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Predatory Publishers Want to Write Your Autobiography!

Yes, you read that title correctly. Oasis Publishing Group Ltd. recently sent me an email that offered to write my autobiography. The fact that these people don’t know what an autobiography means was the first hint that a predatory publisher might be dangling a line for me to bite. I was going to leave it at this snarky tweet, but then curiosity got the best of me and I decided to investigate.

When we put ourselves out into the public as scientists and science communicators, it doesn’t take long for the predatory publishing sharks to circle us. As I wrote previously in “To Catch A Predatory Publisher,” these dubious outfits will suffocate you in an avalanche of emails asking you to publish anything in their “journal” (for a fee, of course). They are referred to as “predators” because established scientific journals rarely solicit articles from scientists. Moreover, sting operations have revealed that many of these journals are “fake,” meaning they lack a robust peer-review system. No matter how many I block, I still wake up to dozens of these annoying solicitations every morning. I usually delete these without reading beyond “Greetings of the day!!!”, but this one caught my eye:

Yes, what more could you ask for? Well, I had a lot of questions, not the least of which was what they thought “autobiography” meant. And “basing” on this person’s grammar, I was pretty sure I spotted a hook under the bait. So I wrote back:

I quickly received a response, which wasted no time in explaining that “writing a book will take lot of efforts and time…Our service fee for this is $1895.” For just under two grand, this company claims they can summarize in “common man’s language” my past 25 years of research into signal transduction and the mechanisms of gene expression regulation in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In just one month. That’s impressive!

But here’s the really strange part. They still sent no web site, and yes, I know how to Google. I could find no information about this company or service. And, instead of the autobiography samples I requested, they sent me alternative medicine propaganda and a PDF copy of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. That’s odd, don’t you think? It begged a few follow-up questions. Here is an email that shows my (numbered) questions and their replies:

Illuminating. Finally, they sent their web site. Not sure who is on their web development team, but I recommend they all be fired immediately. How do you expect to sell your project by blurring the image? No wonder none of them have made the New York Times Best Seller list. Even worse, whichever book I selected, the description was the exact same (something about online shopping) and had nothing to do with the title. Here are two examples:

Also note the date of the last email: January 31, 2019. Now check out the blog page of the web site below: February 1, 2019. Did they literally just create this web site for me? And how about that tag line: “Reading is the best for get idea”?

I could go on about other problems and discrepancies with this web site, but I think you get the picture. How about the new example they sent? This looks like a legitimately bad rough draft of a scientist’s work (I won’t say who) cobbled together hastily. By no stretch of the imagination was it written in “common man’s language.”

It was time to pull out all the stops. I wrote back the most blatantly sarcastic and ludicrous email I could think of to see what they would say:

It’s been one week now. I don’t think they’re writing back. Feel free to cut and paste the above into your response to these scammers. Maybe they will finally leave us alone!

You may also be interested in reading:

To Catch A Predatory Publisher

As for all posts on PLOS SciComm, this article is available for reposting/reprinting as long as you acknowledge the author and provide a link back to the original article on the PLOS site.

Discussion
  1. Thank you very much, Bill, I received this morning the same email and I used google to look for other people that was scam-fished. I used your answer, but surely they will keep trying.
    Greetings from Barcelona (Spain).

  2. Hello Bill,

    Nice piece of investigation for a small chapter when you do write that autobiography! Well done.
    I got the same email today Thanks for sharing your experience. Love your sense of humor!
    Yours
    Millie

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