Academic Publishing Guest post

Wiley: Committed to integrity? Get out!

"We have initiated post-acceptance peer review with independent reviewers... " - Wiley.

Alexander Magazinov is a sleuth of bad science who specialises on garbage mathematics as well as plagiarism and citation-scams in “peer reviewed” maths, physics, nanotechnology and engineering papers. He uncovers entire cartels of fraud which members not only supply each other with citations and authorships, they even use the backdoor wide-open gates of Special Issues to infiltrate and hijack journals of allegedly respectable scholarly publishers like Elsevier or Springer Nature. Wiley now even found an ingenious way to handle such fraudster papers: a) get rid of trouble-making editorial assistants and b) whitewash the fraud retrospectively.

Readers may recall Magazinov’s work on “tortured phrases” – clues for plagiarism which arise when fraudsters run a stolen text through a thesaurus-based app. Tortured phrases not only prove plagiarism, but also an utter absence of editorial oversight or peer review.

Guillaume Cabanac, Cyril Labbé, Alexander Magazinov Tortured phrases: A dubious writing style emerging in science. Evidence of critical issues affecting established journals arXiv (2021) doi: 10.48550/arXiv.2107.06751

Now Magazinov wants to tell you of his experience with Wiley.


Wiley: Committed to integrity? Get out!

By Alexander Magazinov

The story to be told here has a very deep background. There will be action, but before that, we absolutely need to get familiar with the characters.

Mohamed El Naschie

Let’s start from an exposition by RationalWiki.

Mohamed El Naschie (1943–) is an Egyptian mathematician, physicist, engineer and crank. He served as editor-in-chief of the pseudojournal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals and has held positions at a number of universities in Europe and Egypt. As editor he published hundreds of his own papers about his unorthodox physical theories, and achieved some measure of notoriety when he sued Nature for libel over an article pointing this out. […]

In a typical work, El Naschie observes, among other things, that: “The tying of a knot in the rope shortens the end to end length. This reduction can be used to measure the so called open thickness energy of knots. There is an incredible correlation between this energy and particle physics.” […]

Following online backlash against El Naschie’s journal, Nature carried an article summarizing the charges against CSF and was subsequently sued for libel by El Naschie. After a trial that featured two law firms dropping the case and El Naschie eventually appearing without a lawyer, Nature’s publisher emerged victorious. The decision generally confirmed what veteran El Naschie-watchers* already knew about his editorial habits. As usual, choice tidbits from the decision may be found at El Naschie Watch*.

Proponents of libel reform pointed to the case as evidence that laws in the UK are in need of reform: what should have been a fairly cut-and-dried case dragged on for four years and forced the publisher to spend a large amount of money on their legal defense. If the claimant had a stronger case, or the defendants had not had upwards of a million pounds to drop on legal expenses, the case might have gone the other way.”

* Sadly, the El Naschie Watch has gone offline since then. Some of its content, though, can be recovered by the Wayback Machine.

Source: “New promises and future challenges of fractal calculus: From two-scale thermodynamics to fractal variational principle”

A few takeaway points of that exposition. First, it is important that El Naschie is rich. Which is why he could launch a journal, then go through deals with Pergamon and Elsevier keeping his Editor-in-Chief position. It seems, at no point the quality of content (if the word “content” is appropriate for a hand-waving bullshit) was a factor in any of the deals. Second, for the rich frivolous lawsuits are the ultimate weapon, and a way to harass opponents in battles of money, where common sense or justice play secondary roles.

Ji-Huan He

“See how big my citation index is!” Source: J.-H. He’s Researchgate.

We are not finished with the slanderous RationalWiki article about El Naschie!

El Naschie has nonetheless attracted some followers of his own, who string together many of the same buzzwords. Ji-Huan He, a professor at Donghua University who has repeatedly cited El Naschie’s work, wrote that “Men of genius like Einstein and Elnaschie [sic] very often ask some straightforward and seemingly innocent questions, which may turn out to have undreamed of answers.”

Source: He & Ain (2020), “New promises and future challenges of fractal calculus: From two-scale thermodynamics to fractal variational principle”

In his praise to El Naschie, Ji-Huan He never forgot his own career goals, in which, unsurprisingly, editorial positions were the key. Citation exchange of his own International Journal of Nonlinear Sciences and Numerical Simulation with El Naschie’s Chaos, Solitons & Fractals and various special issues (yes, special issues have already been a thing in the decade of 2000s!) was intensive enough to prompt Doug Arnold, then-president of SIAM, to call J.-H. He out:

In 2008, the year we shall consider in most detail, IJNSNS had an impact factor of 8.91, easily the highest among the 175 journals in the applied math category in ISI’s Journal Citation Reports (JCR). As controls, we will also look at the two journals in the category with the second and third highest impact factors, Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics (CPAM), and SIAM Review (SIREV), with 2008 impact factors of 3.69 and 2.80, respectively.[…]

A first step to understanding IJNSNS’s high impact factor is to look at how many authors contributed substantially to the counted citations, and who they were. The top-citing author to IJNSNS in 2008 was the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Ji-Huan He, who cited the journal (within the two-year window) 243 times. The second top-citer, D. D. Ganji, with 114 cites, is also a member of the editorial board, as is the third, regional editor Mohamed El Naschie, with 58 cites.[…]

[I]t was Journal of Physics: Conference Series, which provided the greatest number of IJNSNS citations. A single issue of that journal provided 294 citations to IJNSNS in the impact-factor window, accounting for more than 20% of its impact factor. What was this issue? It was the proceedings of a conference organized by IJNSNS Editor-in-Chief He at his home university. […] The second top-citing journal for IJNSNS was Topological Methods in Nonlinear Analysis, which contributed 206 citations (14%), again with all citations coming from a single issue. This was a special issue with Ji-Huan He as the guest editor […] [the] third place is held by the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, with 154 citations spread over numerous issues. These are again citations which may be viewed as subject to editorial influence or control. In 2008 Ji-Huan He served on the editorial board of CS&F, and its Editor-in-Chief was Mohamed El Naschie, who was also a co-editor of IJNSNS.

(Douglas N. Arnold and Kristine K. Fowler, “Nefarious Numbers” 2011, also arXiv version)

That has not done much damage to He’s career.

Further insight into J.-H. He’s operational mode will come from looking at his practice of excessive self-citation. Like 15 self-references out of total 31 in this 2013 De Gruyter paper or 14 self-references out of total 16 in this 2020 Elsevier paper.

Speaking of scientific content of J.-H. He’s work, his activity is apparently distributed between mathematics and experimental chemistry. Leaving chemistry aside, we learn that in mathematics J.-H. He is the inventor of Homotopy Perturbation Method, Variational Iteration Method, He’s Frequency Formulation and other similar stuff. The value of these “methods”? Dubious. As this (archived) Spanish-language blog says, comparing Ji-Huan He to his most vocal critic, Francisco M. Fernández:

What has J.-H. He done for science? He invented He’s method and variants of it.

Let’s be honest. What has J.-H. He done for science? Nothing. Nothing to nothing. Filling prestigious international journals with “garbage” articles. Why do international journal editors allow it? Nobody knows. He is the senior editor of one journal and is on the editorial board of many others. How is it possible? Nobody wants to know. No one wants to look at their own butt…[…]

What has F. M. Fernández done for science? A lot. He is a specialist in asymptotic and perturbation analysis with an emphasis on eigenvalue estimation. His works are of quality and are published in prestigious journals.

What do Fernández and He have to do with each other? Apparently nothing. Apparently a lot. Fernández has embarked on a personal crusade, alone, with all the editors of international magazines against him, a crusade to unmask the “bad arts” of He. The “genius” J.-H. He has rediscovered what has already been known more than 100 years ago (which I personally studied in a couple of Nayfeh’s books almost 20 years ago). He has not even mastered the technique that he has rediscovered. (It seems as if he is ignorant of 150 years of Applied Mathematics or is he on purpose?) Hey, no one knows how it’s possible, you plague your articles with incorrect mathematical expressions (typos?), “casual” errors, gross mathematical errors, and nothing happens… Reviewers don’t “see” such mistakes “blinded” by the “brightness” of He’s “genius.”

(francis.naukas.com)

Up to you it is, dear reader, to decide if Fernández is a slanderous Argentinian nobody, or if he has a valid point.

Once, as early as 2003, criticisms of He were successful in pushing him to publish an erratum. Otherwise, rest assured that Ji-Huan He is immune, guarded by his high number of citations. His 55th birthday will be pompously celebrated by the academia, by a special issue in an MDPI journal, of course!

Ali Jawad Chamkha

As his Twitter profile says, “Distinguished Professor and Dean of Engineering. Expert in University Ranking Systems.”

Twitter: @achamkha

The institution where he holds deanship is Kuwait College of Science and Technology, which might be his main affiliation. However, his works from 2020 or later suggest at least three secondary affiliations, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University in Saudi Arabia, and Duy Tan and Ton Duc Thang universities in Vietnam.

His “expertise in university rankings” surely helped the two latter affiliations to skyrocket their ratings and publication counts. Dimensions won’t lie: search for Duy Tan, or for Ton Duc Thang, then look at the numbers by year.

Although, rumours have it that a scandal broke out in Vietnam sometime in the fall 2021, revealing a simple pay-for-publication scheme adopted by the two universities. In other words, money was paid just for signing a paper with Vietnamese affiliation, no actual connection to Vietnam, let alone spending time in these universities was required.

Yet, Tim Chen might have actually taught something in TDTU. Just like in the deals with Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, scientific content was neither the primary, nor the secondary concern in the DTU / TDTU dealings; for example why not pay Shahaboddin Shamshirband, one of the most retracted researchers ever, for over a hundred of his “research pieces”? Full credit for the last reference goes to Van Tu Duong, who, to the best of my understanding, was one of the most vocal persons about these dirty games in Vietnamese universities.

And here are some titles of Chamkha’s papers – the first ones found by Google Scholar:

Google Scholar

In short, he simulates the behavior of a liquid (in overwhelmingly most cases, with nanoparticles, because it’s cool and trendy!) either in some container, or pumped through a pipe, subject to what-have-you: stirring, shaking, heating, magnetic field, or all of these simultaneously. To muddle things even more, one can add membranes, fins, holes, curvy walls, in different proportions and arrangements. Nevertheless, whichever of the infinite possible inputs you choose, the output is always a highly-cited paper, don’t ask why.

“Radiative nanofluid flow and heat transfer between parallel disks with penetrable and stretchable walls considering Cattaneo-Christov heat flux model” – sounds… like a paper of widest interest and citability!

Chamkha’s current PubPeer record is modest, standing at three items. However, the presence of tortured phrases and transactional citations in his work does not inspire much confidence.

Young stars of Iranian magnetohydrodynamics

Masoud Afrand, Davood Toghraie, Mohammad Hemmat Esfe and Arash Karimipour.

These are the four most productive, but nomen illis legio: Seyfolah Saedodin, Rasool Kalbasi, Sara Rostami, Mohammad Akbari…

The main story about them is plain and simple: they appeared out of nowhere around 2015 and began churning out nanofluid-themed papers. Two notable templates are recurrent in their output:

  • Let’s mix our favourite liquid (water, ethylene glycol, machine oil, …) and our favourite nanoparticle (Al2O3, TiO2, Ag, Cu, Fe3O4, MWCNT, …) and measure our favourite physical characteristic (thermal conductivity, viscosity, …) over a grid of concentrations and temperatures. The choice of what you mix and what you measure is broad enough to leave a lifetime supply of publishable papers for all participants of this orgy.
  • Let’s take a paper of a previous type and train a machine learning model upon its data. Yes, training an neural network on two features – temperature and concentration – and a few dozen data points is somewhat funny for us, but it is a REAL THING in the world of MHD! It doubles the number of your possible papers even if you stick only to ANNs as the method of machine learning. But in an unlikely case when you are running short on “experimental data,” you may reuse what is already at your disposal more wisely through training regressions, interpolations, etc., etc. in addition to the usual ANNs!

Data reporting is not a particularly strong side of those papers, as PubPeer comments to one of them suggest.

  • The article also claims that 42 data points were used for either of test/validation/training. However, Fig. 1 reports only 36 data points.
  • And then there is a paper […] from [a] somewhat closely related group of authors. Despite somewhat similar setup (water + 1:1 CuO / MWCNT) it reports much lower conductivity values. Why [does the proposed model fit] the results of that paper so poorly?
  • And then there is a paper also from a somewhat related group of authors. It compares SVR to [the same ANN as in this paper]. And – surprisingly! – the comparison is very unfavorable to ANN. Why wasn’t this issue addressed at all?

But overall, this horde is boring. Really boring to tell anything systematic about them. So let’s tell a few anecdotes instead.

Harandi, Karimipour, Afrand, Akbari, and D’Orazio (2016), An experimental study on thermal conductivity of F-MWCNTs–Fe3O4/EG hybrid nanofluid: Effects of temperature and concentration.
International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer.
  • The most productive of all them, Davood Toghraie, now stands at almost 450 publications. Perhaps, it’s his communicative skills and teacher’s talent that allow him engage in so many collaborative projects. Even Russian lawyers and dentists make discoveries in fluid mechanics when Toghraie leads the team. One example: Zhao et al Scientific Reports 2021.
  • Although, it might be so easy to make discoveries in magnetohydrodynamics that even an Italian film-maker of Iranian origin, Ali Golmohammadzadeh, is capable of that! (Archived profile at Sapienza University of Rome).
  • There is another Arash Karimipour, based in the US, who recently suffered a wave of retractions. There is no traceable link between the Karimipour from the US and the Karimipour from Iran / Vietnam. But who knows, maybe there is a deeper story behind, similar to the cloned personality of the Chens.
  • Masoud Afrand is now an editor of Scientific Reports. Because why not?

Other important actors

This list is arbitrary and non-exhaustive, but why not mention more great men of science?

Davood Domiri Ganji, from Babol Noshirvani University in Iran. The reader has already seen this name in the Ji-Huan He part, flagged by Doug Arnold as a co-contributor to the sky-high Impact Factor of International Journal of Nonlinear Sciences and Numerical Simulation. Now he boasts a Google Scholar h-index of 112 and over 45k accumulated citations. Most plausibly, he is the link in the chain between Naschie/He and the magnetohydrodynamists.

Mohsen Sheikholeslami, from the same Babol Noshirvani University as Ganji. A top magnetohydrodynamist, with over 40k citations, a Google Scholar h-index of 125… And an unfortunate batch of retractions due to manipulated peer review, authorship games and plagiarism. Featured in an earlier post by Smut Clyde.

Dumitru Baleanu, a multi-affiliation (Romania / Turkey / Saudi Arabia / Taiwan) guru of fractional calculus, a topic which overwhelmingly dominates the output of today’s Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. Capable of producing over 400 papers per year, as in 2020. Prefers self-edited journals. However, these journals bear no risk of being declared “predatory,” as they are published by such “respectable entities” as Springer Nature, Elsevier, Wiley, Frontiers, MDPI.

“As one can check, Google Scholar lists Dumitru Baleanu’s authorship on no less than 381 papers and one book (preprints excluded) in 2020 only. For this field, that sounds impressive.

According to the same data, the journals that attracted 10 or more Baleanu’s publications are:

ADVANCES IN DIFFERENCE EQUATIONS(+) 65
SYMMETRY(+) 24
MATHEMATICAL METHODS IN THE APPLIED SCIENCES(+) 22
ALEXANDRIA ENGINEERING JOURNAL(+) 21
FRONTIERS IN PHYSICS 19
CHAOS SOLITONS AND FRACTALS 17
RESULTS IN PHYSICS 14
MATHEMATICS(+) 14
APPLIED NUMERICAL MATHEMATICS(+) 11

(+) Baleanu is a member of the Editorial Board.”

(PubPeer)

At some point, either due to Baleanu’s shenanigans or not, Springer decided that they’ve had enough of “Advances in Difference Equations.” So the journal underwent an “overhaul” and got resurrected as Advances in Continuous and Discrete Models.

Baleanu is not hesitant of collaboration with magnetohydrodynamics community, even if it results in “tortured phrases” or extra citations of zero relevance.

For whatever reasons, Retraction Watch likes stories about a lesser version of Baleanu, Abdon Atangana, a co-inventor of the “Atangana-Baleanu derivative.”

Evil slanderers say that the Atangana-Baleanu derivative is useless in most contexts where the abundant publications claim its use.

Timon Rabczuk, a professor of University Bauhaus-Weimar, with a Google Scholar h-index of 109. His recent obsession in collaboration with Chinese and Iranian researchers (and not with a single group or a few groups!) might look strange. Less strange, though, for someone who serves as an editor for the Iranian-published Journal of Applied and Computational Mechanics along with He, Chamkha, Sheikholeslami and others.

“A certain YM Chu,” Yu-Ming Chu from Huzhou, China. An author of 200+ papers in both 2020 and 2021 with citation numbers also skyrocketing. A mass-recipient of irrelevant bulk citations, much ahead of N Arunkumar and Mohamed Elhoseny, who have already been known in this genre for some time. A fan of integral inequalities, fractional derivatives, and AI in magnetohydrodynamics likewise.

Alibek Issakhov, a chair head at Al-Farabi University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Authored 144 works in 2021, of which 134 are classified by Dimensions as “articles” – that is one more than Didier Raoult! A slanderer Asterios Pantokratoras suggests that some may not make sense even mathematically.

Ahead of Didier Raoult! Via Dimensions

And now, to the story.

Back in 2020, I (i.e., A.M.) knew none of the above names, except El Naschie and He. I knew that there exists such an entity as COPE, and I had a belief that COPE’s rules are decent and that they work. At the same time, a colleague of mine had minor difficulties in discussion of his own matters with the editors of one journal. That journal had (and still deservedly has) a decent reputation in our community, and is a member of COPE. So I decided to show that citing rules, written either by COPE or by the journals themselves, makes conversations with journals and editors more constructive. Needless to say, I failed.

The rule that I decided to invoke, reads,

Editors should consider retracting a publication if:

– They have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of major error (e.g., miscalculation or experimental error), or as a result of fabrication (e.g., of data)or falsification (e.g., image manipulation);

[…]

– It has been published solely on the basis of a compromised or manipulated peer review process;

[…]

COPE

Where to look for such “publications”? El Naschie’s name was the first that came to mind – but by 2020 he was completely pushed into the zone of predatory publishing, with scirp being the most welcoming home to his new discoveries. But there is Ji-Huan He, who is as active as ever – and his operational mode didn’t change much! So let’s go after him! And I chose two of his papers.

The first paper, in the International Journal of Theoretical Physics.

Ji-Huan He A Tutorial Review on Fractal Spacetime and Fractional Calculus International Journal of Theoretical Physics (2014) doi: 10.1007/s10773-014-2123-8 

40 self-citations, 14 citations to El Naschie and praise to El Naschie’s “theories”. But that’s ok, said the Editor-in-Chief Heinrich Saller, and declared Ji-Huan is an expert in “El Naschie’s theory of fractal-Cantorian spacetime,” which gives him a carte blanche for any amount of self-citation he wants. That’s ok, agreed Springer’s integrity expert Tim Kersjes. COPE concurred, a link to their report is posted on PubPeer.

Since IJTP became a part of this story, it deserves some remarks. IJTP is one of not-too-many journals that published Alireza Sepehri’s works! Three articles by Sepehri found their place on the pages of IJTP:

I am not in position to judge the first two, from the corpus of Sepehri’s earlier works. The third one is somewhat different: Smut Clyde isn’t enthusiastic about the key “concept” – a “BIon” (in Sepehri’s sense) – in an earlier post here. Neither he is enthusiastic about the paper itself, as his PubPeer comment suggests.

Sperm teleportation between Massimo Fioranelli and Alireza Sepehri

“Even if we be under force and have to return to Galileo times, theories are going theirselves. […] Describing some subjects for them is similar to speaking of flying with airplane for people around 1000 years ago. I don’t wonder if they kill us for these theories as in Galileo times.” – Massimo Fioranelli, a looney

But there’s more about IJTP, look at this recent retraction:

Prakash, G., Darbandi, M., Gafar, N. et al. Retraction Note: A New Design of 2-Bit Universal Shift Register Using Rotated Majority Gate Based on Quantum-Dot Cellular Automata Technology. Int J Theor Phys 61, 142 (2022). doi: 10.1007/s10773-022-05141-7

“The Editor-in-Chief has retracted this article because it shows evidence of peer review manipulation. In addition, we have evidence to suggest that authorship for this article was offered for sale before the article was submitted to the journal.”

While not a papermill product if, anyway, it is indistinguishable from most of the other journal’s publications?

Was that retraction a trigger that turned most editors of IJTP (including a Nobelist Roger Penrose) into former editors? Was it something else? Are games still being played behind the curtain? We don’t know. Will IJTP continue with three active editors as now? Will there be an “overhaul”? Will Springer just ditch IJTP? We will see.

Now, turning to another paper by Ji-Huan He.

Ji‐Huan He, Xiao Jin A short review on analytical methods for the capillary oscillator in a nanoscale deformable tube Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences (2020) doi: 10.1002/mma.6321

Published by Wiley, it is a perfect embodiment of He’s style. Sloppy math. Typos. Broken language. Expecting good explanatory references placed one-by-one where appropriate? Bulk self-citations that explain nothing is what you only get! Just everything you expect to see in this genre, you see in this paper. A good candidate for swift retraction, it seems?

With that in mind, I reported it to Wiley’s ethics email. And then, since there was no response, I got COPE involved, too.

After a few months, the Journal Manager informed me that the “guest editor” Hamid M. Sedighi rejected my reporting, and that the Editor-in-Chief, Wolfgang Spoessig, agreed with Sedighi’s arguments.

Frankly, the decision was a surprise. But what surprised me even more, was the involvement of Sedighi. Naturally, when selecting my target, I reckoned a bit what else Ji-Huan He published in Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences. Alas, a He & Sedighi collaboration.

Chun‐Hui He , Ji‐Huan He, Hamid M. Sedighi Fangzhu (方诸): An ancient Chinese nanotechnology for water collection from air: History, mathematical insight, promises, and challenges Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences (2020) doi: 10.1002/mma.6384

It is hard to comment on this paper in a serious manner, but I tried on PubPeer. Less seriously, Sedighi, an Iranian from Ahvaz, contributing to Chinese folk-history ying-yang rant is… funny.

Even COPE agreed that my complaints would be better rejected by somebody less connected to Ji-Huan He, and ordered Wiley to sort out what they called a “perceived conflict of interest.”

Meanwhile, I identified the only then-open Special Issue edited by Sedighi:

Source: Wiley

Back then, those names said nothing to me. Anyway, I was curious enough to find out what other gems that “special issue” had to offer. Omitting the technical details, I found a way to compile an almost precise list of suspect papers. And something wasn’t quite right.

The number of papers. Over 60 and growing, like a spambox.

The quality. Besides He & Jin, and besides He, He & Sedighi that we’ve seen before, let’s look at another cluster.

  1. S. Liu et al. (2020);
  2. D. Wang et al. (2020);
  3. S. Hayat et al. (2020);
  4. M. Imran et al. (2020);
  5. N.A. Shah et al. (2020);
  6. H. Ahmad et al. (2020);
  7. Y.-J. Huang et al. (2020);
  8. W. Gao et al. (2020);

These all are devoted to the topic of “molecular connectivity,” or “topological invariants of chemical graphs,” under the narrative that some calculated quantities associated with the graphs would be helpful to predict physical, or even biochemical, properties of the respective compounds. Maybe, but not here. Here, (1), (5), (7) and (8) are school-level exercises in basic algebra solved with moderate-to-tremendous sloppiness. (3) and (6) are attempts at a somewhat higher-level problems (perhaps, they might fit well into a good math contest for schoolchildren) without realizing that the solutions were already known for a while. What makes things even funnier, is that in both cases the paper with the solution is in the reference list, but cited as a generic mumble, not for a specific reason. And I say only “attempts,” because the monster formulas presented as “results” wouldn’t really be usable even if they are correct, and no one will ever want to validate them. At the same time the earlier known formulas are reasonably clean and compact. At last, (2) and (4) are mathematically incorrect, plainly and simply.

Beyond that, there were more of Ji-Huan He citation vehicles. A lot of magnetohydrodynamic modelling. A few neural networks on two or three features and data sets consisting of a few dozen samples, to predict, for example, viscosity from only nanoparticle concentration and temperature. I am less an expert in all that, but the smell was strong.

Repetitive authors. I spotted the names of Arash Karimipour (8 papers at that point), Chamkha and Q. Nguyen (7 papers each), Ji-Huan He, N.H. Shah and Q.-V. Bach (at least 4 papers each). Beyond the Fangzhu paper, Sedighi had one more. Were these guys desperate to find other venues for their works? Or is it just a casual collusion ring? Anyway, that’s not a good sign.

Citations. 280+ citations to Chamkha – the guest editor? And 170+ to Ji-Huan He? And 130+ to Sedighi – another guest editor? Yes, yes and yes – let them enjoy the little gifts! 110+ to Masoud Afrand – a nobody back then? Without a problem! Anyway, what’s the deal if someone wants to become a superstar? 40+ citations to each of Ouakad and Barretta, the two “lesser” “guest editors”? Sure! And what about Rabczuk, though? Um… four. Abdelkefi? Two. Over 60+ papers. Somehow all their highly cited research becomes irrelevant. Don’t ask why.

Upon a look into Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences outside Sedighi’s special issue, there appeared to be a firm dominance by Dumitru Baleanu. Almost 20 papers per year in the journal where you are an editor.

Left: top authors of MMA in 2020. Right: Baleanu’s publications in MMA by year. (From Dimensions.)

All in all, it looked that Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences was in a need of a big clean-up. And I reported that to Wiley.

After some time, the journal manager announces an investigation:

Thank you again for allowing me extra time to respond. After further discussion and reassessment with the Integrity in Publishing (IPG) team and we have decided we will open an investigation into this matter. I have collected some first public information on author Ji-Huan He as well as investigated the review process more carefully and both give some cause for concern.”

And more:

We are already investigating Baleanu’s very high research output: besides the 38 papers in MMA, Baleanu’s Researchgate profile lists close to 1500 papers which is an unusual amount. To safeguard the integrity of our investigation I can not comment on this further at the moment. Within the editorial team we have agreed on a new policy that associate editors are not allowed to publish more than 3 papers per year to prevent these types of practices in the future.

That was followed by Sproessig’s letter saying he is now “unhappy with the SI”:

Dear Dr. Magazinov,
thank you very much for your activities. I also not very happy with this Special issue. I rejected many papers already by myself. But I think that we should further papers eliminate or check newly with new competent editors. We should try to reduce the number of papers following our new guidelines. I am seriously interested to produce a fair handled Special Issue. We have to speak on all that with Professor Sedighi the Leading Guest editor.
Kind regards
Wolfgang Sproessig

Even more promising, as the intermediate results arrived. The journal manager wrote:

Thank you for your patience while we have investigated the publication mma.6321 and all publications in the special issue by editor Sedighi of which earlier mentioned manuscript is part. I have rounded up the initial investigation of the in total 52 manuscripts and have found concerns with 47 of the manuscripts, including manuscript mma.6321.

But the next communication has brought about an unexpected turn:

“I am sad to still not be able to offer you a final outcome and solution for this investigation, but I do want to inform you that I will be leaving Wiley at the end of this week.”

Even more unusual that the LinkedIn profile of that person got decorated with an #opentowork hashtag. What could that mean?

The goodbye email also said,

“Wiley has chosen to not submit this case to the COPE forum but are now internally reviewing within the Integrity in Publishing team, after which a final decision will be made as to what happens to the articles in the special issue by editor Sedighi, including for article mma.6321. You will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.”

And more, there was a whole thread of emails between Wiley and COPE; one message by the same journal manager was especially interesting:

“I have checked this with our production team and indeed there are 94 manuscripts part of this special issue. I have continued the investigation to cover all manuscripts. Please find attached an overview of all 94 manuscripts. […]

The 94 manuscripts have been marked with the following colours: green, orange and red. Green stands for manuscripts that seem to have followed international peer review and submission guidelines and that could be published in the special issue. Orange marked manuscripts have one or several “small” issues that are no immediate reason for halting publication but where suspicion remains nonetheless; e.g. reviewers and authors that have violated guidelines with other publications of the special issue; only reviews from reviewers without an institutional email address; short and superficial reviews. Red marked manuscripts have not followed international publishing and peer review conduct practices like adding or removing authors during revision; empty reviews; copy & pasted reviews.”


On which COPE responds that they are ready to have a look, but only if someone wraps it into an official submission through a COPE council. But then, at the end of the thread, Elizabeth Moylan, a “publisher” at Wiley who declares strong commitment to research integrity, but opposes the concept of retraction, finally steps in and puts everything straight:

Wiley’s Integrity in Publishing group are also aware of this situation and are still working through the next steps. Given […] is on leave at the moment we will see if another member of the group with oversight of this case can provide a more detailed update for COPE, and for Alexander Magazinov.

With thanks and best wishes,
Elizabeth

Once again, slowly: before the departure from Wiley, the journal manager has been “on leave.” Although many explanations are possible, it is not so usual, and it stinks.

Nice! Back when Chris Graf was the head of Wiley’s integrity team, the investigation has at least been opened. It is hard to say what role Graf himself played in all this – I emailed him several times directly through the process, he never replied. However, it was the journal manager – a young and likely undersalaried person – who pushed the investigation through. Probably, learning everything on-the-fly – because why would a publisher educate the employees about scammers’ playbooks? Something has even been done to Baleanu, he does not consider MMA as his go-to venue anymore! But now Graf is at Springer, and the (former) journal manager is out.

Speaking of those who are out, there is also Matt Hodgkinson, once head of the integrity team at Hindawi (recently acquired by Wiley). One of his last actions in that capacity was ousting a certain Afshin Davarpanah from the editorial board of Geofluids. (Hey reader, on how many editorial boards have you served when you were a PhD student?) But my question about plans to do something with the papers already accepted by Davarpanah, was met with:

I am no longer working at Hindawi.

Matt Hodgkinson BA (Hons) Oxon, M.Sc. Cantab

Anyway, Hindawi isn’t in a good shape today: for example, how about this special issue edited by N Arunkumar?

After MMA‘s journal manager left, there was one hollow “hold on” email from Moylan, and then the following:

We began an investigation of all accepted papers intended for the special issue titled, “Recent Advances in Modelling of Nanotubes,” edited by a guest Editor and accepted for publication by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief. The investigation revealed that a substantial number of manuscripts in this special issue were not peer reviewed according to the journal´s standards. Specifically, substantial concerns were found for 30 manuscripts, partial concerns were found for 25 manuscripts, and no concerns were found for 39 manuscripts.

We have initiated post-acceptance peer review with independent reviewers for the first two groups. The guest Editor is not involved in this re-evaluation process. This peer review process is ongoing and will require some additional time to be completed. Following the post-acceptance peer review, manuscripts cleared of concerns will proceed to be published and remain unchanged. Depending on the results of the additional peer review process, appropriate amendments to the literature may be published for the remaining manuscripts.”  

There was also blah-blah about “new and better” guidelines about peer-review, self-citation and special issues. Which everyone at Wiley will ignore anyway, or squeeze out an explanation why such guidelines are not applicable or not enforceable.

A promise of re-review is already a scandal, though. There are articles hanging “online first” for over two years. At some point people who are less of a nobody than me might notice that and ask questions. But apparently Wiley is ready to take some risks and some embarrassment and to keep the status quo for a while.

A rule-based structure of three pigs

Smut Clyde came to check how the Elsevier journal Microprocessors & Microsystems so far handled its “problems caused by dishonest guest editors and reviewers”.

Basically, Wiley is currently looking to recruit some crooks to rubber-stamp the already published fraudulent trash by other crooks via a kind of “post-publication peer-review”. And then why not reward this new set of invited crooks with their own fraudulent trash accepted in the same Wiley journal, editorially handled and peer-reviewed by the old set of invited crooks? Or maybe the travelling circus will move on to another friendly journal, maybe Springer Nature’s Scientific Reports, to which this gang has expanded its business, thanks, inter alia, to Wiley’s inaction. The publishing industry makes a pile of money running what Smut Clyde would probably call “a circular wank”.

Copying the style of Smut Clyde, here is a spreadsheet. Wiley never revealed to me the full composition of the special issue, but some openly available data and some features of the papers allow for a reasonably good guess. My list contains 8 scholarly works by Arash Karimipour, also 8 by Chamkha, 6 by Ji-Huan He, 5 by Yu-Ming Chu. Toghraie and Issakhov are there, too, although with “only” single-paper contributions.

Also, here is my old presentation about yet another journal, Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry by Springer, operated by the same circle of Middle Eastern magnetohydrodynamics rogues.


3 comments on “Wiley: Committed to integrity? Get out!

  1. Smut Clyde

    ‘what Smut Clyde would probably call “a circular wank”’

    Such vulgar words would never occur to me. Some of them have only one syllable.

    Like

  2. Smut Clyde

    “Anyway, Hindawi isn’t in a good shape today”

    Please enjoy this pair of Hindawi papers, submitted almost simultaneously (by the same authors):
    – “Effects of Aspirin on Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Rats through STAT3 Signaling Pathway”(https://pubpeer.com/publications/9425162D7992D2CB8C37ED928601D1)
    – “Protective Mechanism of Trimetazidine in Myocardial Cells in Myocardial Infarction Rats through ERK Signaling Pathway” (https://pubpeer.com/publications/D5FD81167C1913FAC4F51D33BB61A6)

    The main difference between them is the replacement of ‘aspirin’ with ‘Trimetazidine’. The Western Blots have previously been published by one of the papermills that used European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences as a spigot.

    Like

  3. Pingback: O il condizionatore? – ocasapiens

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