Friday, April 12, 2013

Identity Theft and Scholarly Journals

Wow! Who knew that scholarly journals could be the victims of identity theft?  I was directed by colleague Barbara Bintliff to the March, 2013 issue of the journal Nature, which is discussing the new developments in scientific publishing, "The Future of Publishing."  Most of the issue is discussing the move to digital publishing, open access, and how authors in the new model will have to pay to publish so that readers can read for free.  Oh, brave new world! 

But this article, "Sham Journals Scam Authors," by Declan Butler, discusses how the scammers counterfeited two scholarly European journals so closely that they fooled not only scholars, but also Thomson Reuters, publisher of a journal impact rating service.  Hundreds of scholars paid steep author fees to submit journal articles, thinking they were dealing with the editors of the real journals.  The counterfeit sites include such details as publishing frequency, editorial boards, ISSNs, and titles for authentic journals, and fake impact factors numbers for the journals.  Much of the information was false, including editorial boards naming unaffiliated scholars.

The editors of the real journals are fighting a losing and mind-wrenching battle against these shadowy cyber-criminals who seem to be based in Armenia.  They keep being contacted by the poor authors who sent manuscripts and author fees to the counterfeit sites, and are wondering when they will see their article in print. The editors feel that the sham sites have damaged their journals' excellent reputations. Cybercrime police units are not having much success, apparently, tracking the criminals.

The authentic journals were easy prey since they had no web presence of their own.  Rather too late, these two journals are putting up websites or archiving back issues on home pages of the sponsoring organizations. 

The decoration for identity theft is from The Digerati Life by Millie Kay G., a post dated 9/27/2010, "Identity Theft Solutions Using ID Scores." She gives no credit for the image. 

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