can be heard from Brazilian academia here.
  • Retraction watch reports on retractions of a number of chemistry papers from a Brazilian journal.
  • The editor of the journal of the  Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein [Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2014 Oct-Dec;12(4):vii-viii. doi: 10.1590/S1679-45082014ED3296.] writes in an editorial entitled Scientific Misconduct - Our first (known) case:
    A recent paper by Lins and Carvalho (2) analyzed scientific misconduct in Brazil. They found a clear increase in both published articles in the medical literature and cases of scientific misconduct, including irreproducible results, “scientific salami slicing” (one article fragmented into 10 or more papers) and duplicate publications. In Lins and Carvalho’s opinion, the increased number of Brazilian scientific productions in medical literature was not accompanied by an increase in quality of articles – just the opposite. The authors discuss the focus of Brazilian institutional review boards in patient safety, within institutions themselves and the Brazilian National Review Board. Neither group performs a systematic surveillance for research integrity, and no specific offices exist to investigate and deal with scientific misconduct.
    (2) Lins L, Carvalho FM. Scientific integrity in Brazil. J Bioeth Inq. 2014;11(3):283-7.

Brazilian Government recommends mock conference

I have been made aware of the following article by Mauricio Tuffani in online version of the Brazilian daily newpaper Folha de S. Paulo: "Eventos científicos "caça-níqueis" preocupam cientistas brasileiros" (Scientific event cares about Brazilian scientists). The article is discussing (as far as I can puzzle out with Google Translate) the WASET multiconference to be held in Rio de Janiero in February 2016. Not one, not ten, but 116 simultaneous scientific meetings are planned to be held in a hotel there. Registration is already open, with rates of up to 450 € for speakers (250 € for listeners only), with a special deal of only 100 € more for an additional paper. 

The conference is organized by a publisher, WASET, that is on Jeffrey Beale's list of predatory publishers. A number of universities world-wide warn their academics from submitting to these conferences. Not the Brazilian government, though, according to Folha de S. Paulo: CAPES, the Higher Education Personnel Training Coordination body of the Brazilian Ministry of Education includes these conferences on their online platform Qualis. This is a list of periodicals and conferences that researchers are recommended for choosing to publish their research, as promotion and tenure depends, as it does so many places, on the number of published articles and conference presentations, not the quality. 

The conference advertises about how well-indexed their conferences are. For example, they say that they are indexed with the "International Science Index".  Since one of the largest citation databases in the world, the Web of Science, is known as the ISI index (Institute of Information Science), careless academics could easily jump to the conclusion that this conference is indexed at ISI.

Folha de S. Paulo was unable to get researchers to speak about this on the record, except for an ecologist from Sorocaba. His name is listed as being a member of the scientific committee of one of the 116 events, the "14th International Conference of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering". He was very surprised to hear that he was named here, he did not know the conference and stated that he will take steps to have his name removed from the conference web site.

Folha de S. Paulo asked WASET for comment, but there was no response. The journal notes that the company is listed as being in Riverside, California, USA, but the phone contact is in the United Arab Emirates and they say that the ISSN records for the publication list them as being from Turkey. I was not able to find an ISSN number given on the web pages of this multiconference, so I wasn't able to verify that it is indeed listed in Turkey and in the Qualis database.

Looking closer at the web site of WASET [I won't link here for obvious reasons] it is quite easy to see how this operation works. There are multiconferences being held ever week in a choice of international locations: Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Auckland, Taipei, Bali, Dubai, Singapore, London. Conferences are planned up to and including 2027. Inspecting the link for Rio in February there are, indeed, conferences in 23 categories with varying numbers of individual conferences that all sound similar: International Conference on ..... (fill in the blank). All will take place at the same hotel, which only, according to their web page, has 35 meeting rooms.

The text on the conference pages is boilerplate, identical except for a few subject areas changed to fit the title of the conference. There is one month given as the time for the peer review by three reviewers. Some of the conference committees are identical for different conferences, sometimes they are different. Not all of the institutions the persons are affiliated with are decodable. The conference photos for the conferences are all the same. If you put this URL into Google's image search, you find it listed as a photo for conferences in Paris, Quebec, London, New York, and San Francisco. One attendee uses it in a university newspaper and identifies herself in the picture, noting that the conference was held in Osaka.

It is high time that universities and research institutions stop using quantitative measures for academic decisions. Predatory publishers and mock conference organizers have perverted the ideas of academic exchange and communication that existed previously and flooded the market with lookalikes. The German research council, DFG, took a step in the right direction in 2010 when they began to base funding decisions not on quantity, but on quality of the research. A researcher can only submit his or her best five publications in applying for grant money, and can only list two publications per year in grant reporting. They also refuse to accept any publication listed as "in press", as some researchers were being quite creative and referring to "in press publications" that hadn't yet been submitted.

Now how do we get the word out to the rest of the world and dry up the funding that is feeding this mock science machine?