The challenge of Fake authors in journals

The world of academic publications is highly competitive. Scientists are often desperate to publish their research papers owing to their career and future prospects at the stake of the number count of journal publications. Unfortunately, this gives rise to several fraudulent practices and fake authors.

Top reasons for fake author attribution.

Reputation: New or emerging or scientists from small institutions struggle to get their research papers published. This is primarily due to a bias amongst journal editors who prefer scientists having a history of successful publications or come from reputed institutes. In such a scenario, the new authors often add a fake co-author to increase their publication chances. This can be done in various ways. Some add fictional names and attribute them to the reputed institutes. Some attribute it to the actual reputed scientists without their knowledge. In most cases, fake e-mail id or contact details are shared to avoid journal communication.

Affiliation: The paper’s affiliations are more than just an institutional name or a country where the research was conducted. Affiliations are brand names and reputed institutes take great care to ensure quality control of their institute’s research activities. Research institutions take all the responsibilities for the research conducted at their facilities and have boards and committees to ensure that their research follows the rules. So, the affiliation of a paper also defines which institution oversees the research integrity of that paper. This then serves as an incentive for journals to prioritize such articles as they feel assured about its integrity and quality.

Specialization: More often than not, it is not the greed of reputation or affiliation that the fraudsters seek. Fake authors are often created to justify the research papers falsely. For instance, consider a research paper that involves cross-disciplinary studies or involves a methodology that requires a specialist’s intervention. It may also happen that these lay outside the core area of the expertise of the actual author. Naming a fake author with false credentials helps to justify the research paper’s claims, which otherwise would be challenged by a peer reviewer or the journal editor if only one author were named.

How to avoid the trap: While it may seem tempting to go for fake authorship, it does more damage than good. Journals today are more aware of this problem and are devising means to check for such frauds. Getting caught not only means redaction of published articles but also being blacklisted across journals. Therefore, it is better to focus on the basics of writing a good paper than trying for such shortcuts. Special focus on English editing, proofreading from professional agencies help to shape a better paper.

Publication Cycle: An Overview

Every manuscript submitted to a journal has to progress through the complete publication cycle before it finally gets published. The publication cycle takes genesis with the research idea. The researchers take this idea to a new horizon by conducting experiments, taking into account the previous publications that deal with similar topic. The research draft is then submitted to a journal that is followed by the assessment, reviewing, and further production processing before being published. Let’s discuss the different phases in detail so that we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire publication process.

How publication cycle works?

After the manuscript is submitted, it is first screened by the Editor-in-chief; if rejected, the paper is returned to the author, and if accepted, it goes to the next level. Here, the paper is checked for plagiarism, and conformity to the journal guidelines. Once the manuscript clears this technical round it is then sent for review by a panel of reviewers, who are subject experts. Here, the reviewers either reject the paper for lack of novelty or other reasons that might be study specific or they could either accept the paper or suggest revisions before acceptance. The paper with revisions is sent to the Editor-in-chief for approval, before being sent for a second and final round of review. At times, the paper gets rejected even after coming this far. If the paper is accepted it then goes through the in-house publication process, before finally getting published.

Some journals forego this time taking and tedious process and instead publish all manuscripts after checking it for novelty, relevance to the field of study and compliance to the style guide of the journal. This ensures a shorter review time and faster publication.

How long can a publication cycle run?

The publication cycle time of a journal cannot be assessed unless and until it is specified by the journal. Hence, it is difficult to know which journals have a fast publication cycle. Some journals take months before they give their first decision whereas some let their first decision known in a couple of weeks. Generally, the time gap between submission and first decision varies between 2-3 weeks.

What if the publication cycle is slow-moving?

The slow decision process becomes mentally tasking for researchers, as they spent many anxious months and even years before they actually get to know if their manuscript has been published or not. If their manuscript does not get published they have to again go through the same process of preparing their manuscript according to the guidelines of a new journal, submit it there and again wait for its decision. This cycle sometimes goes on for a few years before the manuscript gets published. In this process sometimes it so happens that the relevance of the paper or the research gets outdated by the time it is accepted for publication, thereby making the efforts of the researcher futile.

It is for these reasons that the researchers earnestly want a fast publication cycle, where they do not have to wait for so long to get a decision on their manuscript. Also, the publication houses are trying their best to formulate ways to make the publication process faster so that good and relevant researches do not become irrelevant. However, the authors need to be aware of the millions of predatory journals luring them for publishing within a very short duration. The authors are the best person to judge their options and choose the one that helps their research best.