Bogus academic journal accepts paper that reads "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List" again and again (PHOTO).

The Bogus Academic Journal Racket Is Officially Out of Control

The Bogus Academic Journal Racket Is Officially Out of Control

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 24 2014 4:02 PM

The Bogus Academic Journal Racket Is Officially Out of Control

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Academics submit gibberish papers to dubious “journals,” then blow the whistle when the papers are “accepted.”

Prasit Rodphan/Shutterstock

Academic publishing is a strange phenomenon, one that normal people—who might assume, for instance, that people generally get paid for doing what they do professionally—often misunderstand. Back in graduate school, I met for tea one day with an old friend from New York, and mentioned my stress about completing some exacting revisions on what would end up as my first journal article. “Publish or perish, you know?” He frowned. “I hear that all the time,” he said, “but I don’t get it. What does this article do for you? Like, will you get paid so much when it comes out that you can support yourself?” I spit out my tea.

Rebecca Schuman Rebecca Schuman

Rebecca Schuman is a columnist for Slate and the author of Schadenfreude, A Love Story and Kafka and Wittgenstein. She lives in St. Louis.

To the contrary: Not only would I be writing the article for free, I would also be paying the journal $5 for every copy of it I wanted. Further, I explained, some scholars regularly pay even more to have their work appear in print—from mandatory association membership fees to the $3,000 it takes to get your work out from behind a paywall so that more than three people can read it. So how then, inquired my friend, would this article save me from perishing? “Being in print will help me get a job,” I answered, with the misplaced confidence only a graduate student can display. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)

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My own failures notwithstanding, racking up publications in academic journals—10 or more a year, in some STEM fields—is an absolute necessity in today’s brutal academic landscape, both to obtain that rare tenure-track job and to make the “tenure” part come true. Beginning academics are desperate to get in print—and sometimes, they’re not savvy enough to tell the difference between a well-regarded journal and a straight-up scam (especially since well-regarded journals are among those who charge $3,000 to bypass the paywall).

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that an entire cottage industry of malfeasance and predation has erected itself in “service” of these desperate souls. Peer-review fraud syndicates. Journals that nobody proofreads. Academic book mills. Pay-to-play conferences, where everyone is “accepted,” and whose “proceedings” are then stapled together into a glorified pamphlet (voila: a “publication”).

Happily, a counter-trend arose in resistance: Academics began submitting robotically-generated gibberish papers to these “conferences” and “journals,” and then blowing the whistle when they were “peer-reviewed” and “accepted.” It’s a great service and a hilarious distraction, and I hope that scholars everywhere keep doing it—but they should know that David Mazières and Eddie Kohler, now computer science professors at Stanford and Harvard, officially created the ne plus ultra of bogus-academic-publishing scam busters way back in 2005, when they were still grad students, and made it “open access” for anyone to use as needed. Behold:

bogus_journal

(Here’s the whole thing in all of its glory.)

Mazières and Kohler were so sick of their email boxes getting clogged up with obvious pay-for-play “calls for papers” that they created not just a fake gibberish paper, but, as the blog Scholarly Open Access reports, an obscene fake gibberish paper that contained one directive and one directive only, repeated hundreds of times: To be removed from said fake conference/journal’s “f--king” mailing list.

Cut to the present, when Peter Vamplew, a professor at Federation University Australia, got a “call for papers” from the obviously-bogus International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, and “submitted” Mazières and Kohler’s masterpiece in a not-at-all-subtle request to be, you guessed it, taken off the mailing list. 

To his mild surprise, not only was this groundbreaking study accepted—with fraudulent peer reviews and everything!—it was put into layout, and a PDF was generated for his “perusal,” along with, of course, a humble request for $150, to be submitted by wire transfer, as all legitimate scholarly transactions are.

The real question, of course, is who’s to blame for the embarrassing state in which academic publishing finds itself. The predatory fake journals and conference scams, sure—they’re out to make a buck from a demographic that is famously desperate and famously destitute, and that’s odious. But let us not forget to blame the “publish or perish” frenzy itself as well. These days, it’s more like publish and perish; most faculty languish as underpaid non-tenure-trackers, despite publication so frenzied that even Peter Higgs (you know, of the particle? The one that was named after him?) insists he wouldn’t get tenure today. There is no reason to keep perpetuating a system that, at its best, churns out more legitimate articles than anyone can ever read, and at its worst allows someone to list “Get Me Off Your F--king Mailing List” on his CV.