– Academic Review Spam?

by Henry Farrell on August 9, 2011

The last month or two, I have started getting solicitations to review articles submitted to journals I’ve never heard of before, published by a crowd called (the most recent of their journals to solicit my professional and disinterested advice is the International Journal of English and Literature). The journals and articles have absolutely _nothing_ to do with my areas of research, and I get the very strong impression that I’ve been selected by some blunderbussing algorithm working from scraped email addresses of random academics. A quick Google search suggests that I’m not the “only person”: who is puzzled about all of this, and suspects that there’s something fishy. What I can’t work out though is, is what they’re trying to do by soliciting me and umpteen non-bcced academics in the same email to review their bollocks for them. Is it some sort of advertising? Means of confirming that the email address is live, if you’re stupid enough to respond and tell them that you know nothing about African literature? Something else entirely?

I presume there’s some underlying business model here – but can’t figure out quite what it is. If it’s the obvious one of getting people to submit crap research and pay to get it ‘published’ in journals that no-one has ever heard of, I can’t see why they would be soliciting people to review aforementioned crap research. Suggested plausible motivations are welcome below …



BruceJ 08.09.11 at 10:46 pm

There are a whole bunch of websites aggregated there and many of them are pushing malware. I discovered that while poking around for a prof in our college (I’m one of the IT folks). Be wary of responding to them.


Ted Lemon 08.09.11 at 11:24 pm

Don’t academic journals charge publication fees? Maybe they’re after that. Or maybe they’re trying to suck you into the fake conference scam, where they encourage you to submit papers for bogus conferences. If you go, you can expense it, and the hotel gets a bunch of money. The thing to remember is that it’s so cheap to spam you that they don’t have to skim very much money to make it worthwhile.


Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 11:25 pm

They want to appear legitimate. You sign up, then they advertise you as a reviewer to attract submissions. That would be my idea of the motivation.


Moby Hick 08.09.11 at 11:25 pm

If you do a review, do they offer you an honorarium and ask for your account info to transfer it to you? If not, someone should try that just so the kids learn you don’t get paid for reviewing journal articles.


Emma in Sydney 08.09.11 at 11:36 pm

Looking at the instructions for authors, it seems they charge authors $550 per article. That’s the scam. Reviewers are just doing the editing for them for free.
Pisses me off, as I run a real open access journal, in addition to my day job, which doesn’t charge authors, and I ask people to review for it, as we are trying to build it into a respected journal in our (small, antipodean) field. So these scammers are discrediting real efforts to make scholarship more accessible. Pigdogs.


Red 08.09.11 at 11:59 pm

I second Emma’s call and would go a little further: we should take action here. Open source publication is an extremely valuable resource for the sciences and humanities of the future, and these guys are a real danger. Any ideas?


Jim D 08.10.11 at 12:40 am

I just went to their website, clicked on the contact us, and got their snail mail address. It is Lagos Nigeria. As anyone who follows internet scamming will likely tell you Nigeria is a haven for people who take your money & give you Bovine processed grass. There is no telling what these guys are up to. They just might be legit, might not. The thing is, if they’re not legit and you get even the slightest bit evolved the best you can hope for is that no one will know you had anything to do with them. If your academic reputation means something to you, I’d just stay away.


rea 08.10.11 at 12:41 am

Means of confirming that the email address is live, if you’re stupid enough to respond and tell them that you know nothing about African literature?

This wouldn’t happen to be Nigerian literature, would it?


Ginger Yellow 08.10.11 at 12:48 am

English and literature? Now that’s a cross-disciplinary journal.


Emma in Sydney 08.10.11 at 12:55 am

These people seem to be scammers. But the problem with a kneejerk anti-Nigerian reaction is that there are lots of legit open access journals in Africa — the Public Knowledge Project is particularly proud of the amount of scholarship it has enabled to be published in Africa and Asia, where university resources are scarcer, and access to publication in first world journals is rare. Social scientists and historians out here on the edges of the empire have to build their own fields, because no one at the centre is interested in their work on their own societies (excepting the odd picturesque comparative piece). Open access journals are useful tools for doing this, especially as local publishers are swallowed by multinationals with multinational business plans.
Which is why I hate these scammers with the heat of 1000 suns.


Keith 08.10.11 at 3:21 am

I’ve gotten these as well, but for the Journal of Mechanical Engineering. I’m a systems and technical services librarian. think they need to fine tune their search criteria, which, oddly I could do but won’t because, well, Spammers can eat shit and die.


dr ngo 08.10.11 at 4:32 am

Jim D: If I got “even the slightest bit evolved” I probably wouldn’t be reading this. (Or writing this)


Greg 08.10.11 at 8:51 am

Isn’t bollocks a great word!


John Quiggin 08.10.11 at 9:41 am

I’ve had a lot of requests for articles, as well as students receiving offers to turn their PhD thesis into a book etc. As far as I can tell, the basic model is vanity publishing, but the requirement for payment is hidden pretty carefully, and more senior people are solicited for free labour to add to the appeal of the whole thing.


John Quiggin 08.10.11 at 9:42 am

Re spammers, what Keith said


Jonathan 08.10.11 at 2:22 pm

I’ve had a number of invitations to submit (with the fee of course) to this lot, who appear to be Romanian:


Russell Seitz 08.10.11 at 5:33 pm

There seems to be a similar outbreak on the physical science side of the fence.

Had your cranky paper turned down by Science, Nature , and B, C, and D-List journals, but still wary of the tar brush of DIY posting on ArXiv?

Send your scientific pseuds corner entry and 500 Swiss francs along to your choice of the Beijing or Belgrade PO boxes attached to the new generation of E-List electronic science journal publishing houses, which seem to typically consist of one tenured entrepreneur and a few indentured grad students , who have discovered the ease with which whole lists of vaporware journals can span technical disciplines.

Some specialize in publishing papers produced for resume padding , others in providing PR firms and astroturf operations with polemic ammunition. Whatever the authors metier, outsourcing peer review to bucket shops is bad news .


Gandalf 08.11.11 at 8:36 pm

Ginger Yellow

“English and literature? Now that’s a cross-disciplinary journal.”

And a foreign language journal too in Texas…

ba dum tish!


Moby Hick 08.12.11 at 2:26 pm

In my gmail spam filter, I found a call for papers to the British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research. Is this a real thing just starting or another self-publish scam? On the one hand, the unversity library links to it and they publish actual articles. On the other hand, it is part of something called “SCIENCEDOMAIN international” and they clearly wrote their own Wikipedia entry and their web page is very different from your typical journal.

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