What’s Going on at Virology Journal?

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Virology Journal is an open-access journal published by BioMed Central, a division of Springer Science+Business Media. The journal uses the author-pays model (gold OA) to finance its publishing, charging USD $1935 per article published, with discounts granted to member institutions.

The journal’s editor is Dr. Robert Garry of Tulane Medical School in New Orleans.

Recently, it has been observed that three individual authors have had numerous articles published in the journal in a short time period.

Here is the data: 

1. Sajida Hassan                  14 articles published in Virology Journal since 2010

2. Muhammad Idrees            24 articles published in Virology Journal since 2009

3. Sadia Butt                        10 articles published in Virology Journal since 2009 

The URLs under the names generate a search in BioMed Central listing each link to a search that brings up each author’s articles. In each case, the articles have five or more authors. 

The obvious questions are: How can these authors be so prolific? How can their institution afford all these author fees? Why do they elect to publish in the same journal all of the time? 

It appears that the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan may have bankrolled the author fees. The authors are affiliated with the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) in Lahore, Pakistan, an organization known for corrupt practices

Many of these authors’ articles seem to be variations on a theme, and it appears that they are taking the “least publishable unit” approach to scholarly publishing. 

I don’t imply that any unethical practices are occurring here. I am trying to understand how open-access publishing has changed scholarly communication. I see a perhaps unhealthy connection between a system that judges researchers by the number of their publications and a system that generates revenue by charging researchers for each publication. 

Most of these authors’ articles cite their earlier articles in the same journal, a practice that lifts up the journal’s impact factor. The impact factor is the proportion of cites to recent items to the number of recent items. In this case we have authors publishing over a dozen articles per year in the same journal, each citing his or her earlier articles in the journal, a situation that drives up the journal’s impact factor. 

This augmented impact factor, along with the revenue generated by author fees, motivates the journal to accept articles on the same topic by the same authors, as is the case here.

One Response to What’s Going on at Virology Journal?

  1. Maurice Ling says:

    I had observed 2 disturbing cases in the last few years.
    1. An international conference with presented papers from about 2-3 senior authors.
    2. An edited/peer-reviewed book of about 20 chapters but about 16-18 of the chapters were co-authored by the editor of the book (as senior author).

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