Science requires publication. Unfortunately, publication requires money. Researchers have to put up hefty publication fees to appear in prestigious journals, though much of the prestige comes from the quality of it’s (unpaid) review staff. In the past, journals could rely on library subscriptions to subsidize the costs of publication. As paper copies diminish and the demand for open access increase, however, journals have had to rely on researchers for revenue.
The NYT ran an article the other day on shady publishing houses which offer to publish anything for a fee. You can imagine what these journals are like. Peer reviews are non-existent or light and content questionable.
I get emails from these companies regularly. One that stuck out to me was from the “European Journal of Medicinal Plants” from the publishing house SCIENCEDOMAIN [sic]:
I am approaching you with the peer-review request of the below mentioned manuscript submitted in European Journal of Medicinal Plants
Title : Mosquito larvicidal activity of Urtica dioica of urticaceae against Malaria Vector.
I would be grateful if you would kindly find some time to review the above mentioned manuscript and send your valuable comments within 15 calendar days. Manuscript and the “Review comments Form” have been attached herewith.
I know that your time is valuable and therefore, as a token of our appreciation you will be awarded a complimentary ‘RERP coupon’ of 50 US$ for each manuscript, if quality review is completed within the stipulated period of time. Please be informed that the RERP coupon can be redeemed against only the publication fee of your accepted manuscripts as mentioned in SCIENCEDOMAIN international website (http://www.sciencedomain.org/page.php?id=reviewers-editors).
Please inform as early as possible if you agree to accept my invitation to review. Would you not be able to find time to act as a reviewer this time, please let me know through an email and in that case you may also suggest someone of your colleague to review the manuscript.
I understand that our proficient reviewers highly contribute to maintain the high standards of the Journal, and I express my gratitude to you for your present and/or future contribution.
Journal scope link: http://www.sciencedomain.org/about-journal.php?id=13
General Editorial Policy link: http://www.sciencedomain.org/page.php?id=sdi-general-editorial-policy
The email sounded like something out of North Korea.
The paper was attached. Here is the header:
The text was approximately 1,000 words, and they listed six references. No authors were listed. Now, besides the sub-standard level of English and the glaring spelling errors (“alkoloids”), you will notice that the mosquito species in question is Culex quinquefasciatus. I don’t know anything about plants and mosquitoes, but I do know, that despite the title “Mosquito larvicidal activity of Urtica dioica of urticaceae against Malaria Vector,” NO mosquito in the genus Culex transmits malaria.
Some addresses were included in the email:
UK: SCIENCEDOMAIN international, Third Floor, 207 Regent Street, London, W1B 3HH, Fax: +44 20-3004-1542
USA: SCIENCEDOMAIN international, 616 Corporate Way, Suite 2 #4000, Valley Cottage, NY 10989, Fax: +1 845-231-6220
India: SCIENCEDOMAIN international, U GF, DLF City Phase-III, Gurgaon, 122001, Delhi NCR, Fax: +91 11-66173993
I did some more digging on the address listed for SCIENCEDOMAIN. It appears that have the exact same mailing address as Smile4You USA, a company that sells dubious teeth whitening formulas. In fact, both SCIENCEDOMAIN and Smile4You have offices in the US and the UK. I couldn’t verify that the addresses were the same in the UK. I also checked the WHOIS info on both Smile4You (which is registered in Delaware) and SCIENCEDOMAIN (which is registered in Sunnydale, CA) and wasn’t able to confirm a link.
I perused science domains research offerings. It would appear that most of the authors come from developing countries. I also noticed that the publication charges are far less than that of established journals.I wondered whether clearly dubious operations like SCIENCEDOMAN aren’t preying on developing country researchers, who don’t have the budget to support publication in larger journals. It would seem an awful trade-off, convenience for quality, but a cheap way for researchers from poor countries to pad their resumes. Not only do they save money, but they aren’t subjected to rigorous review. This has awful consequences. Serious researchers get no feedback to improve their work, and poor researchers are rewarded.