A company that sells research promotion services is using email addresses left on PLOS Medicine’s comments section to spam researchers. Research Media is a U.K.-based company that spams scholarly authors and tries to get them to pay for self-promotional articles in its magazine, International Innovation. Several researchers have forwarded me copies of Research Media’s spam email lately, an indication that it has ramped up its spamming.
One researcher left a comment on a PLOS Medicine article entitled Deception in Research on the Placebo Effect. The comment bears the headline “Placebo: physician, heal thyself.” After leaving this comment, he got a spam email from Research Media referring to the comment.
The spam emails are cleverly written, and they strike a friendly tone. The spams do not mention the fees (as much as $3,000) that the company charges researchers to showcase their research in the magazine. A typical Research Media spam email begins like this:
I was hoping to talk with you at some point next week. I came across your published paper – Placebo: Physician, Heal Thyself and I wanted to speak with you about the possibility of highlighting the broader scope of you [sic] work in our health and biology research report, International Innovation, we are particularly interested in focusing around research in the field of genetics.
The spam email mischaracterizes the online comment as a “published paper.” Research Media’s emails pander to researchers, exploiting the need for their research to draw attention and have impact.
It is unclear whether International Innovation has a significant number of readers. It is essentially a magazine full of advertisements for researchers with enough extra funding to pay for puffery. The more grant money spent on self-promotion means less that is devoted to actual research.
Conclusion It appears that Research Media is harvesting scientists’ email addresses from PLOS journals and then spamming the scientists with clever, pandering offers to promote their research.
I imagine the company is harvesting email addresses from other comments sections and peer review sections of scholarly communications websites as well.
So if you leave a comment on such a website that includes your email address, be prepared to receive an exploitative email from Research Media. Hat tip: Dr. Arunachalam Kumar