Spammers Invite Researchers to Pay to Advertise Their Research

Be very careful.

Be very careful.

There are several research advertising companies that spam scholarly researchers, companies often confused with predatory publishers. The spam emails aim to get researchers to pay to showcase their work on the firms’ websites and in their glossy magazines.

While the firms’ activity may not be illegal (except for the spamming in some jurisdictions), their services are typically very expensive and certainly not needed by most researchers.

Here, I’d like to briefly describe the three that appear to spam most frequently:


Lost in cyberspace.

Lost in cyberspace.

The Atlas of Science is not transparent about where it is based, except to say that its run by a company called AoS Nordic AB. Its internet domain name data is blinded, but Google searches point to a base in Sweden.

It’s not an atlas at all, but a company that sends out unsigned spam emails soliciting 600-word research summaries that — for a fee — it will then publish on its website. The intended audience for Atlas of Science is the general public, not other researchers or funders, as with the other two firms described here.

I’ve appended one of the firm’s spam emails below. The spammers ask that the summaries be written for “someone at an average IQ,” fitting, perhaps, for Sweden.


Profiteer

Profiteer

Science Diffusion is the company that publishes Scientia, a glossy magazine / website that many at first think is a predatory journal. It’s not a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. Instead, it’s an aggregation of paid advertisements for research and researchers — scientific puffery.

Here’s a short selection from one of their clever and manipulative spam emails:

Dear Dr. Smith,

I hope you do not mind me emailing you directly, I thought it would be the easiest way to make first contact. If you have time for a short discussion I was hoping to speak with you about your research and our interest to feature your work in an upcoming issue of our publication, Scientia.

I will run you through this in more detail when we talk. But to give you a very quick insight into Scientia and the style in which we produce I have attached a few example articles from research groups we have recently worked with. I have attached these as HTML files to reduce the file size, but I can send PDF versions if you would prefer.

Science Diffusion is apparently based in the U.K.

(There’s also an unsophisticated publisher on my list called Scientia Ricerca, and, as far as I know, there’s no relationship between it and Scientia.)


pan-european-networks

They want you to think they’re connected to the EU.

There’s also a threatening one called Pan European Networks that leads people to believe it’s associated with the EU.

The blog Carbon Copy & Nitride has an excellent critical analysis of this questionable firm that’s worth reading. According to the blog, “Mr Daniel Bott, Executive Director at Pan European Networks Ltd, Cheshire, UK has threatened legal action.” The threat is directed at the blog’s author.

A related service is Research Media. It used to employ the same aggressive and high-pressure spam and sales tactics as the services described above, but then in 2013 it was sold to Emerald Group Publishing. I have no evidence the firm has used spam email since its sale to Emerald.

Another blog post on this topic, written by Andrew Jaffe, is worth reading.

Conclusion

If you haven’t already, you will probably receive a spam email from a company that wants you to pay to advertise your research on their website or in a magazine they publish. These are not predatory journals because they’re not scientific journals.

Instead, they serve to showcase research for hefty fees. Few researchers will benefit from such services, and using them may make the customer appear desperate for recognition.

 

Appendix:  Spam email from the Atlas of Science:

Da: Atlas of Science [mailto:info@atlasofscience.org]
Inviato: venerdì 2 settembre 2016
A: [Redacted]
Oggetto: Create attention for your article; write a layman’s summary
Priorità: Alta

Dear Dr [Redacted],

We are interested to publish the layman’s summary of your research article: ‘[Redacted]’ on our website.

The new project ‘Atlas of Science’ (www.atlasofscience.org) started from 1st October 2015. It is made by scientists for scientists and the aim of the project will be publishing layman’s abstracts of research articles to highlight research to a broader audience.

Scientific articles are often difficult to fathom for journalists, due to the scientific jargon.

Although journalists like to assess the news value quickly, that is by no means simple with most research articles. Writing a short, understandable layman’s summary is a good means to reach this goal.

Why is press attention important?

Reaching the press is of great importance for yourself as well as for others.

∙ Through media exposure you attract the attention of potential employers, financiers and other people who may benefit you.

∙ It is an extra reward for your work. It is fun for yourself as well as for family and friends to read in newspapers what you have realized.

What should your layman’s summary look like?

Your text should be understandable for a layman. The more accessible your text is, the bigger the chance of media attention. The text (600 words at most) should be in English. Figures are allowed (2 figures at most).

The illustrations (figures/images/graphs) can add attraction to article. If there is any possibility we will recommend you to supplement your submission with illustration (although this is optional and will not affect the publication)

Title should be short and catchy.

Some other tips:

Ask the questions:

  1. How would I explain my thesis in a couple of minutes to:
  •   Someone at an average IQ;
  •   To my grandmother (provided she is not a nuclear physicist or the equivalent in your
  •   discipline!); or
  •   To a reporter for a mainstream publication.
  1. What difference will or could your research make to the world?

Remember that you are preparing this for a general audience. Keep the language as simple and jargon‐free as possible.

Submit

∙ Submit your summary within 2 months directly from this page www.atlasofscience.org/submit-your-laymans-summary/

What do we do with your layman’s summary?

∙ We check the text, and in consultation with you we dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

∙ Your text will be available on the Atlas of Science website, www.atlasofscience.org .

We will actively promote this site to the press.

Please, let us know if you are interested and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any question (simply reply to this email).

— Thank you,
Research Dept.
Atlas of Science

21 Responses to Spammers Invite Researchers to Pay to Advertise Their Research

  1. Nils says:

    On a related note, the infamous Omniscriptum Publishing Group appears to currently be on a spamming rampage.

  2. Keith says:

    “The spammers ask that the summaries be written for “someone at an average IQ,” fitting, perhaps, for Sweden.”

    Uh. What does this mean? This is the second thing you’ve posted implying that there’s some sort of institutional dumbing-down in Sweden.

    • CN says:

      This means that press releases for the US readers, starting Jan 20, will sound like “A tremendous achievement by the best US scientists! They had the best knowledge and got huge results, because, really, they have the best ability, believe me.”

    • Hugo van den Berg says:

      It’s an innocuous play on the fact that the spammer is based in Sweden.

  3. Here’s another one: Impact from Science Impact Ltd.

  4. CN says:

    Ugh. I heard the institutions do press releases for free (provided that the work isn’t complete trash), and then the authors get emails from crackpots. : )

  5. davidl53 says:

    I couldn’t find the cost of these “services” listed on the company websites. I couldn’t find any information about the number and demographics of visitors to the websites. This information should be important to those who will consider advertising their research project.

    As part of my work, I must regularly look at press releases from universities that are designed to announce research findings to the media. Releases from some universities are excellent. However, most are awful, completely failed attempts to convey science to the public.

    Given that a researcher wants to broadly publicize her/his work (many do not) there might be a market for a company that collaborates with a researcher to write a good press release. Do these and similar companies provide that service? The items on their public websites suggest that someone was a good-enough writer to make complex material more accessible. I didn’t spend more than a few moments when scanning the websites and the first summary pages may not represent the quality of other parts of the sites.

    • CN says:

      I believe there’s a not so obvious danger here. Most decent research institutions and universities tend to do press releases on publications in what’s considered “top journals,” so at least there’s hope that what you’re publicizing has gone through peer review.

      Here, however, not only you are able to publish in one of the “journals” this blog deals with, but also pay for widely releasing it to the public. This includes perpetual motion machines, efficacy of homeopathic medicine, the effects of Whatsapp messenger on students in Ghana, end of the world from imaginary asteroids and cellphone radiation, etc, etc.

      Anything and everything can thus be claimed, as long as you pay for making it widely read. Since one cannot expect journalists to effectively perform peer review, there is definitely reason to worry, especially, given last week’s election results (along with the early appointments) and what they could mean for education and scientific progress. This isn’t to start a panic, but certainly something to think about.

  6. Herr Doktor Bimler says:

    The Atlas of Science is not transparent about where it is based, except to say that its run by a company called AoS Nordic AB

    The company is Swedish, based in a nice suburban house in Stockholm. Two of the three company directors seem to have day jobs in a laboratory within the Karolinska Institute.

  7. Herr Doktor Bimler says:

    There’s also a threatening one called Pan European Networks that leads people to believe it’s associated with the EU.

    Not to forget “Horizon2020projects.com”, the flagship P.E.N. website.

    The UK company registry records us that the director and sole shareholder of P.E.N. is one Darren Wilson. Previously, Darren was the founder of the “Public Service Review” organisation described at hilarious length in Andrew Jaffe’s blog, to which you link above (P.S.R was later bought out by a Peter Gordon Warrender, under whose leadership it went t.u. and ended in receivership). The business model is the same: to extract money from academics, especially those who have benefitted from national or EU research funding, so that they can advertise their results and continue to receive national or EU research funding. With a lot of obnoxious misleading high-pressure telephone calls and spam.

    In the good old paleolithic days of Print Media, this used to be the “Business Directory” grift. Various low-lives and chancers would announce themselves as publishers of a Prestigious Business Directory. Then they would cold-call every small business around, demanding money for the business to be included, and warning that rival businesses had paid up — so the consequences of failing to appear in the DIrectory would be dire.

    So research team-leaders and Principle Investigators have become the new targets and hosts for this form of parasitism. This says a lot about the way science is structured today — the amount of research funding that the fortunate few receive, and the competitive pressure they are under to have something positive to promote.

  8. Frank says:

    Yes I had a “nice” telephone discussion with somebody from such a firm who wanted to highlight my research to a magazine distributed to EU people in Brussels…. It was tempting unless I heard after 30 minutes that it is not free but quite expensive….

  9. Nils says:

    Vanity presses: they have already been described at hilarious length in Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s pendulum”. Except the transition from print to electronic, nothing new here.

  10. […] Spammers Invite Researchers to Pay to Advertise Their Research Jeffrey Beall […]

  11. Herr Doktor Bimler says:

    Science Diffusion is the company that publishes Scientia, a glossy magazine / website that many at first think is a predatory journal. It’s not a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. Instead, it’s an aggregation of paid advertisements for research and researchers — scientific puffery.

    A related service is Research Media. It used to employ the same aggressive and high-pressure spam and sales tactics as the services described above, but then in 2013 it was sold to Emerald Group Publishing. I have no evidence the firm has used spam email since its sale to Emerald.

    Do you mean “related” in the sense of the individuals involved? The UK Companies Registry directs my attention to Simon Peter Jones, erstwhile director of Research Media, who parted ways with that company in 2014. Early this year he signed up as a director of “Research Publishing International” — publisher of the magazine Research Features — and “Sci Ani”, which is that magazine’s multimedia “scientific animation” wing.*

    Starting from the other end… the domains for “scientiapublications.com” and “sciencediffusion.com” are held by Avril Bagnall. Who also registered the domains “scianic.com” and “sci-ani.com”. As for the company Science Diffusion Ltd, its directors are Avril and Nicholas Bagnall, where Nicholas was also a founding director — along with Simon Jones — of Sci Ani Ltd. All these companies also use the same accountant in Bristol as their contact address.

    I have had no personal dealings with any of these magazines, and must leave it to others to decide whether they engage in spamming, cold-calling or sharp practices. But there does seem to be a lot of them, all targetting the same niche market of researchers who want to promote their work (so as to secure lucrative govt. / EU contracts, or to maintain existing contracts). It seems over-crowded. And they all seem to be set up by the same people.

    Any ideas why this particular niche in the science-publishing ecosystem seems to be centred in the UK? (with the exception of Atlas of Science).

    * In his role as “saintlysimon@gmail.com”, Mr Jones holds a domain for Impact Factor Magazine, which does not exist yet, and should not be confused with Science Impact.

    ** Avril Bagnall also founded the company “Knowledge Translation Media”, with the same general business model, but that is in the process of winding up, and its website is inn abeyance.

  12. ADZOMANI JOHN KENNEDY says:

    How do you rate IJAHS, International Journal of art and Humanity Science. Is it fake?

  13. Ayad says:

    Dear Beall Jeffrey

    Kindly to inform me about this journal ( Indian Journal of Critical care medicine) ISSN (0972-5229) l wish to publish in it.which is indexed in Scopus.

    Thanks

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