Monday, December 30, 2013

Junk Journal "Metalurgia International"

Spiegel Online, Laborwelt, and Retraction Watch have reported on a fake article that Serbian academics Dragan Z. Đuirić, Boris Delilbašić, and Stevica Radisic published in the Romanian junk journal Metalurgia International. The journal is indexed on Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Knowledge, lending an air of professionality to the publication that it does not deserve.

The paper, entitled "Evaluation of Transformative Hermeneutic Heuristics for Processing Random Data", and published in Vol. 18, Nr. 6 (2013) on pp. 98–102 is a scream to read. It is available online at scribd, including lovely photos of the researchers wearing false wigs and mustaches. Start at the back with the reference section: long dead researchers with current publications, the Disney character Goofy (known as Silja in Serbian) publishing in a children's comic book, B. Sagdiyev (better known as the fictitious Kazakh journalist Borat) publishing with A. S. Hole,  and of course a paper by A. Sokal.

The article is quite forthcoming in explaining its goal, which is to show how many of their fellow Serbian researchers publish nonsense in such journals in order to puff up their CVs:
Following the usual and by now well-spread practice in many academic circles of producing insignificant research papers of great importance to pseudo science, our research aims at identifying “ground truth” for undecidability, and, however, this research is principled. Rather that rely on the overly-reasoned, wide-spread use of scientific apparatus, without consideration of randomness, we invent the following architecture.
There are so many hints such as "Error! Reference source not found", bizarre diagrams, chaotically formatted references that would have been noticed by a referee, if indeed anyone had read it. But there was no peer-review. According to Spiegel Online, paying 140 € for the main author and 75 € for each additional author results in speedy publication, and a certificate of publication for submitting at one's own university. This issue has 70 publications with between 2 and 4 authors, so the journal publisher would have income of 20.000 €. Even paying someone to put together the PDF and the server charges, this is pretty good income for a journal published every month. 

There is a long list of supposed editors
The journal editor, Gheorghe V. Lepădatu, gives his affiliation as Vice-Rector of Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University Bucharest, although he uses a Yahoo address. This private university has been involved in some accreditation scuffles recently. The journal web site is currently "under construction", but the trusty Internet Archive has many snapshots of the web site. The ISI inclusion is most prominent on the page, the HTML is pure 90s, awash with colors, fonts, and blinking things.

The system of evaluating the quality of a journal or a researcher with quantitative methods is broken and has been broken for some time. There are many people out to make money out of the need that people have for international publications, and the price is right. What will it take to make organizations realize this? Our trust in scientific publications is rapidly deteriorating, as they become more and more a business enterprise and less and less true research.

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