Medical Journal Accepts Sting Paper, Gets Tipped Off, Retracts

Medical Archives

Unhealthy archives.

Fed up with the easy acceptance of articles submitted to the Bosnian journal Medical Archives, a faculty member at the University of Prishtina (Universiteti i Prishtinës) decided to carry out a sting operation to expose the journal’s lack of peer review and rapid publication. It didn’t go exactly as planned.

The researcher, Associate Professor Hatixhe Latifi-Pupovci, translated an old article she had written in Albanian into English and submitted it to Medical Archives, one of three journals of Avicena Publisher, a publisher on my list of questionable publishers. Its owner, editor-in-chief (and frequent contributor to its journals) is Dr. Izet Mašić.

The plan was to test whether the journal would conduct an honest peer review or just quickly accept and publish the paper after the author fee was paid.

Dr Latifi-Pupovci tells the story:

Since tens of my colleagues from the University of Prishtina were getting academic promotions based on publications in the three journals edited by Dr. Mašić, I decided to test the credibility of one on them (“Medical Archives”) by submitting a humble paper which was already published in Prishtina, Kosovo, and, in my opinion, would not qualify for publication in an international journal. I submitted the paper on 22 February 2014 and, on 14 April 2014 received a reminder to pay the publication fee of 250 EUR, which I never did.

A copyright transfer form from the journal, indicating the article will be published.

An email from Mašić requesting copyright transfer and proof of payment.

She received the email above asking her to sign a copyright transfer form and to send in proof that she had paid the author fee. She never paid the fee, nor did she intend to.

Dr. Hatixhe Latifi-Pupovci recounts what happened next:

Several days later I found out the article was published on 10 April 2014, four days before the reminder was sent out. On 27 April I sent a message to a 3000 member Yahoo Group of  professors and students of the Faculty of Medicine in my home university, explaining the whole situation and making clear that I renounce the paper and I am not going to use it for my academic promotion.

The message is in Albanian, but those interested in the topic can easily use online tools to translate it.

The published article. Note that the true "Received" date was February 22. The journal back-dated it to January 11.

The published article. Note that the true “Received” date was February 22. The journal back-dated it to January 11.

But then the editor was tipped off to the sting operation. In May, 2014, he sent this rejection letter to the author:

Rejected, with a request for more submissions.

Rejected, with a request for more submissions.

At this point, two years ago, Dr. Latifi-Pupovci thought the story was over. But recently, she learned that Mašić had formally “retracted” the sting article.

In an August, 2014 editorial in Medical Archives, Mašić announces a “retraction” of Dr. Latifi-Pupovci’s article, falsely accusing her of plagiarism. He wrote,

First case of plagiarism this year was happed in February issue when author prof. Hatixhe Latifi-Popovci tried to publish her paper in our journal with title “Association Between Autoantibodies Against Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor and Thyroid Diseases”. After several and anonymous suggestions from Prishtina that this article was already published in the journal “Praxis Medica” in Albanian language and identical in content we received, it was decided to retract paper from our side. Also, Dean of the Faculty of medicine in Prishtina and Rector of University of Prishtina were informed about author’s unethical behavior.

So Mašić’s journal quickly accepted and briefly published an article submitted as part of a sting operation, but he turned it around into an accusation of plagiarism.

Dr. Latifi-Pupovci sums it up nicely:

Researchers and general public should be aware that Avicena Publishers is a typical example of a company which does not follow the industry standards and exists to provide easy, fast and cheap publishing for the authors. It is unethical and dishonest to operate such a business and make false accusations against those who tell people what you are really doing.


8 Responses to Medical Journal Accepts Sting Paper, Gets Tipped Off, Retracts

  1. MC says:

    Would have made more sense to send a un-published, fake article to the journal, not something that had already been published elsewhere. I get why the editor calls the authors’ behavior unethical- technically, it is, so the point the author was trying to make would have been stronger if they sent in something that was scigen-like

    • DWeb says:

      plus sci-gen articles are more amusing :)

      • MC says:

        I felt like the post did not really point this out, but instead sided too heavily with the author, especially by stating “Mašić announces a ‘retraction’ of Dr. Latifi-Pupovci’s article, falsely accusing her of plagiarism.”

        Didn’t the author, in fact, plagiarize themselves by submitting an already-published manuscript to another journal?

        The editor is a weirdo, no doubt, and this journal is completely useless by anyone’s standards, but wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to send a fake article?

    • tekija says:

      Agree. Bad choice that made the retraction legitimate.

  2. Publisher Avicena is a member of COPE. Copy/pasted from

    “Showing 3 results. Order by: Title
    Acta Informatica Medica, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Professor Izet Masic
    Materia Socio Medica, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Professor Izet Masic
    Medica Archives, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Professor Izet Masic”

  3. Jill says:

    I agree that it would have been better to use a fake article. However, if I read the acceptance letter correctly, one was to have paid the publication fee on submission, not at acceptance. And from that, these journals get also get the authors to sign copyright transfer to the journal?! That strikes me as theft of intellectual property.

  4. […] list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. Appropriately, Beall recounts the story of her sting operation on his blog. Here’s how it all went […]

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