Saturday, April 4, 2015

Brazilian Government recommends mock conference

I have been made aware of the following article by Mauricio Tuffani in online version of the Brazilian daily newpaper Folha de S. Paulo: "Eventos científicos "caça-níqueis" preocupam cientistas brasileiros" (Scientific event cares about Brazilian scientists). The article is discussing (as far as I can puzzle out with Google Translate) the WASET multiconference to be held in Rio de Janiero in February 2016. Not one, not ten, but 116 simultaneous scientific meetings are planned to be held in a hotel there. Registration is already open, with rates of up to 450 € for speakers (250 € for listeners only), with a special deal of only 100 € more for an additional paper. 

The conference is organized by a publisher, WASET, that is on Jeffrey Beale's list of predatory publishers. A number of universities world-wide warn their academics from submitting to these conferences. Not the Brazilian government, though, according to Folha de S. Paulo: CAPES, the Higher Education Personnel Training Coordination body of the Brazilian Ministry of Education includes these conferences on their online platform Qualis. This is a list of periodicals and conferences that researchers are recommended for choosing to publish their research, as promotion and tenure depends, as it does so many places, on the number of published articles and conference presentations, not the quality. 

The conference advertises about how well-indexed their conferences are. For example, they say that they are indexed with the "International Science Index".  Since one of the largest citation databases in the world, the Web of Science, is known as the ISI index (Institute of Information Science), careless academics could easily jump to the conclusion that this conference is indexed at ISI.

Folha de S. Paulo was unable to get researchers to speak about this on the record, except for an ecologist from Sorocaba. His name is listed as being a member of the scientific committee of one of the 116 events, the "14th International Conference of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering". He was very surprised to hear that he was named here, he did not know the conference and stated that he will take steps to have his name removed from the conference web site.

Folha de S. Paulo asked WASET for comment, but there was no response. The journal notes that the company is listed as being in Riverside, California, USA, but the phone contact is in the United Arab Emirates and they say that the ISSN records for the publication list them as being from Turkey. I was not able to find an ISSN number given on the web pages of this multiconference, so I wasn't able to verify that it is indeed listed in Turkey and in the Qualis database.


Looking closer at the web site of WASET [I won't link here for obvious reasons] it is quite easy to see how this operation works. There are multiconferences being held ever week in a choice of international locations: Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Auckland, Taipei, Bali, Dubai, Singapore, London. Conferences are planned up to and including 2027. Inspecting the link for Rio in February there are, indeed, conferences in 23 categories with varying numbers of individual conferences that all sound similar: International Conference on ..... (fill in the blank). All will take place at the same hotel, which only, according to their web page, has 35 meeting rooms.

The text on the conference pages is boilerplate, identical except for a few subject areas changed to fit the title of the conference. There is one month given as the time for the peer review by three reviewers. Some of the conference committees are identical for different conferences, sometimes they are different. Not all of the institutions the persons are affiliated with are decodable. The conference photos for the conferences are all the same. If you put this URL into Google's image search, you find it listed as a photo for conferences in Paris, Quebec, London, New York, and San Francisco. One attendee uses it in a university newspaper and identifies herself in the picture, noting that the conference was held in Osaka.

It is high time that universities and research institutions stop using quantitative measures for academic decisions. Predatory publishers and mock conference organizers have perverted the ideas of academic exchange and communication that existed previously and flooded the market with lookalikes. The German research council, DFG, took a step in the right direction in 2010 when they began to base funding decisions not on quantity, but on quality of the research. A researcher can only submit his or her best five publications in applying for grant money, and can only list two publications per year in grant reporting. They also refuse to accept any publication listed as "in press", as some researchers were being quite creative and referring to "in press publications" that hadn't yet been submitted.

Now how do we get the word out to the rest of the world and dry up the funding that is feeding this mock science machine?

3 comments:

  1. Dear Mrs. Weber-Wulf,

    Thank you again for your interest.

    Your post brings essential considerations concerning the ethical and scientifical issues that should prevail in the policies and decisions on institutional support to academic conferences.

    But iI need to clarify that the translation by the online tool prompted you to a mistake on my report. The database Qualis, of the federal agency Capes, did not recommend those slot machines conferences. The Qualis does not classify events —yet—, but journals, including some of the predatory publisher Waset.

    This is a kind of seal, since this database guides researchers, professors and graduate students to choose journals to publish their studies. This information is also important for academic careers, selection processes for hiring and promotion and on institutional and individual evaluations for scholarships and research grants.

    Therefore, there is no recommendation of these events by Capes, but in practice there is an indirect acknowledgment of its organizer Waset. As told to me today by phone a friend of mine and researcher: "All this story about predatory journals in Qualis is a horror. The first thing everyone does is to consult the Qualis."

    The translation of my report is available in

    http://mauriciotuffani.blogfolha.uol.com.br/slot-machines-scientific-events-worries-brazilian-scientists/

    Best regards,

    Mauricio Tuffani
    São Paulo, SP, Brazil

    ReplyDelete
  2. English translation :
    ( Source : http://retractionwatch.com/2015/03/06/researcher-loses-second-bid-to-quash-diabetes-expressions-of-concern/

    comment by John Smith , March 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm :

    The problem in Brazil is much bigger.
    There is state-sponsored white list from where Brazilian researchers select journals in order to know where to publish.
    The following texts were translated from the original in Portuguese.
    The texts were published in an influential daily newspaper.) :
    ———————-

    “Slot machines” scientific events worries Brazilian scientists

    Mauricio Tuffani ,
    Folha de S.Paulo (Brazil) , Mar/03/2015

    * http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/ciencia/2015/03/1597163-eventos-cientificos-caca-niqueis-preocupam-cientistas-brasileiros.shtml

    Registration is open, with fees up to $ 450 EUR ($ 505 USD) to 116 simultaneous scientific meetings in February 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The problem is that events like these are known as “scam conferences” abroad. Organized without academic rigor, they are identified as fraudulent by research institutions from other countries.

    The organizer of these 116 events is the WASET (World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology). Despite its name, is a publisher. Although disclose to be located in Riverside, US, its contact phone is from the United Arab Emirates. Besides invalid, the records of their journals are from Turkey, according to the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) International Centre.

    While warnings for researchers are found abroad not to attend their conferences or publish in their journals, in Brazil WASET appears in the selection based on quality criteria of national and international journals, made by CAPES (Higher Education Personnel Training Coordination), which is part of the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

    Available on the online platform QUALIS Periodicals, this CAPES selection guides researchers, professors and graduate students to choose journals to publish their studies. The information is important for academic careers, in which the number of published articles and participation in conferences are taken into account, which often are organized by publishers.

    Websites such as the Queensland University of Technology, Australia, the European Society of Neural Networks and blogs of scientists collect negative statements against WASET. The reports explain that the serial conferences become one, combining different areas of expertise and serving only for the publisher to profit from registration fees.

    The ecologist Alexandre Marco da Silva, professor at UNESP, campus of Sorocaba, learned that his name is on the scientific committee of the 14th International Conference of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering, one of 116 events. “I do not know what this conference is about”, he said surprised on the phone, adding that he will require the removal of his name from the committee.

    Pointed in all 116 websites of the WASET conferences “scheduled” for 2016, the Windsor Guanabara Hotel also stated, through its events coordination, that the hotel ignores this schedule, as well as another 110 meetings for 2017 and another 110 for 2018.

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  3. “SERIOUS FLAW”

    The inclusion of WASET in QUALIS was considered a “serious flaw” by scientists polled by FOLHA, who preferred not to be identified in order not to antagonize CAPES.

    Exception to this anonymity was the physicist Roland Koberle, a retired professor of University of Sao Paulo and member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. “It is very strange this fact”, said the researcher referring to the selection of the publisher by CAPES. He said the QUALIS has an obligation to warn users about fraudulent journals.

    WASET is also on the list of “predatory publishers” of the “Scholarly Open Access” blog by Jeffrey Beall, professor at University of Colorado, Denver. The list relates publishers who exploit, without scientific rigor, journals that charge fees for researchers to publish their articles in OA on the Internet.

    Both in free and paid access, reputable journals take over a year to review and accept articles, or reject them. Predatory publishers reduce this time frame to few months or weeks, and rarely reject papers. “The more items they accept and publish, the more money they make”, said Beall.

    In 2013, one year after the WASET had been detected by the solitary work of Beall, CAPES concluded its three-year evaluation of graduate studies in Brazil, by 48 evaluation area committees, each with an average of 20 consultants. Even without following the academic standard to indicate receipt and acceptance dates of articles, the publisher was not rejected for 20 of these committees.

    Ten of the grades obtained by WASET in QUALIS require registration in at least two scientific databases. Despite this rule, the publications of this publisher are shown only in the unknown International Science Index, whose initials are the same of the prestigious ISI (Institute of Information Science), Web of Science, which is the world’s largest base of this kind.

    Another irregularity of WASET in QUALIS is that it is erroneously listed as journal title. To complicate matters, the publisher has ten magazines, but the CAPES record makes a mess with four ISSN codes. Two of these records are in Turkey but are invalid, and the other two, Singapore, were canceled, according to the ISSN International Center in Paris, France.

    ANSWER

    The WASET did not respond to questions sent by the journalist. In a statement, CAPES was evasive about irregularities in the inclusion of WASET and its ISSN records in QUALIS and the stay of this publisher in this selection. Despite this omission, the federal agency claimed that “in cases where there are evidences and references of incorrect or inappropriate editorial practices towards the scientific community, the journals are removed from QUALIS”.

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