The dark side of academics

The world of academics is rife with the stiff competition; for funds and research grants, prestigious appointments, peerage, reputation, and acknowledgment. It is no surprise therefore that even this honorable profession is marred by several forms of unscrupulous practices.

While the unscrupulous or unethical practices of academicians (like plagiarism, duplicate publications) are one side of the problem, the other side of the challenge is several opportunists seeking to dupe unsuspecting academicians for their ulterior motives of profiteering.

Here are two major forms of duping one needs to be aware of in this murky world of academics.

Predatory Publishing: This term was coined by Jeffrey Beal, an academic librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado, Denver, who first brought the matter to attention. It refers to various spurious emails and spams academicians receive daily that suggest easy options of publication. The phenomenon has been greatly spurred by Open Access Journals, itself a development of the proliferation of digital technology. “Open access” is a novel concept that seeks to use digital platforms to bring to facilitate more ‘ópen’interactions between scientific readers and academicians looking to publish scientific knowledge without the hassle of the prolonged publication process. Unfortunately, many used these open-access platforms to develop fake publishing services, that allow anyone to publish for a fee. Many young authors are duped by such offers and fall prey; doling out considerable money to get their articles published only to find these platforms are fake.

This is not to say that the articles are not published online. What differentiates genuine journals from such fakes is that the fakes have no peer review or quality control. Neither do they have any credibility in the academic circles? Such publications are not even known to most scientific readers, are not recognized by reputable Universities or academic institutions. In short, these publications serve no purpose and do not help in one’s research boost or academic career.

Fake conferences: it is amazing to think that these unscrupulous practices are not just limited to publication but even extend up to fake conferences and events. Many unsuspecting academicians sign up for fake conferences, paying travel fares and accommodation charges on their own in the hope of interacting with peers, only to find themselves in the company of other unsuspecting victims. These fake conferences are hosted only for profiteering. More often than not, there are no conference reports or proper publication of the papers presented. Consequently, the time and effort of an academician are lost.

In conclusion: The real objective of a good publication or conference is an acknowledgment of one’s efforts from one’s peers or a research boost in terms of sharing new ideas or collaborations. A publication or paper presentation just for the heck of it serves no purpose and is a wastage of effort. Academicians, both new and experienced, need to be very careful from falling prey to such practices. The most effective means to avoid it being vigilant, checking with peers, and doing a thorough background check of any such suspecting agencies.


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