Meanwhile you might want to listen to “Wrong” (Depeche Mode)
Yesterday I screened my spam-folder. Between all male enhancement and lottery winner announcements, and phishing mails for my bank account, there was an invitation to peer review a paper in “SCIENCE JOURNAL OF PATHOLOGY”.
Such an invitation doesn’t belong in the spam folder, doesn’t it? Thus I had a closer look and quickly screened the letter.
I don’t know what alarmed me first. The odd hard returns, the journal using a Gmail address, an invitation for a topic (autism) I knew nothing about, an abstract that didn’t make sense and has nothing to do with Pathology, the odd style of the letter: the informal, but impersonal introduction (How are you? I am sure you are busy with many activities right now) combined with a turgid style (the paper addresses issues of value to our broad-based audience, and that it cuts through the thick layers of theory and verbosity for them and makes sense of it all in a clean, cohesive manner) and some misspellings. And then I never had an invitation from an editor, starting with the impersonal “Colleagues”…
But still it was odd. Why would someone take the trouble of writing such an invitation letter? For what purpose? And apparently the person did know that I was a scientist, who does -or is able to- peer review medical scientific papers. Since the mail was send to my Laika Gmail account, the most likely source for my contact info must have been my pseudonymous blog. I seldom use this mail account for scientific purposes.
What triggered my caution flag the most, was the topic: autism. I immediately linked this to the anti-vaccination quackery movement, that’s trying to give skeptic bloggers a hard time and fights a personal, not a scientific battle. I also linked it to #epigate, that was exposed at Liz Ditz I Speak of Dreams, a blog with autism as a niche topic.
#Epigate is the story of René Najeraby aka @EpiRen, a popular epidemiologist blogger who was asked to stop engaging in social media by his employers, after a series of complaints by a Mr X, who also threatened other pseudonymous commenters/bloggers criticizing his actions. According to Mr. X no one will be safe, because “all i have to do is file a john doe – or hire a cyber investigator. these courses of action cost less than $10,000 each; which means every person who is afraid of the light can be exposed” In another comment at Liz Ditz’ he actually says he will go after a specific individual: “Anarchic Teapot”.
Ok, I admit that the two issues might be totally coincidental, and they probably are, but I’m hypersensitive for people trying to silence me via my employers (because that did happen to me in the past). Anyway,asking a pseudonymous blogger to peer-review might be a way to hack the real identity of such a blogger. Perhaps far-fetched, I know.
But what would the “editor” do if I replied and said “yes”?
I became curious. Does The Science Journal of Pathology even exist?
Not in PubMed!!
But the Journal “Science Journal of Pathology” does exist on the Internet…. and John Morrison is the editor. But he is the only one. As a matter of fact he is the entire staff…. There are “search”, “current” and “archives” tabs, but the latter two are EMPTY.
So I would have the dubious honor of reviewing the first paper for this journal?…. 😉
- (First assumption – David) – High school kids are looking for someone to peer review (and thus improve) their essays to get better grades.
(me: school kids could also be replaced by “non-successful or starting scientists”)
- (Second assumption – David) Perhaps they are only looking to fill out their sucker lists. If you’ve done a bad review, they may blackmail you in other to keep it quiet.
- (me) – The journal site might be a cover up for anything (still no clue what).
- (me) – The site might get a touch of credibility if the (upcoming) articles are stamped with : “peer-reviewed by…”
- (David & me) the scammers target PhD’s or people who the “editors” think have little experience in peer reviewing and/or consider it a honor to do so.
- (David & me) It is phishing scam.You have to register on the journal’s website in order to be able to review or submit. So they get your credentials. My intuition was that they might just try to track down the real name, address and department of a pseudonymous blogger, but I think that David’s assumption is more plausible. David thinks that a couple of people in Nigeria is just after your password for your mail, amazon, PayPal etc for “the vast majority of people uses the same password for all logins, which is terribly bad practice, but they don’t want to forget it.”
With David, I would like to warn you for this “very interesting phishing scheme”, which aims at academics and especially PhD’s. We have no clue as to their real intentions, but it looks scammy.
Besides that the scam may affect you personally, such non-existing and/or low quality open access journals do a bad service to the existing, high quality open access journals.
There should be ways to remove such scam websites from the net.
- the scamvictimsunited forum (also from July 1th), this links to a website for scam victims: http://scamvictimsunited.wordpress.com/
- A peer review phishing scam (blog.pita.si : 2011/07/01)
- Peer review at medical journals, from a former JAMA editor (kevinmd.com)
- Questionable Peer Reviews (dcrblogs.com)
- Peer-review ‘needs improvements’ (bbc.co.uk)
- To Retract or Not to Retract… That’s the Question (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
- EpiGate: when blogging under one’s own name can be used against you (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)
- The consequences of blogging under one’s own name (scienceblogs.com)