Fraudulent “Science” Publishers in India / Pay to Print Scandal

From sciencemag.org

It’s not as if this isn’t a problem also in the U.S. and Europe, but with the huge influx of East Indian Medical personnel and life science researchers into the U.S., shouldn’t strict vetting for a history of “fraudulent publishing” be mandatory before hiring for science-based positions? This precaution ought to be standard for all hires, regardless of the applicant’s country of origin. (Yes, I know, this is a hopelessly Asperger idea!)

BENGALURU, INDIA—India is home to a flourishing community of predatory journals: outlets that masquerade as legitimate scientific publications but publish papers with little or no peer review while charging authors hefty fees. Many observers assumed that such bottom feeders were mostly attracting papers of dubious scientific value, if not plagiarized or fraudulent reports, from institutions in academia’s outer orbits. But a new analysis has found that many of the weak papers in predatory journals are coming from top-flight Indian research institutions.

The finding has turned the spotlight on an academic culture in India that tends to prize quantity of publications over quality when evaluating researchers. This is an especially big problem in the life sciences, and it will take time to fix, says K. Vijayraghavan, the secretary of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in New Delhi, which funded some of the research that ended up in predatory journals. “Biology, in general, has become ghastly, in that people are chasing the metrics,” he says. “If you chase these surrogate markers of success instead of science, we have a problem.”

Recent revelations have pointed to a symbiotic relationship in India between questionable publishers and mediocre researchers. In 2013, a Science investigation traced the publishers and editors of scores of predatory journals to India. And last year, a team reported in BMC Medicine that of a selection of 262 authors published in predatory journals, 35% were Indian.

Delving deeper, Gopalkrishnan Saroja Seethapathy, a graduate student in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Oslo, and colleagues randomly chose 3300 papers by Indian first authors from 350 journals flagged as predatory by Jeffrey Beall, a library scientist at the University of Colorado in Denver. In an analysis in the 9 December issue of Current Science, they report that more than half the papers were by authors from government-run and private colleges: hotbeds of mediocre research. But about 11% of papers, they found, were from India’s premier government research bodies, including dozens of publications from institutions belonging to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Indian Institutes of Technology.

“Funding agencies have to be careful about where papers are published,” says Subhash Chandra Lakhotia, a cytogeneticist at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, which is a source of some papers in predatory journals. “They have to take their jobs seriously and find time to read papers, instead of simply going by the number of papers published.”

Some say that the root of the problem is, paradoxically, recent government attempts to improve Indian research output. India’s University Grants Commission (UGC), a body charged with setting educational standards, in 2010 made it mandatory for all faculty in higher educational institutions to publish papers in order to be evaluated favorably. Pushkar, the director of the International Centre Goa who goes by one name, says this move pushed teaching faculty with no expertise in research towards predatory journals. “The research component in the performance metrics for faculty in teaching-focused institutions is the reason why predatory journals attract so many submissions,” he told Science. When concerns were raised about the proliferation of papers published in poor-quality journals, UGC announced that it would change its performance metrics and compile a list of peer-reviewed journals in which researchers would need to publish.

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Of course, it would be too much to ask for “ethical standards” to be mandated and enforced in universities, research institutions and government programs!

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That’s not the best solution, Vijayraghavan argues. “The fundamental problem is an ecosystem that values where you publish and how many papers you publish rather than what you publish. That needs to be changed,” he says. To bring about change, DBT launched an open-access policy in 2014, which requires all published papers to be uploaded to a central repository, so that they can be evaluated according to their merit. The department also plans to launch a preprint repository, along the lines of arXiv, to encourage sharing of research prior to publication. The idea is to galvanize a culture of evaluating research by reading publications rather than focusing on numbers of papers published or impact factors. “This will pull the carpet from under the feet of predatory publishers,” Vijayraghavan says. Oh sure!

Some scientists feel that the predatory publishing scourge is overblown. ICAR Director General Trilochan Mohapatra argues that many publications classified as predatory could merely be little-known journals that charge publication fees. “There are many flaws with the Current Science paper,” he says. “We will internally analyze this issue, see if a real problem exists at ICAR, and come out with our own study.”

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4 thoughts on “Fraudulent “Science” Publishers in India / Pay to Print Scandal

  1. Information – real or concocted; strong or weak; uncaring or otherwise – is not the issue (to normies).

    What matters is the gain in (social) standing that accrues by publishing papers – the more papers, the higher one’s position in the (social) dominance hierarchy?

    Since ‘doing social stuff’ is largely an unconscious matter in Normdom, it is likely that ‘the amorality of the unconscious’ comes into play. More, these tendencies are largely an instinctual matter (in Normies; not sure about autists) – so there will need to be some means of keeping Normdom’s tendencies toward self-deification/self-aggrandizement/self-enhancement in check to keep ‘rubbish’ down to tolerable levels in professional literature.

    Perhaps have autists vet such matters (e.g. madame Dawson)?

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  2. There is something about fraudulent science that pisses me off. My daughter is writing her dissertation. The only sources considered “real” sources are publications by …. researchers. But she isn’t equipped to know which article or paper is serious unless they give her a list. But they don’t. Maybe they end up giving a shitty paper a good grade because they have all depended on shitty research.
    I like to read research papers and want to vomit on the laps of researchers and papers who allow shitty research to pass.

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    • It bothers me no end also: it takes a ridiculous amount of time to “critique” or add “reader beware” comments on the papers I read and post, but I’m forced to because I can’t trust that the paper’s base assumptions are valid or some aspect of content (usually results and conclusions) isn’t simply sloppy, untenable or outright fraud. I can no longer exempt major institutions (Harvard for example) on the “but it’s a top school” excuse and expect papers to be valid work. I become TRULY DEPRESSED that few “researchers” can be trusted to do science correctly, or to choose integrity over brief and cheap media attention: “Theory of the Day” notoriety – the “social pyramid thing” – but, it’s so pervasive in education that the “keepers of knowledge, process and integrity” (profs, etc) DO NOT REMEMBER, or perhaps were never exposed to high standards, or any standards, other than visibility in pop culture. A blizzard of “studies” and press releases garners funding by commercial interests, donations to institutions, and sales of pop-sci books, TV shows and products.

      I’ve learned that authentic science is very difficult to do, and that social typicals truly believe in “magic pieces of paper” – that the degree conferred by a diploma means that the bearer IS AUTOMATICALLY A SCIENTIST or expert in some academic category and indeed is entitled to dictate how “the peasants” ought to believe and behave. It’s no mystery that hypo-social Asperger individuals make up a high percentage of people who have contributed the most to science and engineering and the arts. The demands of society to not venture out of the limited sphere of neorutypical interests means nothing to someone whose curiosity about the “rest of the universe” comes first.

      Good luck to your daughter; I guess it’s “play the game” and then live-work to one’s better standards!

      Liked by 1 person

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