Maarten van Kampen follows the previous reporting of Alexander Magazinov to tell you more about a certain Ali Chamkha.
His papers often look like from papermills, evidenced by unlikely co-authorships, inappropriate citations and tortured phrases like “unmitigated warming discrepancy” (for absolute temperature variation). Chamkha also set up his own predatory journal with a known predatory publisher. He uses this journal to generate oodles of citations to his own garbage papers, and abuses his editorial positions in “proper” journals for same purpose. Boring? Heard it before? Well, this dude is peer-reviewing ERC grants exactly because he is so highly published and highly cited.
A year ago, in February 2022, Chamkha educated the world via Elsevier that
“Ali J. Chamkha is a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Dean of Engineering at Kuwait College of Science and Technology. […]
He has authored and co-authored over 950 publications in archival international journals and conferences. Professor Chamkha was included in the World’s Top 2% Scientists 2020 and 2021 lists (by Stanford University) with a Global Rank #20 out of a total of 109,724 and Rank #1 at the Arab World level in Mechanical Engineering and Transports category with a composite score of 4.5451205. His score puts him in the top 0.01822755% worldwide.”
In 2020 Magazinov reported to Wiley a “Special Issue” in the journal Mathematical Methods in the Applied Sciences, one of the guest editors was Chamkha.
The papers in this Special Issue (spreadsheet here) were utter garbage, authored, or rather bought off a papermill, some known fraudsters among the authors. Wiley put the issue on hold, for two years, the 94 papers remain online, unretracted yet never assigned to a journal volume. The peculiarity of these papers was that they generously attributed citations to Chamkha (no less than 348 times!) as well as to other notorious papermillers and citation scammers.
More about Chamkha here:
Wiley: Committed to integrity? Get out!
“We have initiated post-acceptance peer review with independent reviewers… ” – Wiley.
And now, over to Maarten van Kampen:
Bottom of the barrel: Nanofluids & Chamkha
By Maarten van Kampen
When starting my science detective “career” I promised myself to stick to respectable journals, basically for self preservation. When going low enough, Hindawi or Elsevier’s Microprocessors and Microsystems level, the swamp is so deep that drowning is nearly inevitable. Or, worse, one could become a disillusioned and cynical science journalist (we won’t be pointing fingers here). Then Alexander Magazinov introduced me to Ali Chamkha and showed me how much delight there can be at the bottom….
Ali J. Chamkha
Ali Chamkha is a Very Important Person. He has his own vanity domain alichamkha.net (complete with motivational meme gallery!), a personal motto (“Where it is to be, it is really up to me!“), and a CV that counts one-hundred-eleven pages of densely packed achievements.
Did you know that Chamkha is “Ranked in the World’s Top 0.02267% Scientist“? Or that he “Completed all degrees in a record time of five years“? And that he is listed on page 136 of the 2nd edition of Who’s Who in Science and engineering? Shifting to page 155 and 207 for respectively the 3th and 5th edition?
The story of Chamkha’s scientific research success is stellar. His h-index grew from 75 in 2019 to over 100 now, a feat that is proudly broadcast on his LinkedIn account. And did you know he authored over a 1000 papers, letting him publish one paper every three days for the last four years? In short, Chamkha is a highly successful, be it somewhat vain, researcher.
There is obviously also a darker side. Back in 2020 Alexander found that Chamkha abused a special issue to extort some 348 citations to himself. In fact, his citation rigging was so extensive that Clarivate removed his entry as ‘Highly Cited Researcher’.
The Highly Cited Researchers of Clarivate
“here is my advice to Clarivate: better get lost. ” – Alexander Magazinov
So let’s start looking at the citation patterns.
Using Dimensions it is easy to find all the papers published by Chamkha. And with a bit more work one can find all the papers citing these. A typical result for a single paper is reproduced below. This specific Chamkha paper received 46 citations in its ~1.5 years of existence, with 28 of them coming from the Journal of Nanofluids. This level of performance is judged by Dimensions as exceptional, or more exactly: 22 times higher than average. The paper is extremely niche: a heat diffusion simulation using a very specific geometry and nanofluid composition.
When looking at the longer list of citing papers (included above) an obvious pattern stands out: papers that cite Chamkha cite him a lot. In absolute numbers this paper in Springer’s “The European Physical Journal Plus” is the winner: 101 of the 279 citations (36%) go to Chamkha. It is, however, by far not alone in batch-citing this specific author. Strikingly, many of the citation-laden papers come from a very specific journal: the Journal of Nanofluids. A selection of those is flagged on PubPeer.
In the figure below I have plotted the number of citation to Chamkha coming from the Journal of Nanofluids, binned per half year. The journal exists since 2012 but it took until 2019H1 for Chamkha to receive his first and single citation. After another one year lull something remarkable happens in the second half of 2020: Chamka suddenly receives 200 citations. This citation count increases in time and for the yet-incomplete 2023-H1 Chamkha has already raked in more than 900 citations from the Journal of Nanofluids. To put this in perspective: 95% of the 2023 papers cite Chamkha one or more times, at an average of over 10 citations/paper.
Looking into journal’s homepage and Chamkha’s detailed CV, one finds the following achievement on page 8:
That obviously explains a lot…
Journal of Nanofluids
The Journal of Nanofluids is the bottom of the barrel. It is an /allegedly) free-to-publish Open Access journal from American Scientific Publishers (ASP), a publishera that features on this archived copy of Beal’s list of predatory publishers. The journal is not a COPE member, although it does some COPE window dressing on its submission page.
It may also come as no surprise that the Journal of Nanofluids is not the only ASP publication that is involved in citation scams. Smut Clyde pointed me to two articles on Scholarly Kitchen. The first article discusses a 2018 “expression of concern” from Clarivate for citation manipulation in four journals, three of which are from ASP. The second article dives into these three ASP journals and is definitely worth a read. Expect the usual: ASP journals citing other ASP journals to inflate their impact factor, the “Founder, President, and CEO” Hari Singh Nalwa also being editor-in-chief, and him publishing papers in his own journals with his kids as co-authors. Quote from that article: “All hail the Chief!”.
Did you notice Chamkha’s second Editor-in-Chief position for the Journal of Computational and Theoretical Nanoscience? Yes, also ASP!
Thus far it is just sadness so close to the bottom: the usual fraud, citation rigging, and ego-inflation of ‘researchers’. But then I found this article in the Journal of Nanofluids:
Adela Svobodova-Sedlackova, Alejandro Calderón, Camila Barreneche, Rebeca Salgado-Pizarro, Pablo Gamallo, A. Inés Fernández A Bibliometric Analysis of Research and Development of Nanofluids Journal of Nanofluids (2023) doi: 10.1166/jon.2023.1924
The paper, published 2023-02, is authored by six researchers from the University of Barcelona. It analyses the field of nanofluids by means of a bibliometric analysis, identifying amongst others influential authors, journals, and citation networks. And it reads like a parody…
Let’s start with their identification of the ‘Top 10 Nanofluids authors’:
This Top 10 is a true Who’s Who in academic fraud, with literally every author being —very— problematic. To make this statement more quantitative the table below counts the number of PubPeer entries and retractions for each Top 10 author. One can click on the name to find the PubPeer entries and, if necessary, by that find that those are mostly a bad thing.
|Alsaedi||39||6||2, 3, 4, 5||FBS 1||1: paper milling|
|Pop||5||0||2: review fraud|
|Sheikholeslami||18||7||2,4,5,6||FBS 2||3: invalid results|
|Hayat||55||5||2,3,4,5||FBS 1||4: citation injection|
|Chamkha||7||0||FBS 2||5: duplicate publishing|
|Khan, Mi.||15||5||1, 2, 3|
Take for example our Number 1 author Ahmed Alsaedi: he sports 39 PubPeer entries and 6 retractions for review fraud, citation injection, double publishing and papers with invalid results (e.g. numerical results not matching the equations). This is a tad worse than an ‘honest mistake’. There is also a more qualitative bad sign: Alsaedi, Mohsen Sheikholeslami (no. 3), and Tasawar Hayat (no. 4) feature in a For Better Science (FBS) article on fraud in fuzzy logic and nanofluid research:
Our citation-cheating EiC Ali J. Chamkha occupies the 5th position in the list. Incidentally, his 6th place neighbour Davood Domiri Ganji was already called out in 2010 for using his editor position to inflate the impact factor of his his own journal.
The authors appear completely oblivious to this all and instead make observations like (emphasis mine):
“Also, it is interesting the high growth of some authors, such as the case of Sheikholeslami, M. or Hayat, T., since 2017–2018. Likewise, Khan, M., despite starting to publish in the field of nanofluids in 2016, is among the top ten authors list. With more than 197 articles and 5351 accumulated cites (h-index 43). From this analysis, it can be seen the high impact of the nanofluids researchers in the scientific community with high productivity authors.”
Things become even more embarrassing when the authors start to look at the quality of the work. After concluding that Sheikholesami and Hakan Oztop are the highest quality Top 10 authors (with 66% of their papers published in Q1 journals) they bring in Masoud Afrand. Afrand could not make it into the Top 10 based on his output, so the authors give him a special mention for… quality! Afrand managed to publish 69% of his papers in top-25% journals. And indeed, the Who’s Who would not have been complete without him…
Maybe stop accepting submissions, Herr Prof Dr Sauer?
Who needs science if you can have a 75 paper strong special edition by Afrand and Karimi? A guest post by Alexander Magazinov.
Afrand has 44 papers listed on PubPeer, making him second only to Hayat. The issues are the usual, citation scams and copious ‘re-use’ of data. Afrand also features in two FBS articles. In the first Alexander Magazinov observes how around 2015 Afrand suddenly started churning out template-like Nanofluid papers that show ‘poor bookkeeping’ and ‘interesting’ citation patterns. Please appreciate the contrast between our Barcelona authors’ observation of “interesting the high growth of some authors” and the quote below from Magazinov’s article:
Afrand also happened to be receiving 110+ citations from a special edition guest-edited by… Chamkha!
Wiley: Committed to integrity? Get out!
“We have initiated post-acceptance peer review with independent reviewers… ” – Wiley.
Afrand’s second FBS appearance is not better. Here he himself features as the guest editor of a special issue, receiving 350+ citations from it whilst at the same time launching another special edition. After some prodding Elsevier started an investigation that already found that the reviewers of the former issue consistently insisted on the addition of citations to their own work.
Undeterred, the Barcelona researchers identify authorship clusters, nicely mapping out the tight cooperation between sets of fraudsters. Their picture is based only on shared authorships and therefore incomplete. One can look also at citations, and as Smut Clyde noted:
The collaboration between clusters 1 and 2 thus is far tighter than Fig. 7 suggests…
One can not only rank authors, but also journals. The bibliometric researchers again make a Top 10, reproduced below. The Journal of Nanofluids of our 5th place author Chamkha is proudly put on a matching 5th place. And as it happens, in 2021 Alexander Magazinov already had something bibliometric to say about their number 2 journal, Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry.
The conclusions don’t make things better. The authors correctly note that the nanofluids research has shifted away from Western countries and that nowadays Iran, India, and China are in the lead. Based on the authorship clusters above they state:
“The bibliometric analysis reveals that there are four main researcher clusters performing studies about nanofluids. It should be highlighted that there is low interaction between them. By summarizing the most relevant authors and contributions around the world, this study helps researchers and institutions to find high-quality investigations and research groups driving the research outside their cluster. This fact helps to strengthen and progress towards a robust, coherent, and homogeneous research field.”
I strongly doubt that the authors’ identification of these clusters really “helps researchers and institutions to find high-quality investigations and research groups“. And one can only hope that at least some of them will stay in their own cluster instead of making it a homogeneous field of research fraud.
In all, the Barcelona paper reads like an analysis of a mafia network. Naming every mobster and correctly splitting them up in their respective clans. But the Barcelona authors fail to see that they are studying not scholarly genius but organized crime. And all of this is published in a predatory journal ran by one of the ‘influential researchers’ they celebrate.
In my initial cynicism I suspected this to be no coincidence. Cheaters like Chamkha seem to be driven by self-importance. And one can feel important by having a bloated CV and a high h-index, but nothing beats being listed in a paper as “distinguished”. Number 4 Hayat has his “Bio-Bibliometric Portrait of Dr. Tasawar Hayat, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics“, written in 2021 by a dentist at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Saudi Arabia, Ikram Ul Haq. Of course also the Distinguished Professor Chamkha needs hagiography as well. Thus, in Ghalambaz et al “A scientometrics investigation of magnetic nanofluids” 2022, Chamkha is identified as “the most productive author (104 publications) and also the most cited author in the field (2029 citations) with the highest H-Index (33)“. The “Bibliometric Analysis of Research and Development of Nanofluids” from our Barcelona researchers seemed to be a nice follow-up to that, lauding Chamkha, his journal, and his friends as top-of-the-bill.
I do however think that this is just a case of six naïve researchers stepping into a new and fraud-infested field*, learning the hard way that there is often no relation between bibliometric indices and reality. And that adding the term ‘retracted’ to one’s searches and installing the PubPeer plugin can be very beneficial for the quality of a bibliometric analysis. And reading FBS, of course! And that is, in a Schadenfreude way, very amusing.
It is very crowded at the bottom of the research barrel with many self-important cheaters dressing up in 100+ h-indices and 100+ pages CVs. The absurdity and vanity of it all is definitely worth a laugh. However, this fraud business has consequences beyond fooling a few (or even many) researchers.
How would you feel when finding out that your ERC grant proposal was judged by Ali J. Chamkha, likely chosen because of his impressive h-index and CV?
On 12 December 2022, the President of the European Research Council (ERC) Maria Leptin thanked a panel member in a letter:
“Dear Professor Chamkha.
On behalf of the European Research Council, we would like to thank you for having served as panel member of the ERC Starting Grant Call 2022. […] We appreciate your dedication, your hard work and resilience in this particular context.
Your contribution to the evaluation and review process is invaluable to the ERC’s continuing effort to support frontier research in Europe on the sole basis of scientific quality. We also want to thank you for the written feedback (panel recommendations) after the evaluation process. […]
Again, we want to thank you for all your efforts, and we look forward to working with you again in the future.”
Now ERC is investigating the Chamkha affair. Magazinov was informed:
* My own bibliometric analysis shows that the six authors only cited the Top 10 fraudsters six times (0.1% level), with the citations going to just four distinct papers. Of these four, three are review papers. They thus seem to be well-separated from the nanofluids field, with their interest likely being driven by their research on the use and storage of solar heat. The second author used bibliometric analysis techniques before in his 2019 thesis, there linked to solar energy storage. The choice for a predatory, non-COPE, pay-to-publish journal remains questionable, though. I dearly hope the authors do not have to pay an article processing fee for the retraction of their paper.
“And that is why I succed” is a funny typo. I won’t have objections if it eventually resolves in an unintended way.
As an working scientist I always laugh when I see people bragging about their “1000 publications!”
If you have published a thousand papers your average actual scientific contribution on each paper is close to zero…
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And with 3,256 (last count in PubMed, but it increases every 3 minutes), the average contribution is below zero… You’ve probably recognized D. Raoult ! Not even the time to read them…
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I received some spam today linking to https://research.com/scientists-rankings/mechanical-and-aerospace-engineering
I couldn’t help but notice #18…
Of course, those who know “the game” (ahem, scam), recognize #5, #8, #26, and several others too. Embarrassing anyone would consider publishing this “ranking” and hawking via unsolicited emails.
#5 Mohsen Sheikholeslami
#4 Ibrahim Dincer
“This article, cited 661 times to date, according to Dimensions, exhibits a curious citation pattern.
200 of its citations (more than 30%) are from International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, where it is published, and where its single author has an editorial position.”
First raised in the comments of last year April 1st Shorts:
Since then, the order changed a bit, the essence hasn’t.
The answer is simple, “Our team is lead by professor Imed Bouchrika,” which, as far as I remember, rang a bell to either Leonid or to Smut Clyde.