OMICS Ineptly Uses Social Media to Promote its Brands

Guest blog post by Kenneth Witwer.

Kenneth Witwer is an assistant professor of pathobiology in the Baltimore, Maryland area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of his employer or any associated entity.

OMICS Group's presence on LinkedIn

OMICS Group’s presence on LinkedIn

The India-based OMICS company publishes open access journals and organizes conferences. The group has been criticized previously on this website and elsewhere for predatory publishing practices. The OMICS website lists no fewer than 273 titles in its family of journals, along with approximately 80 conferences to be held during the next 10 months at locations from Hyderabad, India, to “Raliegh, [sic] USA”. With such a far-flung empire, it is perhaps not surprising that OMICS would also have a social media presence. And given the questionable practices of OMICS, one might expect some degree of internet hijinx. I was nevertheless bemused by the gratuity and needlessness of the deception practiced by OMICS, which I recently uncovered by accident on a popular networking website, as well as by some bizarrely anti-science content on another site.

Last week, my LinkedIn inbox was spammed repeatedly by OMICS, whose putative employees asked me to join newly created groups such as “Molecualr [sic] Biology MBL”  (perhaps meant to be reminiscent of the Woods Hole MBL, but misspelled). These groups typically comprised only one or two members (at least as of February 2, 2013) and had no background information or description. I noticed with curiosity that the OMICS representatives who contacted me had male, largely untraceable names like “Eric White,” “Richard Martin,” “Michael Smith,” and “Kevin Johnson,” even though all OMICS employees I have communicated with in the past were from the Asian subcontinent…and all but one were female.

When I examined the profiles of these employees, it became clear that the accounts were pseudonymous and had been created from a single template. If taken at face value, the profiles showed that employees had obtained their education at a leisurely pace from “1990 – 2008.” They had earned college degrees in subjects like “Psychology, A” and “Library Science, A” (showing tremendous initiative in several cases, since these majors do not exist at their universities). Each also had wonderfully alphabetic hobbies, such as “Judo, Jujitsu, Jump Rope.” Unfortunately, none listed grammar as an interest, and despite their lengthy education, each OMICS employee maintained an inability to use punctuation, spacing, or capitalization correctly.

Here are the LinkedIn profiles of some OMICS “employees”:

Eric White
Education
Irvington High School
San Diego State University, Psychology, A
1990 – 2008
Hi my name is Eric White,working in Psychology department.
Activities and Societies: Lacrosse, Line Dancing, Marathon.

Kevin Jackson
Education
American High School
San Francisco State University, Library Science, A
1990 – 2008
Hi my name is Kevin Jackson,working in Science department.
Activities and Societies: Shovel Snow, Sit Ups, Snowshoeing.

[SFSU does not offer a Library Science degree.]

Richard Martin
Education
Mission San Jose High School
California State University, Stanislaus, Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies, A
1990 – 2008
Hi my name is Richard Martin,working in fitness department.
Activities and Societies: Step Aerobics, Street Hockey, Surfing.

[Cal State Stanislaus has no such major or department.]

Michael Smith
Education
Berkeley Unified School District
California Maritime Academy, Computer Science, A
1990 – 2008
Hi my name is Michael smith. Working in science department. I am an event organizer.
Activities and Societies: Basketball Beach Volleyball Biking

[Cal Maritime has no computer science major or science department.]

Jason Williams
Education
Alameda High School
California Maritime Academy, Computer Science, A
1990 – 2008
Hi my name is Jason Williams.working in science department.
Activities and Societies: Judo, Jujitsu, Jump Rope

[Cal Maritime has no computer science major or science department.]

Justin Gonzalez
Education
Horizon High School
Concordia University Irvine, Irvine, Family and Consumer Sciences/ Human Sciences, A
1990 – 2012
Hi my name is Justin Gonzalez,working in Consumer Science department.
Activities and Societies: Clean the house, Clean the pool, Community Service Projects.

[Concordia has no such major…and really?...clean the pool?]

I am unclear on whether the creator(s) of these fake accounts would have had to pay to send me a message—an “InMail”—through LinkedIn. Nor do I understand what the purpose of this group-building campaign would be, or why a legitimate OMICS employee would not use his or her real name to promote the organization.

Just as inscrutable as OMICS’ LinkedIn push is the purpose of the OMICS Facebook page, which is updated with three or four new posts each day. Most are links to one of the many OMICS family journals. The few comments to these posts are usually spam…and verbose spam at that (“I Work About 10-13 Hours A Week From Home And I Basically Make About $18,000-$19,000 A Month Online”). However, apparently original blurbs on famous scientists (e.g., Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell) are also provided on the page, interspersed with unintentionally interesting descriptions of animals. The avid reader will learn, for example, that,

“The ‘Bu’ bristled baby is a cuddly animal, and the internet contains cuddly pictures of such animals that are available for download or viewing little animals that look sweet and touches the heart. Various funny videos are also available” (January 9, 2013)…

…and that the farmed fox in Russia

“has curly tails like most of the cats and dogs due to the breeding” (January 30, 2013).

Unfortunately, the OMICS Facebook account sometimes ventures beyond the innocuous and silly and into a dangerously anti-science realm. A post on January 24, 2013 included an anti-vaccination diatribe. To give a flavor:

“Vaccinations usually have several components thought to be harmful, such as formaldehyde, genetically combined microbes, adjuvants of nut, mercury and more. In such circumstances, parents are usually faced with the question of going ahead. The risk is carried by the children and their families, while the government authorities are not in any mood to address the danger. Health officials and pediatricians also follow the suit. Standard emergency care is usually advised for an injury emanating from vaccination.”

The post ended with commentary copied at length (and without attribution) from an anti-vaccine blog.

In conclusion, the social media presence of OMICS seems completely consonant with Jeffrey Beall’s observations of the group as a whole. OMICS’ antics and tactics appear to be inconsistent with the promotion of science. Those who value science and transparency should avoid contact—or, for some of us, further contact—with this group.

16 Responses to OMICS Ineptly Uses Social Media to Promote its Brands

  1. Jake Bundy says:

    Great post. Personally, I myself have been immediately inspired to take up needlepoint, noodle-making, and nut-collecting. When those activities pall, I will move on to tree-hugging, topless dancing, and taxidermy.

    Seriously though – the activities of this kind of organization get more and more annoying and waste more and more time.

    • Schmuck says:

      This is beyond annoying, this is quit dangerous. I hope everyone here, with some exceptions, knows not to trust the OMICS people. However, the danger is when a concerned parent look at such thing and say “well it is on a scientific Facebook page and has reference to a scientific journal” then they decide not to give their young any vaccine.

  2. Ashley Hastings says:

    I can’t imagine who these buffoons think they are fooling, or how exactly they are benefitting from these elaborate hoaxes. Is it really that hard for them to earn an honest living? Or are their hobbies actually “trash, trickery, and tripe”?

    Anyway, there may be material for a Saturday Night Live sketch here.

  3. dianabuja says:

    Unfortunately, they may be able to ‘take in’ a number of budding scientists and others in developing countries, whose knowledge of these scams is close to 0. I live and work in Burundi, central Africa and travel extensively throughout Africa. The problem will likely begin emerging in a big way around the continent…

  4. Dear Sir,
    I have got invitations from Omics group to attend their various conferences. Thanks to the information in this blog that I do not waste my money to attend.
    However, I have a question. Did anyone knows about “Terrapinn.com”? here I posted an invitation from them:

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    If anybody knows, or had an experience attending one of their conferences, will you give comments of the value?? Thanks a lot for the information.

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    • Michael Liebman says:

      Terrapin is a reputable conference organizing group and does make a sincere effort to provide value in the conferences that it organizes. Disclaimer: I have no personal involvement or interest in Terrapin but have attended their conferences in the past and also spoken with Matt Turner, directly.

      • Eowyn says:

        There is probably a difference between Terrapin and Terrapinn (note the second ‘n’.)

      • Michael Liebman says:

        you may be right and I should have spelled it Terrapinn, as that is the group that I have had positive interactions with

      • Dear Mr. Liebman,
        Thanks a lot. I searched google, and indeed I did not find any bad opninion about Terrapinn. Now I can be sure, if next time they send me an invitation.

  5. RM says:

    Now I know why the person I spoke with over the phone was so rude. He kept calling me “Doctor” and when I told him I was not a doctor, he said, “is there anything wrong with me calling you doctor?” and he still continued in his heavy (sounded like indian/paki) accent. He was then willing to accept the payment for $300 to “reserve” the seat for a conference. When I said this is for a sister of mine who is in a Pharmacy program, he said “OH GOD!”
    very unprofessional and I have no idea how can someone go to their “conferences”
    Now that I know they are a scam, I will continue to warn people about them.

    • Jackie says:

      Really?

      “indian/paki”

      *REALLY?*

      Where do you live that “paki” is not considered offensive, so I can NEVER go there?

      (Disclaimer: I’m of European and Native Canadian descent, but have any number of Desi friends and colleagues.)

  6. thomas says:

    hilarious. subscribed.

  7. lem says:

    As an Indian living in India and being inundated by such practices everyday, I must say it’s funny to see a foreigner’s perspective on it. The sad part is that even today, the system enforces such ethics into people. Even when you’re trying to do simple things like lab reports by yourself instead of copying it off of previously made reports like everyone else, it goes totally unappreciated. Slowly most kids start having this mentality that the “end” is the only thing, means are unimportant. Sadly a lot of these “ends” aren’t good either.

  8. Sri says:

    I’m an Indian too and feel disheartened by the current state of affairs. There is not enough voice against practices like this yet and I’m positive a lot of people fall for this scam in our own country.

  9. […] Open Access, has critized the journals of the OMICS Publishing Group multiple times, including this great report on their inept use of social media: fake Linkedin profiles with “wonderfully alphabetic […]

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