Editors quit after fake paper flap

From the-scientist.com blog:

Posted by Bob Grant

The editor-in-chief of an open access journal has stepped down from his post after learning that the journal accepted a fake, computer-generated article for publication. So has an editorial advisory board member of a second journal published by the same company, Bentham Science Publishers.

Bambang Parmanto, a University of Pittsburgh information scientist, resigned from his editorship at The Open Information Science Journal (TOISCIJ) after reading a story on The Scientist’s website yesterday (June 10) that described a hoax paper submission to the journal. Editors at journal claimed to have peer reviewed the article and slated it for publication pending the submission of $800 in “open access fees.”

“I didn’t like what happened,” Parmanto told The Scientist. “If this is true, I don’t have full control of the content that is accepted to this journal.” Parmanto said that he had never seen the phony manuscript that was accepted by TOISCIJ. “I want to lessen my exposure to the risk of being taken advantage of.”

Parmanto, who became editor-in-chief of TOISCIJ when Bentham launched the journal last year, said that he had reviewed manuscripts for inclusion in the journal previously, but that he made up his mind to resign from his volunteer position “because of the potential for abuse,” of the kind uncovered by the hoax.

Parmanto did add, however, that the perpetrators of the hoax — Cornell grad student Philip Davis and Kent Anderson, executive director of international business and product development at the New England Journal of Medicine — were also guilty of some degree of unethical behavior. “This is a process based on trust,” he said. “An author should submit something legitimate, and the process on the review side should decide if a paper is worth publishing or not. In this case, the process was broken on both sides.”

Parmanto isn’t the only one to react to the news of Bentham’s ignominy by terminating his association with the publisher. Marc Williams, an immunologist and stem cell researcher at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry who served on the editorial advisory board of The Open Stem Cell Journal (OSCJ), another Bentham publication, resigned as well. After reading the story of Davis and Kent’s “little experiment” yesterday, Williams “immediately requested my name to be removed from the journal’s editorial board.”

“What upset me was the fact that this happened at all, in any of [Bentham’s] journals,” Williams told The Scientist. “It really informs us that it may be a company policy that this is permitted in general.”

Williams, who had served on the OSCJ editorial advisory board since the journal’s inception last year, said that in his 15 or 16 months on the job he has not reviewed a single manuscript submitted for publication, though the journal has only published one volume containing five articles since its inception.

Both Parmanto and Williams said that they support the idea of open access journals. “The open access system is definitely the way forward,” said Williams. “At face value, it is an extremely valuable way of making scientific data widely available.”

But Parmanto, though he said that he “believes in the open access system,” noted that the business model of charging authors fees to publish in OA journals might become problematic. “I see that [Bentham would] have the incentive to maintain the credibility of the journal, but I also see the potential for abuse.”

Parmanto said that upon reading the story about Davis and Andrew’s hoax on our website yesterday, he contacted the publisher of TOISCIJ to ask what was going on. Parmanto said that he was told that “someone on the editorial board reviewed” the fake paper. I contacted Parmanto yesterday in reporting the original story, but the researcher told me today that he wanted to hear from TOISCIJ’s publisher before getting back to me.

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