Bad Science: A Prestigious Invitation?

Early in 2017, I got an email with the subject:

Invitation for the Post of Editorial Board Membership

In Academia, being on the editorial board for a journal is a Real Big Deal – second, of course, to being Editor-in-Chief or perhaps Co-Editor of a journal (more later, and in a later posting in the Bad Science series…). So, I opened the email…

Bentham Editorial Board Invitation

Bentham Editorial Board Invitation

The email started out by presenting itself, A publication from Bentham-Open and its accomplishments:

Dear Dr. Clausen,
The Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal is which publishes research articles, reviews, letters, and guest edited single topic issues in the interdisciplinary areas of Cybernetics, Systems Engineering, Systemics and Informatics, including human computer interactions.

The journal is in its tenth successful year of publication, and is indexed by Scopus, Scopus, EI/Compendex, Index Copernicus, MathSciNet, Zentralblatt MATH, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open J-Gate, J-Gate, Genamics JournalSeek and MediaFinder®-Standard Periodical Directory.

Alright, so the “Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal” has been around for a decade….but….but….why oh why are they inviting me to their editorial board? Well, the email goes on:

In view of your important contributions in the field, we would like to propose your name for the membership of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal.

Ahmm… my work is in digital communications, and data networking, and my training is in electrics and electronics. If I have made any “important contributions” in that field is a different discussion altogether … but I have made absolutely no contributions whatsoever in the field of “Cybernetics, Systems Engineering, Systemics and Informatics, including human computer interactions“, the topic of this very journal

While I might not be the least competent person to have on an editorial board of a scientific journal (I do have a scientific track record, after all), I certainly should not be a pick for a journal entirely outside my field, should I?

So, why-oh-why are they inviting m to join their editorial board? Reading on in the email, this becomes much, much clearer:

Your role as an Editorial Advisory Board Member will be to:

  1. Submit or solicit from your colleagues at least one paid article for the journal in 2017 and at least one article annually thereafter.
  2. Contribute and/or solicit Guest Edited thematic issues to the journal in a hot area (at least one thematic issue in the next two years).
  3. Peer-review submitted articles for the journal, which are in your area of expertise (2 to 3 times per year).

Wait, did I read that highlighted part right? A condition for being on the “Editorial Board” of this journal is that I either:

    • pay an annual fee to publish a paper or;
    • con a colleague to pay a fee to do so in my place

???? !!!! ???

In no way is that an “Editorial Board of a Scientific Journal” … it sounds a whole lot more akin to a diploma-mill, or at least a “Credit Mill” for  generating CV fodder:

Pay Bantham-Open, and you get a fancy-sounding line to add to your CV, no experience or credentials required.

Bentham Open Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal Editors

Bentham Open Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal Editors

Or, perhaps, due to the “con a colleague to pay up in my place”, is that a form pyramid scheme?

Digging just a little deeper, I went to look at the WWW page of the journal, notably to see which esteemed scientists were already on the Editorial Board:

The first thing that jumped out at me was that among the three the Co-Editors, this gentleman was listed:

Dimitri Lefebvre GREAH
Université Le Havre
LE HAVRE Cedex
France

In France, it’s quite common to write a persons surname in capitals, and given names in normal capitalization. As it happens, there is a Dimitri Lefebvre who is a respected professor at the University of Le Havre. His LinkedIn profile does not mention this “Co-editor” position. Curious …

But wait, there’s more: GREAH is not Dimitri’s last name — but is is the name of a research group at that university, called “Groupe de Recherche en Electrotechnique et Automatique du Havre”,  which counts about 20 or so researchers and faculty members. It would seem that Bentham-Open has not bothered to properly identify the names and affiliations of their Editors and co-Editors.

Combined, this makes me suspect that this is an instance of Bentham Open simply listing people as its “Editors”, “Co-Editors” or “Editorial Board Members” without their necessarily having contacted the people in advance, or without the “Editors” and “Co-Editors” being involved in the editorial process.

This journal, and Bentham Open is, btw., listed as a shady publisher on several websites, and this for many years:

So, back to why-oh-why did Bentham-Open reach out to me to join their sales-force, I mean, buy a fancy-sounding line for my CV, ehh, no, join their editorial board? Certainly not because of my “important contributions in the field”, which makes me an uniquely qualified individual to serve — indeed, according to Wikipedia:

Bentham Open journals claim to employ peer review;[4] however, the fact that a fake paper generated with SCIgen had been accepted for publication, has cast doubt on this.[5][6][7] Furthermore, the publisher is known for spamming scientists with invitations to become a member of the editorial boards of its journals

Oh well …

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