An “online marketplace” claiming to facilitate sale and purchase of authorships for research papers that have been accepted for publication in scientific journals has been brought to light by the Web of Science, part of London-based Clarivate Analytics, which provides analytical services to journals and innovation companies.
An investigation by the company showed that a Russian website (http://123mi.ru) claims to facilitate the fraudulent publication. Retraction Watch blog was the first to report the scam.
A Google translation of the claims on the Russian website says, “We sell publications of finished articles in Scopus and Web of Science journals (articles written and accepted in journals; sold in parts or in whole).”
It asks researchers to part with hundreds of dollars to become authors of papers that they never worked on, promising definite publication and indexing.
The website lists 344 articles for which first, second, third or more authorships are for sale.
Of the 344 papers where authorships are for sale, 73 are from journals based in India. Venezuela has the second highest number of papers at 54, followed by the U.S. (38), Russia (33) and Pakistan (28).
Although there are a few dozen papers listed from these countries, it is not clear how many journals are allegedly open to such a practice.
There is also no confirmation of the site’s claim that the journals are indexed in Scopus or Web of Science or whether they are predatory or standard journals.
Although the website claims that certain authorships had been sold, it is not clear if individuals parted with money.
It is also unclear if any papers have actually been published, or if the Russian website is just an online scam operation.
The cost of first authorship is highest and reduces for the successive authors. The cost of first authorship varies from $285 to $1,222.
Papers with five potential authors have been listed, although the norm is to have three or four.
“The articles have been accepted for publication in journals that are allegedly indexed. We do not know the identity of the authors or journals… We are investigating and trying to identify the journals. We will take appropriate action,” Amy Bourke-Waite, external communications director, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics, said in an email to The Hindu .
The website does not mention the name of the journals or the title of the 344 papers. It says that the names of the journals and titles will be “available only to customers who have paid”. But it does provide information about journal disciplines, country of publication, the number of authors per paper, short description of the article and if the journal is indexed in Scopus and/or Web of Science.
“The primary transaction appears to be author-to-author (with the owners of the service presumably taking a cut) but beyond allowing post-acceptance changes in the author lists, it’s not clear to what extent journal editors or publishers are aware of, or involved in this enterprise,” Nandita Quaderi, editor-in-chief of Web of Science said in a July 17, 2019, letter to Natalie Ridgeway, executive officer of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a non-profit that promotes integrity in research and publication.
“I wanted to bring this to your attention early as you may want to warn COPE members of this activity as soon as possible and perhaps take this opportunity to share best practice guidelines regarding post-acceptance changes to author lists,” she said.