Fringe Scientist Named Editor-in-Chief of OMICS Astrobiology Journal

Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach

Outreach to nuts.

OMICS International (formerly OMICS Publishing Group) has named Chandra Wickramasinghe editor-in-chief of its strangely-titled Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach. Wickramasinghe’s research focuses on exogenesis and is largely rejected by mainstream astronomers.

Wickramasinghe

Wickraamasinghe. Sometimes a meteorite is just a meteorite.

This is a clever move by OMICS International. Wickramasinghe has a following, and many of his followers are fringe scientists with money to spend on article publishing. Now they have a friendly place to submit their works to, an outlet that will essentially guarantee acceptance, create a PDF, and slap on a DOI to their out-of-this-world ideas.

Here’s a selection from Wickramasinghe’s maiden editorial in his journal:

… what everyone wants to know is whether microbial life currently exists on Mars. If the presence of water, methane and organic molecules is conceded, the existence of life will also be guaranteed by the simple fact the Mars and Earth are in close proximity within the solar system and have indeed been connected by impacts and exchanges of meteoritic rocks that would have transferred biomaterial between the planets.

This may be an example of pathological science. Peer review is supposed to filter out such pseudo-science, but the quest to earn author fees is largely wiping out this scholarly publishing function, and scholarly publishers are now in the business of merely taking orders from scholarly authors.

Chandra Wickramasinghe has claimed to find extraterrestrial life on September 10, 2013, and he then claimed to extraterrestrial life on January 24, 2015, and he claimed to find it once again here. You can find breathless news reporting of his claims in the UK tabloids the Daily Express and the Daily Mail. For his academic writing, you can go to the notorious Journal of Cosmology (on my list). To say astronomers (including Phil Plait) have debunked his nonsense many times is an understatement.

As one astronomer asked me, “With Chandra Wickramasinghe and OMICS International, what could possibly go right?”

Similar Marketing Strategy?

This reminds me of Common Ground Publishing and its journal The Inclusive Museum. Its editor-in-chief is guru-wannabe Amareswar Galla, whom Common Ground has successfully used to generate tons of revenue though the journal and a complementary series of conferences also dubbed “The Inclusive Museum.”

 

Galla

Galla. Visa and Master Card accepted.

Common Ground (not on my list) is a clever publisher that knows how to pander to researchers and make them happy to surrender their travel funds, and it has mastered the use of faux-celebrities like Galla to generate a fortune in conference registrations.

Conclusion

As open-access reaches a tipping point, increasingly, the customers are scholarly authors, not academic libraries. This means that publishers are working right now on ways to attract your research funds and open-access fees.

Opening scientific publishing to junk science — and using questionable gurus to attract manuscripts and conference registrations — are just two of the marketing strategies that publishers are using.

Appendix: Spam email from Chandra Wickramasinghe for the Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach.

Dear [Redacted],

Greetings from Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach!

Hope our e-mail finds you well and in healthy mood.

It’s a great honor for me to consider you as potential author and invite you to contribute a manuscript for consideration and publication in forthcoming issue to be released in Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach. Your contribution is of great importance for us and it will help the journal to establish standards. We are inviting best minds in the research field for manuscript submissions.

The upcoming issue will contain a collection of papers written by authors who are leading experts in the field. We have released our new issue during the first week of October have a look at it. I am sure that would inspire you to submit your work too.

Our journal publishes almost all types of research write-ups (like Original research, Review, Case-reports, Letter to editors, Commentaries, Short communications, Research images, Video articles etc.) which are related to Astrobiology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology etc.

It would be great if you could submit at your earliest possible date.

Submit manuscript at: editor.jao@esciencecentral.org (OR) http://www.editorialmanager.com/environsci/default.aspx

Please do let me know if you have any queries, I would be happy to assist you.

Best Regards
Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Editor-in-chief
Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach

42 Responses to Fringe Scientist Named Editor-in-Chief of OMICS Astrobiology Journal

  1. Wical, Stephanie H. says:

    Astrobiology and Outreach! The title is strange!! :-D

    Stephanie

    • Lior Shamir says:

      I actually think the title is good for a journal of that kind, and the addition “and outreach” provides useful information about the nature of the journal. That is as long as they stick to relevant content and do not broaden the scope as the email suggests.

    • Keith Fraser says:

      The “outreach” part is probably supposed to relate to exploring and colonizing space, but I like the idea that it’s an outreach program aimed at ensuring better relations with extraterrestrial life-forms living on Earth. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones appeared in a documentary about their work back in the 90s. :P

      • Lior Shamir says:

        Yes Keith. That’s more or less what I meant by “nature” of the journal. Meaning, perhaps it should not be taken too seriously, as long as it does not expand to “serious” fields.

  2. Robert Cameron says:

    Jeff, thanks for this, but it makes me a bit nervous. i don’t know if you are going to list this as a predatory journal, but I would be cautious. A journal for kooks is subtly different from simple money-making off aspiring authors. Maybe here it is better for the astrobiology community to rip the papers apart in other journals rather than putting the journal on the list. There is a fine line between downright fraud and establishing outlets for unorthodox views. This is quite a specialist field, where the disgruntled may claim that genuine innovation is being stifled. Better to get it out there and debunked.

  3. MC says:

    Anyone who believes that aliens sent a “seed” to earth and it contained “genetic material” that survived temperatures of 1000 C are dead in the water.
    Another crack pot scientist trying to lie his way into becoming what they call a “big name”.

  4. herr doktor bimler says:

    There is a fine line between downright fraud and establishing outlets for unorthodox views.

    If it’s from the OMICS stable, it’s because the management have seen a profit to be made by facilitating kooks. The money coming from institutions employing the kooks.

    Maybe here it is better for the astrobiology community to rip the papers apart in other journals

    They may have better things to do.

    In other news, it turns out that when you obtain a grainy photograph of a porous rock and blow it up enough, the image has some of the same textural properties as a polished slice through a fossilised stromatolite, therefore LIFE ON MARS.

    http://www.esciencecentral.org/journals/microbialites-at-gusev-crater-mars-2332-2519-1000143.php?aid=63444

  5. Lior Shamir says:

    I know nothing about astrobiology and never heard of that person before (I still got that email, though). But generally speaking, current peer-review process is far from perfect, and it is very likely that some innovative ideas are not suitable for the traditional peer-review process. That can be a common problem in fields that are based on theories rather than scientific experiments, such as theoretical physics and possibly also astrobiology. So in some fields it might not necessarily be a bad idea to have a journal with different (more flexible) standards of scientific review.

    I realize that 95% of the academic market consider a peer-reviewed publication as some sort of a medal, but we have to keep in mind that basically the purpose of scientific papers is to communicate ideas rather than decorating someone’s resume or securing a job.

    Some OA publishers indeed specialize in publishing pure rubbish, in which the only contribution is made to the resume of the authors. But in this specific case it could be actually a positive side of OA by allowing research that normally does not go through in the traditional journals. I have no knowledge about that specific community, but unorthodox (weird) ideas also need to be heard, and publishing them in a journal dedicated to such ideas should not cause damage to “mainstream” science, as the relevant scientists will quickly become familiar with the journal and its nature. Those who just count the number of entries in one’s publications list to determine how good of researchers they are might indeed be confused by publications in such a journal, but those who do that are predatory themselves and not real scientists.

    • Robert Cameron says:

      I agree, though if there is other evidence, eg papers not on the topics the journal purports to cover, Jeff would be justified in listing it. Also, as seems to be the case, if it is in a stable of journals from a predatory publisher. I was not categorically saying “don’t list it”, just inserting some caution.
      As I am sure we have all seen, the list is at one and the same time regarded as a very useful filter for authors deciding where to submit their papers and a target of controversy. Any handle the critics can get to shout “censorship” or “establishment stitch-up” will be grasped.

  6. Bill says:

    This publication is a popular magazine posing as a journal. The tricky part is that news organizations and laypeople as academics automatically assume that any periodical entitled “Journal of ___” is automatically respectable. There’s no clear-cut answer. Another example is the “Journal of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists.” I would still call it “predatory” if it is included amongst any of the “fleet journals” issued by predatory publishers.
    The purpose is clearly to scoop up available open access publication fees.

  7. Ken Lanfear says:

    The journal is upfront in its aims and purposes. It may even have some sort of peer review, though likely not unbiased. It probably will draw citations from mainstream science journals, even if those cites are to criticize.

    Interesting problem concerning free speech! Hopefully, diligent tenure committees can rate the articles appropriately. It’s more problematic with lay readers who may see the question as a legitimate scientific “debate.” It shows me one todays critical skills is learning what can be trusted.

    • MC says:

      As with other cases, “diligent” committees will not, and researchers in India, China, etc, will continue to get totally unwarranted upgrades based on fake work in fake journals that no one will ever read. Thus legitimately faking their own careers.

      • Lior Shamir says:

        MC, whoever gives a promotion based on publications in predatory journals is predatory themselves, and deserves a co-worker who publishes only in such journals. So it will contaminate those academic institutes who are already contaminated. No legitimate academic institute will hire or promote someone who does not publish in legitimate journals. I agree that the problem is that it might be confusing for the general public, and in some situations might make science seem ridiculous to the outside.

        On the other hand, such journals can also serve as outlets for real scientists who have innovative/unproved ideas that do not fit in the establishment journals.

        It is reasonable to expect that the journal will be quickly polluted by rubbish papers, so it will be difficult to identify the stimulating ideas from the typical pay-to-publish content. But who knows. We might be pleasantly surprised.

  8. Bill says:

    The question about free speech is a worthy one. Sharing criticisms about certain journals is also free speech. Isn’t a blacklist like “Beall’s List” is also free speech? No one is forced to pay attention to the list or even heed it. It just exists on the internet for those who believe (of their own free will) that its criteria are qualitatively thoughtful and helpful enough. One can carry the argument quite far here, and far be it from me to say there are any answer answers.

    Google and Facebook typically ban “hate speech,” don’t they?

    Bill

    • Bill says:

      correction: *easy answers”

    • Robert Cameron says:

      I agree about free speech, both for Journals and Beall’s list. But if you make mistakes (I am not saying that this happened here), you may lower the credence attached to what is otherwise a vital bit of policing. As far as I can see, the list is respected, and I hope it stays that way

      • Bill says:

        Point taken, and a worthy one. Thank you, Robert!

        If one keeps track of citations to Beall’s List via “Google Scholar Alert,” you’ll see Beall’s List is enormously respected and cited in numerous subject journals, ranging from professional nursing to health care to various hard sciences.

        Beall’s List is less uniformly respected amongst some librarians and some publishing industry commentators This is particularly true “The Scholarly Kitchen” blog.

        Why is this so?

        The reasons don’t seem to be entirely clear, but the difference is very striking.

        Any opinions/input on this?

    • MC says:

      This is an odd comment as it insinuates that trained, critical, and successful researchers need to take Beall’s list ‘with a grain of salt’. That’s not true. I’ve studied at two top schools in North America and published widely; no one I ever came across ever said or thought “I, personally, think Beall got it wrong and I’ll take a chance at Omics/Bentham/IJJJSASESEE/The International Journal of Chemical Society of Slovenia, Letters, etc.”. My point is that It doesn’t even take Beall’s list to know that a journal is as worthless as horse shit. Sure, we can frame this around free speech, but how is publishing junk science and disguising a non-academic publication as a scientific journal free speech? That is only meant to mislead and to serve as a venue for crackpot “research”.

  9. Robert Cameron says:

    Bill,
    I also monitor the Scholarly Kitchen. For those who don’t know it, it is a librarian’s blog, and fair goes, it represents their views. Some of the stuff is great. I don’t get a picture of uniform hostility to Beall though there have been a few very fierce attacks. There does seem to be a fixation on what is new and trending, but I don’t see an uncritical endorsement of OA regardless of quality.
    Jeff has done a great job, single-handed as far as I can see, and must have saved many authors from falling into predator’s clutches. I have used his list to advise a number of authors in non-western countries who are caught up in the citation/publication racket in our uber-competitive research environment.
    Some of the attacks follow the “one man band” “vested interest” line (there was some really personal stuff out there). I know Jeff consults and researches carefully, but (but long life and happiness, Jeff) we have to consider the succession of the nasty business of policing this stuff and exposing the villains. Actually, I would guess that the Scholarly Kitchen should be a base, but at present I don’t see it filling that role.

    • Bill says:

      Wonderful comments, Robert. Your observation that Jeffrey has undertaken this role single-handedly is on target, with due credit of course to those stalwarts who provide his behind-the-scenes tips.

      The “Scholarly Kitchen” is very well described. Only added note: there are some actual and would-be industry consultants there who regretfully over-use the blog for to publicize their names. It’s a “Kitchen” with lots of excellent pies and some over-done meat loaf.

      Your comments do you credit, really! Thank you for posting!

      Best wishes,

      Bill

      • Robert Cameron says:

        thanks! I forget now how I got sucked into this, probably by responding to a Malaysian’s question on ResearchGate; she was not in my field, but seemed to be a true researcher struggling with this. I am ancient (72), but I do a lot of collaborative work with much younger co-authors from many countries who get impacted by this. I am lucky. No way can I afford to use PLoS One or other respectable author-pays journals, but I am able to publish in traditional society-based specialist journals, and I (but not my co-authors) don’t give a s**t about impact factors. I also don’t have to be in a hurry for career prospects!
        I guess I have two motivations: protecting the younger generation (and predatory journals are not the only problem) and trying to prevent scientific communication turning into mush. When I looked at the actual contents of a few journals on Jeff’s list, I was shocked.

  10. Bill says:

    Your younger colleagues are lucky to have you! And this blog feature is lucky to have your commentaries.

    The target of the mushrooming mush seems to be funds extracted of from large research grants, and chunks from the annual mega-millions from certain huge foundations and I think the UK government. It is doubtful if much money flows from individual researchers, although no doubt this also comes about.

    Your views on all this are so wisely balanced, again–they are welcome commentaries.

    Might you be able to cite a few examples
    of, uh, “surprisingly strange” journal articles published by journals found on Beall’s List? My suggestion is leave out the actual journal titles so you aren’t the target of any reprisals.

    Bill

    • Robert Cameron says:

      OK, I will try to have a go, but not tonight. Often,the problem is not so much the title (often “normal” if a bit pedestrian), but the actual contents.

  11. Bill says:

    I know what you mean. Sometimes a quotation of a few sentences in the “Conclusion” area is enough. Or perhaps (less work) a link to the entire article.

    • Marco says:

      Bill, you could try googling “Barack Obama is Tamil Based Indian”. I am 100% serious about that, no joke! You will find a paper with that title in a journal on Beall’s list, and in that paper citations to similarly weird articles from the same author(s).

      In fact, the two authors on that paper have published at least 20 similar papers with similar gibberish in many different journals on Beall’s list. This must have cost them many thousands of dollars.

      Even taking into account being open to fringe science, these papers do not even get passed the fringe science sniff-test. They’re gibberish, plain and simple.

  12. Greg says:

    What do you think of International Journal of Clinical Cases and Investigations: http://ijcci.info

  13. Greg says:

    One more is waiting for your opinion: Journal of Automation and Control Engineering http://www.joace.org/

  14. Greg says:

    What do you think of: Journal of Computer Science and Applications http://www.tmrfindia.org/ijcsa/

    • I think it is a weak journal. Pretty much every issue is a “special issue,” and in this case there appears to be an article broker involved. One of the 2015 issues merely re-publishes papers already published in an IEEE conference proceedings. I recommend avoiding this journal, which is now included on my list.

  15. tooi says:

    Another bogus Director of Academic Research Publishing Group

    Dr. Jallat Khan Ph.D (Organic chemistry)
    (Director)

    Dr. Jallat Khan received his Ph.D (Organic Chemistry) from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan in 2015. He has published 13 research articles and attended 5 conferences. He received his HEC Indigenous Scholarship. Also He visited as scholar at Texas A&M University, Texas, USA and University of Mississippi, MS, USA.

  16. Greg says:

    If you want to laugh …

    International Journal on Spirituality and Organizational Leadership http://isol.asia/publications/

    The fun per se is here: http://isol.asia/people/advisory-council/

    [Probably they do not publish anymore, but it is possible to find people who promote themselves with the published articles.]

  17. Bill Cope says:

    As Director of Common Ground and a longtime colleague, I feel I need to respond to the comments in this post about Dr Amareswar Galla. Dr Galla has had a long and distinguished career as a professor at the University of Canberra, the Australian National University and the University of Queensland, some of Australia’s top Universities. He is editor of an important book on world heritage published by Cambridge University Press. He has also served a leading role for many years in the International Council of Museums. Our annual Inclusive Museum Conference was held last year at the National Museum of India in Delhi and will be held this year at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Dr Galla is the editor of Common Ground’s International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, now in its ninth volume. Along with our Inclusive Museum book series, this is a remarkably rich and highly regarded body of work, a decade in the making. Dr Galla is not paid for the work he does as conference convenor or editor of the journal and book series.

  18. Dennis Lang says:

    OMICS International publishes the “Journal of Tropical Diseases and Public Health”. I note OMICS is on Mr. Beall’s list.

    I’m a journalist who has been investigating the practice of a self-described guru/healer named Mahendra Trivedi. Trivedi claims “scientific research” validates him.

    Some of these “studies” have appeared in other journals on Mr. Beall’s listing.

    Anyone familiar with the above referenced journal and its legitimacy?

    Thank you,
    Dennis Lang

  19. Pepijn van Erp referred in http://kloptdatwel.nl/2016/03/19/powerfoodie-rens-kroes-met-haar-klei-tegen-negatieve-straling/ (in Dutch) to a paper titled “Behavior of adenine in Na-montmorillonite exposed to gamma radiation: implications to chemical evolution studies” ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12146708 ).

    This paper is published in the journal Cellular and molecular biology (Noisy-le-Grand, France). The homepage of this journal ( http://www.cellmolbiol.com/ ) states: “Published by C.M.B. Association, 34 Boulevard Solférino, 86000 Poitiers, FRANCE”.

    The homepage of this journal states as well: “14 Nobel Price Winners are Honorary Members of the CMB Editorial Board. Eight of them participated actively to our World-Congresses! The presence of so many Laureates is the proof that Cellular and Molecular Biology is the driving force of scientific accomplishment in Life Sciences. In 1976, Sir Hans Krebs, Nobel Prize Winner, confirmed to Professor R. Wegmann that “Cellular and Molecular Biology is the most excellent definition of this interdisciplinary Life Science, without which no more any progress in research nor any discovery can be made in the future.””

    http://www.cellmolbiol.com/editorial.htm states: “updated May 17, 2014. CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, Founder : Raymond J. WEGMANN”. This url states as well: “INTERNATIONAL BOARD: Nobel Prize Laureates, Werner ARBER, Basel, Switzerland, Günter BLOBEL, New York, USA, Christian DE DUVE, Brussels, Belgium, Leo ESAKI, Tsukuba, Japan, Pierre-Gilles de GENNES, Paris, France, Ivar GIÆVER, Schenectady, USA, Robert HUBER, Martinsried, Germany, Harold KROTO, Brighton, UK, Jean-Marie LEHN, Strasbourg, France, Hartmut MICHEL, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Ferid MURAD, Houston, USA, Ilya PRIGOGINE†, Austin, USA, Jens C. SKOU, Aarhus, Denmark, Torsten N. WIESEL, New York, USA.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_Prigogine states: “Died, 28 May 2003 (aged 86), Brussels, Belgium”.

    http://www.cellmolbiol.com/call%20for%20papers.htm states: “Special Issue: Recent Advancements in Molecular Pathogenesis. (….) Important dates: Manuscript Due: Tuesday, 15th March, 2016, First Round of Review: Friday, 15th April, 2016, Publication Date: Wednesday, 27th April, 2016.”

    http://www.cellmolbiol.com/E_Submission/index.htm states: “When accepted, all submitted manuscripts are subject to an article processing fee 185 EUR. Processing charges will be charged for withdrawing a manuscript after submission. A manuscript cannot be withdrawn after it was accepted for publication. Only payments via paypal are accepted.”

    http://www.cellmolbiol.com/liste_backissues.php?Annee=2002 indicates that “Behavior of adenine in Na-montmorillonite exposed to gamma radiation: implications to chemical evolution studies” ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12146708 ) is part of issue 5 (title “Biophysics of Radiation”) of Volume 48 ( http://www.cellmolbiol.com/liste_online_papers.php?Id_Fascicule=102&Annee=2002 ).

    https://www.researchgate.net/journal/1165-158X_Cellular_and_molecular_biology_Noisy-le-Grand_France states: “Publisher: OMICS International”.

    So what’s going on over here?

  20. See also http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSnGNX7YKbvl+1d8+GNW20140210 (Press Release | Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:09am EST):

    “OMICS Group International, a leading open-access publisher and a world class scientific International Conference organizer is proud to announce that 22 Nobel Laureates are now supporting the journal of Cellular and Molecular Biology. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Biology, a 60 year old journal, was acquired by OMICS Group in October and a collaboration agreement was signed between Dr Srinubabu Gedela, Managing Director and CEO of OMICS Group International, and Professor and Dean Raymond J. Wegmann, founder of the journal. (….). Raymond J. Wegmann was born in Sarreguemines (France), July 8, 1923.”

    “Established in the year 1950, Cellular and Molecular Biology journal is an interdisciplinary publication that publishes original research work in the form of articles, comments and reviews integrating molecular biology with fields like biophysics, biochemistry, enzymology, physiology and biotechnology in a dynamic cell and tissue biology environment, applied to human, animals, plants tissues as well to microbial and viral cells. Under the surveillance of 22 Nobel Laureates, Cellular and Molecular Biology has achieved the pinnacle of success and will continue to accomplish the same.”

    The website of the journal currently lists 14 Nobel Prize Laureates (one is indicated as passed away). This url was updated on 17 May 2014. The information is heavily outdated. Two other persons are been passed away.
    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Gilles_de_Gennes : died 18 May 2007, aged 74, Orsay, France.
    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_de_Duve : died, 4 May 2013, aged 95, Grez-Doiceau, Belgium.

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