A former professor and a friend of mine, Dragan Djuric, recently published a paper in a journal called Metalurgia International (Romania)*. Nothing would be so special about it without this two important things: first, the paper is scientifically worth nothing as it is just a bunch of rubbish; and second, the mentioned journal is** on Thompson Reuters JCR list! Sounds almost impossible, especially after you take a look at the paper.
Just the title of the publication – “Evaluation of Transformative Hermeneutic Heuristics for Processing Random Data” makes you think about what the heck is going on. If you decide to give it a shot, you will see an endless rubbish tightened into a number of jokes. To give you an idea, the list of references contains (among others) a 2012 paper by Laplace published in the “Proceedings of the Joint Somalia Conference on Potential Theory and Pragmatic Practice“; or one published in the “Journal of Modern Illogical Studies“. Going further, one of the conclusions says that “TV exposure with high wife education and low spouse education, influences a positive opinion on the EU“. Or how about this paragraph:
As we will soon see, the goals of this section are manifold. Our evaluation could represent a valuable research contribution in and of itself.
The first experimental results came from 2500 trial runs, and were not reproducible. The next batch of results come from only 50 trial runs, and were not reproducible. Continuing with this rationale, the many discontinuities in the graphs point to improved precision introduced with our decision tree algorithms. Such a hypothesis at first glance seems unexpected but fell in line with our expectations. As hypothesized, the final run was sufficiently consistent, which shows the useful convergence of our heuristics.
Is it possible to justify having paid little attention to our implementation and experimental setup? Yes, but only in theory. Our evaluation strives to make these points clear.
An important question to ask is how did such a journal end up in the JCR list in the first place. Apparently, the only thing Dragan had to do to publish this is to pay a publishing fee. Sadly, it was that easy and the paper got published without any corrections.
But the biggest problem perhaps is not just that (at least) one JCR journal actually publishes papers without reviewing them. The biggest problem is that there is already a number of professors and faculty personnel in Serbia (and it might as well be the case that similar examples exist in other countries too) that got their positions and national project funds by gaining points publishing in MI or similar journals. Someone even bothered to list most of the Serbian authors in MI, as apparently there have been a large number of them so far. And those authors were even shameless to start a petition (asking the government to protect them as “the most capable and productive part of Serbian scientific community”!), which came right after the Serbian scientific library (Kobson) announced that it rejected a high number of requests for deleting certain papers from their database. Sounds like a joke, and I wish it really was one.
If you are curious you can take a look at the paper here (and pay attention to Dragan’s fabulous false mustaches and Boris’s wig). There is also a petition to the government to (among other things) reevaluate the contribution of people who published in MI and in similar journals, and take necessary steps to set things right (I signed that one).
Apparently, the situation with publishing low quality research in “serious” journals is more serious as this is definitely not the only case (see for example here and here). Of course, the question of how to assess scientific work remains as there are already critics on journal impact factor and calls for abandoning it. It remains to be seen how the scientific community will react on this issue and whether we will see some serious changes anytime soon.
* Since the news about this paper appeared, the Web page of the journal is down (but you can check the Wayback Machine).
** It is reported that MI was recently removed from the JCR list.