Meet Samy McFarlane, distinguished professor of medicine and associate dean at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in New York, and also editor-in-chief of predatory journals where he eagerly publishes himself, in fact almost exclusively there. The journals are not listed in PubMed, exactly because they are predatory, their publishers being anything but trustworthy.
The bizarre thing is that McFarlane’s (and his wife’s!) own papers in those predatory journals, mostly in the American Journal of Medical Case Reports, are all nicely listed on PubMed, which he achieves using a loophole available to NIH-funded researchers. Only that McFarlane is not really funded by NIH, the professor uses some faculty colleague’s grant destined for anti-racism training and minorities recruitment! And there is nothing PubMed can or is willing to do about the abuse of the system.
I bet the predatory grifters among scientists outside of USA feel stupid now, because their papers will never be whitelisted by PubMed.
McFarlane is Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Medical Case Reports, most of his own papers appear there; his co-authors are, as I understand, medical students and residents at his SUNY Downstate. The journal is published by a predatory outlet named SciEP.
SciEP was listed by the US librarian Jeffrey Beall as a predatory publisher already in 2012. Beall’s List and his blog have been since completely deleted in 2017 because certain questionable publishers in Switzerland (namely Frontiers) deployed lawyers, and even achieved to have Beall fired. But some kind souls preserved Beall’s copies of blog, so here is the 2012 entry about SciEp:
“A brand-new open-access publisher has just appeared: Science and Education Publishing (SciEP). The publisher is launching with 85 new journals […] This practice of starting a publisher with an excessive number of journals is called a “fleet startup.”
It is not clear where exactly SciEP is really operated from, Smut Clyde suspects Hyderabad in India. The official address in “10 Cheswold Blvd., #1D, Newark, De, 19713, United States” is obviously fake, no less than 250 companies are registered in this one single apartment in a two-story residential building. The American Journal of Medical Case Reports was in 2012 not yet among the initial 85 journals, it was set up a year later by the SciEP owner, whoever that Indian gentleman is. All he needed was an interested academic: SciEP even offers a handy button “Launch a New Journal” for this purpose. The founding “editor” was probably not McFarlane, the New York professor seems to have arrived to the journal somewhere in 2018, his papers started to appear there beginning from Volume 6, Issue 12, 2018.
The Article Processing Charges (APC) for McFarlane’s predatory journal used to be $600, but since his customers are himself, his wife, and otherwise mostly people from low-income countries, the fee was dropped in 2021 to $150.
Although most of McFarlane’s papers appeared in that predatory SciEP journal he is Editor-in-Chief of, as a respectable scientist McFarlane of course also occasionally publishes his scientific studies elsewhere. Specifically, in
- International Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, issued by a predatory publisher PeerTechZ from Hyderabad (Beall-listed of course), the Editor-in-Chief is Samy I. McFarlane
- International Journal of Clinical Research and Trials, issued by Graphy Publications from Bangalore, India, (Beall-listed of course), Editor-in-Chief is Samy I. McFarlane
In 2020 and in 2021 so far, McFarlane published over 50 PubMed-listed papers. Almost every single one appeared in one of these three journals (with Am J Med Case Rep leading by far), except an occasional collaboration. In 2019-2017 it was not better. For that three year period, McFarlane lists over 70 papers on PubMed, excluding again some rare collaborations I spotted 3 papers in Hindawi journals, one at Karger, the rest with various predatory journals, especially Am J Med Case Rep and the other two listed above. Several PubMed-listed papers like Shaikh et al Scifed J Cardiol 2019 appeared at scifedpublishers.com, whatever that predatory claptrap was, it ceased to exist. Same fate seems to have hit papers like Jehan et al Sleep Med Disord. 2018, published by another unreachable predatory malfunction at jscimedcentral.com. For all we know, McFarlane may have acted as editor there as well, but we can’t check anymore. In his 2021-2017 publications, I also spotted occasional papers at the OMICS-offspring Longdom, Beall-listed Gavin Publishers, Juniper Publishers and Baishideng, plus another PeertechZ journal-shaped entity.
As indicated above, another regular contributor to the American Journal of Medical Case Reports is the SUNY Downstate rheumatologist Isabel McFarlane, who is indeed the wife of Samy. Almost all of her ~60 PubMed-listed papers with Mrs McFarlane as last author appeared in that journal, the rare exception was her husband’s other journal, International Journal of Clinical Research and Trials, or that defunct Scifed J Cardiol. Oh look, there is something in Beall-listed Crimson Publishers:
What an academic career this couple achieved.
As for our main protagonist, one can say that nearly everything Mr McFarlane published in the last 3 and a half years appeared in predatory journals, of which in almost all cases he is the Editor-in-Chief. We are talking about over 120 papers, all PubMed listed.
How so? US scientists who receive funding from the national biomedical funding agency National Institutes of Health (NIH) are expected to upload their published manuscripts to the website of NIH’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), commonly known as PubMed. It is the website where all biomedical researchers all over the world search for peer reviewed literature, find papers to cite in their own studies, and where they all want their own papers to be listed. While papers with whitelisted publishers and meanwhile even biorxiv preprints appear on PubMed automatically, predatory journals are not admitted and hence never arrive there.
That is, except for papers by scientists like McFarlane and his wife, who simply upload their manuscripts to PubMed, and voila, the publication in a predatory journal is suddenly legalised with a PubMed ID (PMID) and can be used to obtain a promotion or the next NIH grant. Only that you usually need an NIH grant to start with, otherwise you are not qualified to upload your predatory garbage to PubMed.
In theory, that is. Practice is different.
“He is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar who served as a member at the National Institute of Health-NIDDK committee (3x 4- year terms) and as a chair of the NIH-NIDDK U01 review committee (thrice). He has received multiple recognitions including Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and he also served as District President for the American College of Physicians. He is also a well-recognized mentor with some of his trainees serving in leadership positions at the NIH and other major institutions.”
McFarlane’s institional website at SUNY Downstate also sounds impressive and insists he receives grants from NIH:
“He is a prolific researcher and authored over 300 publications including several books in the areas of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. He uses research and publications as a way to promote the career of his students, residents and fellows. His funded research by the NIH, ADA and NKF as well as other major institutions was cited over 10,000 times.“
Maybe it was in the past? Same NIH references were made in 2016 when McFarlane was appointed a distinguished professor for his “significant contributions to the research literature“:
“His natural talent, love and dedication for student education is evident in all aspects of his career. He has published extensively and written several books […] Dr. McFarlane is a renowned clinical researcher and was appointed as a consultant to the National Institute of Health-National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH)-(NIDDK) and served as Chair for the NIH-NIDDK U01 review committee.”
Problem is, I couldn’t find Samy McFarlane among NIH grantees on the website Grantome. So I checked some of his papers, where scientists always acknowledge their grant funding, i.e., if they have any. I started with this most recent PubMed-listed publication, which of course appeared in McFarlane’s own predatory journal:
Julian C. Dunkley, Krunal H. Patel, Andrew V. Doodnauth, Pramod Theetha Kariyanna, Emmanuel Valery, Samy I. McFarlane Contrast-Induced Encephalopathy Post Cardiac Catheterization, A Rare Mimicry of Acute Stroke – Case Presentation and Review of the Literature American Journal of Medical Case Reports. (2021) DOI: 10.12691/ajmcr-9-5-8
The acknowledgment goes:
“This work is supported, in part, by the efforts of Dr. Moro O. Salifu MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, Professor and Chairman of Medicine through NIMHD Grant number S21MD012474.”
It’s all very nice, but Dr Moro Salifu is not a coauthor on that paper! I then randomly picked another McFarlane paper in same journal (Doudnath et al 2020), and it also acknowledges Salifu, who again is not a co-author!
A slightly older McFarlane paper, randomly picked from another one of his own predatory journals:
Angelina Zhyvotovska, Denis Yusupov, Haroon Kamran, Tarik Al-Bermani, Rishard Abdul, Samir Kumar, Nikita Mogar, Angeleque Hartt, Louis Salciccioli, and Samy I. McFarlane Meta-analysis Diastolic Dysfunction in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Case Controlled Studies, International Journal of Clinical Research & Trials (2019) doi: 10.15344/2456-8007/2019/137
“This work is supported, in part, by the efforts of Dr. Moro O. Salifu M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., M.A.C.P., Professor and Chairman of Medicine through NIH Grant number S21MD012474.”
OK, how about a paper by Samy’s wife, the highly productive SUNY researcher Isabel McFarlane?
Pramod Theetha Kariyanna, Naseem A. Hossain, Neema Jayachamarajapura Onkaramurthy, Apoorva Jayarangaiah, Nimrah A. Hossain, Amog Jayarangaiah, Isabel M. McFarlane Hypereosinophilia and Löffler’s Endocarditis: A Systematic Review American Journal of Medical Case Reports (2021) DOI: 10.12691/ajmcr-9-4-10
You knew it already.
“This work is supported in part by Dr. Moro O. Salifu’s efforts through NIH Grant # S21MD012474.”
Now the unsavoury bit comes. SUNY Dowstate is a traditionally Black university, that funding source S21MD012474 is not a research grant, but a training grant, for “Health Disparities Research Training“, basically to study racism in US healthcare, designed for “recruiting and training underrepresented minority“. This NIH training grant was awarded in 2018 to Salifu and two other people (Carlos Pato, former dean of the College of Medicine, and Wayne J Riley, SUNY Downstate’s President). It has exactly ZERO connection to what those hundreds of McFarlane’s predatory papers in all possible fields of medicine are about.
There is nothing for Salifu, who is or used to be “Chairman of the Department of Medicine at SUNY Downstate”, to gain from that scam, he can’t submit someone else’s papers in a report to NIH, since neither are they even distantly related to the grant’s topic nor is he not a co-author on them. But McFarlane can use that NIH grant number to upload his and his wife’s predatory garbage to PubMed and legalize it in this way. Which will not only impress his university but might even earn the McFarlane family another pay rise and a NIH grant of their own!
The university hasn’t replied to me. I can’t tell what is going on, if they know, or even if Salifu knows. He seems to be on the game, here he published a book with McFarlane with the very borderline publisher Bentham:
The logic seems to be that even if McFarlane personally may have exactly zero to do with Salifu’s grant, which purpose is do something about “the lack of minorities in science and medicine“, some of the student co-authors may have sat in a lecture on racism in healthcare, and apparently this suffices to help a dishonest white man and his dishonest white wife to fiddle their dishonest CVs. (Update 15.04.2021. A reader from SUNY Downstate protested that Samy and Isabel McFarlane are not white, but Egyptian and Latina, respectively)
White privilege works also at a Black college, as it seems.
Can someone do something? Nope. I received this statement from the National Library of Medicine (NLM):
“NIH-funded researchers are subject to the NIH Public Access Policy, which requires that research papers describing research funded by the NIH be available to the public free through PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months of publication. Consistent with NLM practice, each of the papers in PMC has a corresponding citation in PubMed.
NIH does not direct researchers’ choice of journals in which to publish their findings. Consequently, author manuscripts in PMC may be published in journals that have not been reviewed by NLM or are not part of the NLM collection.
All NIH-funded research is highly vetted and closely monitored during its progress. NIH has also taken steps to encourage authors to publish in reputable journals to protect the credibility of papers arising from its research investment. (See NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-011: NIH Statement on Article Publication Resulting from NIH Funded Research.)“
To translate: NLM not only are helpless or unwilling to do anything, they even seem to believe that what McFarlane and his wife are doing is “highly vetted” science. Because it has an NIH grant number. Somehow.
If you are interested to support my work, you can leave here a small tip of $5. Or several of small tips, just increase the amount as you like (2x=€10; 5x=€25). The APC rates at Dr McFarlane’s journals are low this year, I must hurry to submit some crap of my own!