How a journal turned potential predator. The sad demise of the International Journal of Environmental and Science Education


This is a guest post from a colleague, Neil Taylor, who is Professor of Science Education at UNE. We hear a lot about predatory journals from an author’s perspective. But I found this combination of editorial & author experience interesting.

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The International Journal of Environmental and Science Education (IJESE) began in 2006 under the editorship of Dr Huseyin Bağ of Pamuakkle University, Turkey. I was asked to be on the editorial board and for a number of years I reviewed for the journal, published some articles in and co-edited a Special Issue on Scientific Literacy in 2009. After 2012 when I published my final article in IJESE, I lost touch with the journal and received no further requests to review. However, at the beginning of 2017 I wrote an article about a school gardening project in Oman that seemed to be a good fit for the readership of IJESE. As is often the case these days, as part of the submission process I was asked to provide the names and contact details of three potential reviewers. About six weeks after submission, I received notification from the editor that the article had been accepted without revisions. This was surprising but I was busy at the time (and perhaps a little vain), and given that IJESE was a reputable journal – I just accepted this outcome. Good quality galley proofs subsequently arrived and all requested changes were made efficiently and the article was published on the IJESE website.

However, three weeks after publication I received a request for a 425 Euro publishing fee. Given that the journal had never charged such fees previously I become suspicious and contacted a couple of members of the editorial board. Eventually, I heard from the ‘editor’ Dr Pavol Prokop, that LOOK Academic Publishers who now publish IJESE had been named as a possible predatory publisher and the journal had been removed from Scopus. Furthermore, despite having had no contact with IJESE for over one year, his name was still being used, without his permission, in decision letters. Based upon this I contacted one of the reviewers I had nominated who informed me that he had never received the article to review.

Fortunately I did not pay the publishing fee, but I wanted to retract and publish my article in a reputable journal and that was when the major grief began. I got no response from the publishers when I asked to have my article retracted and given that it was in the public domain this made it impossible to submit to another journal. It took a full day of emailing other science educators, and always copying in the publishing company, before they eventually removed the article from their website. Once the article was retracted and removed from Research Gate I was able to submit it to another journal for review. This journal did ask me to modify the title of the article slightly because it was likely that it was still out on the internet somewhere under its original title.

The website for IJESE looks very plausible, however a closer examination of the articles in the many issues published in 2017 indicates that many have no relationship to either science or environmental education. I have attempted to contact the currently listed editor without receiving any response.

I have always been aware of the existence of predatory journals, which I always assumed were established specifically for the purpose of defrauding individuals of their cash – but I had never known of a well-established and respected journal being ‘hijacked’ in this way. I have gradually been contacting members of the editorial board – whose names, like mine, remain listed on the journal website – and the response of one sums it up, “I am so very sorry to hear this. I love IJESE and have worked very hard over many years as an Editorial Board Member (and I know you and many others have also) to make IJESE a rigorous peer-reviewed journal”.

© Neil Taylor 2017

4 thoughts on “How a journal turned potential predator. The sad demise of the International Journal of Environmental and Science Education

  1. standingoutinmyfield November 29, 2017 / 10:44 PM

    What a headache…MDPI used to be on the predatory publishers list and now it’s been removed, but some people still consider it predatory. Not knowing this history, I did publish with them, and it seemed to go through a relatively normal review process (I had two reviewers but their comments were minor). I’m glad the paper is published, but I’m uncomfortable that some might consider the journal predaotry. I never know what to think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Manu Saunders November 30, 2017 / 8:51 AM

      Interesting. I had been avoiding MDPI as had been told that. but have noticed a lot of good papers & well known authors publishing in the ecology journals at least. Interesting how a journal can change tune!

      Like

      • standingoutinmyfield November 30, 2017 / 7:00 PM

        Yeah a very well known scientist in my field used to be an editor for the journal, which is why I initially trusted it. But she later told me she had to quit being an editor because of some shady practices…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Mebane November 30, 2017 / 2:25 PM

    Neil, this doesn’t sound like a hijacked journal, it sounds like the journal was sold. Journals at particular risk of hijacking are print only journals with minimal web presence, and which are indexed in WoS or Scopus. If the legitimate journal has minimal web presence, the impostor can claim the title. The present IJESE website includes links to back archives and the former editor you had worked with, which makes it look like it was sold. Journals can develop a community between authors, readers, editors and reviewers, but unless it is a scientific society title, it’s owned by the publisher and they can do change/sell it as the wish.

    Compare this with the hijacking of The Veliger. The Veliger was a print-only journal for research in comparative biology and natural history of aquatic molluscs, published by the California Malacological Society since 1958. In 2013, it was hijacked by persons unknown, hiding behind an Australia-based internet anonymizing service. The hijacked journal now seeks general science articles. The fake journal website claims to be published by The Veliger Society (which is also fake), lists the genuine purloined International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) of the print journal, lists an editorial board with names and photos of real people. At least 2 automated indexing services, Google Scholar and ResearchGate, conflated genuine articles on mollusk biology and ecology with articles published in the imposter journal on topics such as using rice husks to treat wastewater and one on “fuzzy fractional Ostrowski type inequality for preinvex functions” which does not seem to be about molluscs.

    Liked by 1 person

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