Bentham Open: Evidence of Article Brokers?

Bentham Open

Pay-to-Publish with a Middleman?

I have observed what may be evidence of article brokers at work in a number of Bentham Open journals.

Bentham Open is a Sharjah-based open-access publisher with over 100 low-quality OA journals in its portfolio. The publisher has been included on my list since 2011. Its non-open-access counterpart is Bentham Science Publishers.

It appears that there are some suspicious publishing practices in many of the Bentham Open journals. I suspect that some article brokers may have arranged the publishing of some or all of the papers in several Bentham Open journals.

Article brokers provide the service of arranging publication in indexed journals for their clients, the authors of the papers. In many countries, for graduation or promotion, authors need to publish one or more scholarly articles in journal that has an impact factor, is indexed in Scopus or Engineering Village (Compendex), or some other internationally respected index.

China map

China.

 

If you look at the tables of contents of some of the Bentham Open journals, you’ll see dozens of articles in each issue, and the authors are all from China.

This may be evidence of an article broker in action. Some of the Bentham Open journals are indexed in respected academic indexes. China is a country in which many universities require publication in international indexed journals for graduation or academic promotion.

Here are the Bentham Open journals that I find suspicious:

It’s difficult to illustrate this practice in a blog post, so I invite you to click on one or more of the links above and examine the tables of contents.

It’s not normal for a publisher based in a Middle Eastern country to publish papers exclusively from one country in East Asia. Most international journals publish papers from diverse regions and countries.

Bentham Open was among the first publishers I added to an early list I had in 2010. I don’t think its journals are a good place for honest researchers to submit their work.

The publisher’s new and questionable practice of publishing large batches of papers from a single country is highly suspicious and not standard practice for high quality scholarly journals.

21 Responses to Bentham Open: Evidence of Article Brokers?

  1. jacek@amu.edu.pl says:

    This is the only way I can respond, owing to some features of my software, which is a special one, designed for the blind. The author may well be right, as evidenced by my experience; my impression was this publisher was not interested at all in new submissions. I’ve submitted a paper to one of their open-access journals, receiving no confirmation of receipt, despite repeated e-mails no information about the fortunes/and or misfortunes of my article. It probably ended up as a spam or whatever, as the editots seemed to be no interested at all in receiving any unsolicited papers.

    professor Jacek Tittenbrun

  2. As seen at http://www.scientificspam.net/?p=12 Bentham had the dubious honour of being the first Scientific Spammer we listed. We list all networks and all domains we can find that are tied to them.

  3. LF says:

    Umm … this isn’t exactly good evidence of wrongdoing. If a journal receives only papers from Chinese authors, they can’t exactly publish papers by non-Chinese authors. Where the submissions are from is something that is out of the journal’s control. Other possible explanations abound, such as perhaps the publisher is concentrating its marketing efforts on China.

    Also, when the journal realizes that it’s only receiving papers from one country, things get worse. The editors then have to fight the inevitable bias that comes when a paper not from that country is submitted. Accepting a stale / plain / non-innovative paper from another country would do nothing for the journal’s citation counts, but it would deflect criticism such as that raised in this blog post, and maybe – just maybe – it might elicit more submissions from other countries. Would you do it if you were the editor in chief?

  4. herr doktor bimler says:

    If word simply circulated among Chinese researchers that Bentham Open journals were reliably complaisant about publishing manuscripts with the minimum of editing or gate-keeping, wouldn’t that also explain the explosive growth of Chinese-sourced papers in those journals?
    To show that paper-mills were serving as intermediaries for this expansion, someone would have to spend a lot of time comparing the papers and identifying the templates or recurring ‘tics’. Someone not me.

  5. Sam says:

    If so, I think that even their non-open-access counterpart should be on your list.
    I was not knowing that Bentham was based in Sharjah, so I submitted an article to one of their non-open access journal, but after reading this post, I sent an email requesting the withdrawal of my manuscript from their journal.

    • T. Lewandowski says:

      But they will never be on the list – as the author of the list chooses to list open access journals only. Furthermore, he repeated several times in various works and interviews that his definition of a “predatory journal” entails (among other criteria) the journal being an open-access one.

  6. wkdawson says:

    Well, if we consider that 1/6 of the world’s population is Chinese, then if everything else were equal (which it obviously isn’t), we should expect to see Chinese authors outnumbering most other ethnic communities by at least 2:1.

    So merely seeing many Chinese authors in of itself is something we probably will have to get used to. This is the first culture shock of understanding Asia and cultures that developed long ago and largely independent of the west. Another culture shock is how Asians from such backgrounds view papers. The Western notion of scholarly work, where a person develops a deep understanding and periodically writes of further developments with the sole purpose of communicating valuable information, is not my impression of how things are largely understood in the East. Of course, there are good scholars everywhere who understand what papers are about, people who adopted some of the values of the West. However, a significant fraction of individuals appears to perceive papers as merely a kind of “advertisement” (for lack of a better word to find to express this concept). This is why you can end up reviewing papers that are very bad, and why the authors show so little compunction about how they have transgressed decency by ignoring vast swaths of the literature. This is why they just merely submit the same work to a different journal until it is “accepted”. It is not a forum for conveying useful information at all. It’s not about learning to communicate important information. Rather, it is more like a tool for drawing attention to yourself. Of course, a scholar also desires to be recognized, but through a reputation _as_ a scholar.
    Combine this with central policy makers, bureaucrats and other bean counting institutions who inanely tend to count slips of paper and other questionable bibliometric factors that demonstrate that they know nothing about scholarly work, and soon you create a massive flood of “advertisements” from people who understand how the game is played, but, on top of that, are not even particularly aware of what this process is actually about (at least as a western educated individual sees it).

    Think about it! We are all human beings, most of whom value their reputations. If journals were viewed as something that is in print forever, would most people actually publish their twaddle? Yet if it were just some cheap advertisement on a scrap of paper – soon to land in the waste can – and this is what central command cares about, there is no need to take this process of publication all that seriously. Just find a place to publish your drivel.

    Of course, it is largely the West who has taught the East these senseless bibliometric measures and has not taking responsibility for the damage it has caused. So in this respect, the chickens have come home to roost, and we wonder why.

    • Guido Berens says:

      Interesting observation. But can you say a little more about how you know this? I find it hard to believe that culturally speaking, Oriental scientists tend to *just* view papers as a means of self-promotion, without valuing scholarship at all. I could understand it if people would see a paper more as a way to quickly publish some ideas (that may later be criticized) than as a ‘finished’ piece of scholarship. But if there are a lot of people who do not seem to care about quality at all, wouldn’t that just be the result of a misguided (government-created) system that only rewards quantity? And wouldn’t the ‘serious’ scientists in these cultures then not necessarily be only (in your words) “people who adopted some of the values of the West”? In my view it is rather arrogant to assume that only Westerners value scholarship, and I think history very much disproves this assumption.

      • wkdawson says:

        Sorry for being so late to respond to this. I wasn’t notified….

        To answer your question, I’ve lived in Japan for 20 years and worked under 6 different bosses of varying quality. Six bosses and 20 years may still be called a limited and subjective sample, but it is apparent in that experience (with some rare but notable exceptions) that the priority on producing sound scientific communication is rather low. On the other hand, my experiences in western countries were not this way (say three bosses and 10 years total).

        Yes, publish or perish (unfortunately) compromises everything everywhere. I am not saying that oriental scientists are bad. My point is that they appear not to fully appreciate the purpose of publication. Maybe they see it as 5% of the work rather than 60% (there’s writing and there are journals to read and really know the content of, etc.).

        In Western countries, I am sure there are also plenty of people also shirk quality writing, but perhaps due to training or who knows what, quality writing is maybe even less emphasised or less valued in Asia in general, so people don’t understand the value of quality writing.

        I am not sure where your “history proves it” comes in. Are you talking about literature in general? Sure. Great writers have appeared in all ages and cultures, and most of their greatest works where hardly valued in any of them during the authors’ lifetime. That goes without saying. However, this is about the modern age, in the scholarly publishing when bureaucrats only use metrics and the values are somewhat at conflict with quality writing to boot. I may have failed to obtain a sufficient size of samples in my life time, but it surely is not an “assumption”, it is a sound observation.

  7. There’s certainly something odd going on here.

    Take for instance the “Open Automation and Control Systems Journal”.

    Many of the titles here follow the form: “Based on X”

    e.g. “Based on Figure Segment and BP Neural Network Met Face Recognition Method”
    “Based On the Data Curve Fitting Field Events Forecast Application Research Achievements”
    “Based on SWA Sensor Energy Consumption Under the Sports Fitness and Strength of the Correlation Research”

    All with Chinese authors. Starting a title with “based on” is very unusual in English and in fact I’ve never seen such a title before.

    Presumably, these titles were translated from Chinese, most likely by the same translator.

    Now the fact that they share a translator doesn’t mean that they share an article broker… but it is plausible.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      these titles were translated from Chinese, most likely by the same translator.

      “Translate” is a very generous word. Not translated into English, anyway.

    • Joro Paveto says:

      I also have a paper (in respected journal) that contains “based on” and I am not chinese (native speaker of one of the slavic languages). My english is relatively poor (I ask typicaly some of the grad students to correct it in the papers) but to me “based on” sound quite ok and I am surprised that is unusual in English??? This construction of words is very typical in some european languages and that is why the people use it. Even our english teacher at school was using the phrase quite often.
      So it is not a translator- it is the way how non native speaker teachers teach the people to speak.

    • wkdawson says:

      Actually, you can even test this in the inverse way, as typically those of us who are not experts in a given foreign language often do when we are not sure. We typically first try going back and forth until some sort of consistent result comes out.

      Type in “measurement based on spectroscopy” into Google Translate and you get 基於光譜測量 (in traditional Chinese fonts). Well, in fact, although I have only very limited skill in Chinese (I’m let’s say “competent” in Japanese), I can read the traditional script and understand it (more or less), and 基於 can be understood even in Japanese to mean “based on” and the 基 character is quite often used in scientific writing that way.

      It is also important to realize that these Kanji (or should I say “hanzi”) writing scripts typically have abbreviation conventions for titles. We do not write perfect grammatically correct titles ourselves, we write the main point. Whereas I can read ok, I don’t always have a trivial time working with these conventions myself.

      So this probably reflects the quality of a readily available translator there in China. People should appreciate that these tools are there to help give an idea what is in a given text, and can only serve as an _aid_ in translating one’s own language into some other language. Typically, these things are designed to work successfully for the most common usage (stock reports, news blurbs, etc.), which is typically not on par with scholarly writing.

      I appreciate the value of correction and (hopefully) humbly welcome correction whenever it applies to me – and indeed, it certainly often does (whatever my response). However, it greatly distresses me that those of us whose mother tongue is English still tend to focus so much of our attention on the trifling mannerisms in the style of an author, rather than on genuinely evaluating the author’s work. Shakespeare has mannerisms we have to get past to appreciate such plays.

      Editors and Journals should demand quality writing. All of us should do our utmost to produce clear and understandable writing that communicates. Nevertheless, we should never forget that the principal importance is the quality of the science. Second is quality of communication. It is only _after_ evaluating the quality of the science and communication that we should then turn our attention to the inconsequential trivialities of spelling, writer style and the translation quality of linguistic mannerisms.

  8. Joro Paveto says:

    I am surprised that Scopus is indexing some of their journals despite the fact that they published SciGEN paper … And many other predatory journals. Meanwhile they are strangely strict with legitimate journals opting for indexing … very disappointing.

    • RPG says:

      Joro, why are you disappointed? Scopus is owned by Elsevier Ltd. Surely Elsevier should be labelled as “predatory” too, for supporting “predators”?

  9. Martin says:

    Interestingly, Bentham Open is now using the email address for at least one of its journals :-)

    (A web browser only presents an Apache test page when pointed in the same direction)

  10. […] Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly publishers. In one blog post, Beall presented evidence of “article brokers at work” in some Bentham Open journals, and […]

  11. […] Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly publishers. In one blog post, Beall suggested there were “article brokers at work” at Bentham Open, and listed the […]

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