Fake scholarship

Published: January 2, 2012

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In 1997, I received a letter from an institution in Cambridge stating that they had looked at my scholarly work and had decided to honour me for it. As my book, Language and Poltics in Pakistan, had been published by the Oxford University Press only a few months earlier and was getting excellent reviews so, in my naivety and hubris, I thought the news had reached Cambridge and thankfully agreed. Then came another letter saying they would also include my name in a book (some kind of Who’s who) but that I would have to pay a fee to receive the book and the certificate of achievement. And such is human folly and weakness that I paid the money and the impressive book and certificate duly arrived. But then such invitations became a deluge and I wrote to someone who wanted to honour me for ‘distinguished work in the year 1998’ that, apart from putting on weight, I had done nothing that year which deserved any such honour. I also wrote an article in The News (May 14, 1997) entitled “Dubious Honours” warning people against such scandals. But, much to my amusement, people not only kept receiving such honours but even reported them in the press with obvious pride.

A few months back, I fell for the ruse yet again. You would be quite right in saying “At your age too!” but hold your horses. The invitation seemed to be from a respectable journal on linguistics which was different, the editor claimed, from other journals in that it was online. And the reason they were asking me to contribute to it was because they had seen my scholarly work and citations to it. This is perfectly credible since now there is google.scholar.com which can give my publications and the citations to it, whereas in 1997 such facilities did not exist. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I fell for it and sent an article to the journal. After a few days, the editor wrote back saying that I should suggest the names of referees as I knew this field better than others. I understood immediately that this was a substandard publication as I could suggest the names of my friends and, in any case, what kind of journal was this which did not have a list of referees to whom my work could be sent? I gave no reply and expected that the thing would be dropped. But editors of this kind are made of sterner stuff and lo and behold, I received the glad tidings that my article had been recommended by the referees and that it would be published. But would I kindly attend to the matter of a small fee for the publication. Of course, I did not and gave no reply. I hope the matter was dropped then but Dr Isa Daudpota fears otherwise.

Dr Isa Daudpota is a man of great courage and persistence. He has been active in unearthing substandard theses from 2004 or earlier. In a letter of November 2010 to Dr Javaid Leghari, chairman of the HEC, he pointed out the fake journals which masquerade as foreign journals on Pakistan’s academic landscape. This letter he also sent me in November 2011 and I told him of my own experience, whereupon he said that they would have published my article even without the money just to get my name for their fraudulent publication. He also said that many peoples’ names — VIP academics, of course — are on the editorial boards of such journals and they do not even know about it. Now I do not consider myself an academic VIP but, maybe, given the dearth of published academics, it is possible that other people do. So let me make it clear that I gave my name to the editorial board of only two HEC recognised Pakistani journals and that, too, should have come to an end since I requested them to drop my name. I am, however, still on the editorial board of the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London). Likewise, I am also not a visiting faculty member anywhere in Pakistan so if my name crops up in journals or in university departments please feel free to inform me so that action can be initiated against such fraudulent people.

Hats off to people who expose such frauds. First, Isa Daudpota who did not stop at writing to the HEC and people like me. His article in Dawn (Dec 01, 2011) entitled “Scourge of Fake Journals” brought these facts to public view. In response to this, Dr Abdullah Sadiq, former Rector of the GIKI, wrote that parliament should make laws awarding exemplary punishments to people publishing in these journals. Specific cases of fraud, such as that of the African Journal of Business Management, were pointed out again by Daudpota in another letter on “Management Sciences Publishing Racket”. It has 50 articles by some of our HEC’s approved supervisors, says Daudpota. Like the journal I mentioned, the author recommends the referees and sends $500 for each published article. He goes on to talk of an Australian journal with a Pakistani assistant professor on its editorial board. There is yet another Pakistani on the board and it appears that this second person published 20 papers in 18 months. It appears that out of 71 academics (approved supervisors in the field of Management Sciences), there are 39 who submitted 180 papers to these fake journals. About 80 per cent who did so had Pakistani doctorates. Daudpota does not give the real names of these people (though he did name people in the earlier letter to the HEC) but names are not important except for legal action which can hardly be taken yet as there is no law against such activities so far. What is important is that the HEC should not count publications in just any journal, whether local or foreign. There are prestigious, acceptable and dubious journals from various academically advanced countries to choose from and lists of such journals could be prepared. Some Pakistani journals may also be on the lists of acceptable journals but there should be a point-weightage system to give more significance to top-level journals. For the rank of full professor in a research university on high salary (TTS scales), one should have published at least one-third of one’s work in prestigious journals and the rest in acceptable ones including our own journals. For teaching universities, which covers most of our so-called ‘universities’, this condition can be relaxed so that no work needs to be published in prestigious journals but then the salaries of such professors should not be in the high scales (i.e. they should be in BPS salaries). And for university colleges, this may be further relaxed but, again, the salaries can be lower too. This will reduce the pressure on academics to publish in fake journals and resort to plagiarism and academic fraud at a high level.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Dr. Ali Ahmed
    Jan 3, 2012 - 12:40AM

    Thanks for directing our minds again to this matter. I truly agree on what has been said, more importantly the veterans must make a council within Pakistan insuring prompt and accurate guidance to the upcoming generation. The role it should be through council only that papers be submitted to different journals. And it would be wise if that council does not take fee for the rendering of services in the name of securing a brighter future of the nation.


  • Max
    Jan 3, 2012 - 1:01AM

    Welcome to the brave new world of internet academia. We all have been victims of these non-existent journals, publications, editorial boards, etc. One actually sent me a paper for peer review to legitimize their existence. I reviewed,and wrote extensive comments but never heard back. At a later stage it dawned on me that it was actually published about four years earlier in a well respected professional journal.


  • Jan 3, 2012 - 1:07AM

    Thanks sir for reporting such a serious issue


  • Mehran
    Jan 3, 2012 - 1:21AM

    When quantity matters to establish one’s worth as good researcher, s/he may pursue to write and publish every where and any where to get more count down. I think HEC has flawed policy in this regard, Pakistan is an emerging center for research, there we need not the number of publications but quality of research.One good quality paper should be given high weightage than 10 papers in bogus or under Impact factor Journals.


  • Hizb Jamali
    Jan 3, 2012 - 3:18AM

    “ISI Web of Knowledge” is the standard index for judging the “impact factor” of journals. As such, research should be rewarded only if it is published in one of the ISI-indexed-journals and not just any journal. In many developed countries, including Australia, the HEC-equivalent bodies have developed a local journal-ranking-system which ranks journals in categories such as A, B, C and so on, places the non-ISI-indexed-journals in the bottom rankings, and obviously does not include any dodgy journals or publishers. This allows academics to choose the best journal to submit their research work to, and removes any doubts if a journal is fake or genuine. As suggested by the author, sorting this academic mess (which is very easy) should be top priority of HEC if it wants to reward the academics on merit.


  • Max
    Jan 3, 2012 - 3:36AM

    @Dr. Ali Ahmed:
    Your idea of a council will not solve the problem but create an unnecessary bureaucratic bottle-neck. Meetings, agenda, nepotism, jee hazoori and so much more. It is the job of the senior colleagues to mentor the newer ones.
    We all started somewhere: some senior faculty members gave good directions others distracted but we made it, so will they. Let us put our faith in them than questioning their integrity.
    What Dr. Rahman is mentioning is not unique to Pakistan. I sit on the tenure committee of my institution and come across all type of nonsensical papers, galvanized vitae, and bogus journals. Please also keep in mind that egos, networking, unnecessary patting, and stabbing in the back all work in any academic settings and all over the world. I have seen nicest people in this profession and the meanest as well.


  • Non conformist
    Jan 3, 2012 - 4:57AM

    Urgent action is needed to eradicate this menace lest our universities get flooded with academicians with piles of ‘fake’ publications.


  • Spud
    Jan 3, 2012 - 5:36AM

    @Mehran: I believe that the policy of some universities is also to blame for these matters. These days many universities have adopted a policy of publish or perish meaning that teaching excellence is not a prerequisite for promotion within academic ranks. While research is necessary teaching excellence should also be given equal weightage.


  • Jan 3, 2012 - 9:51AM

    Of all the dishonesties, Intellectual dishonesty is the worst. It must be rooted out.


  • Tanoli
    Jan 3, 2012 - 10:24AM

    Many Thanks to Dr. Rahman for further highlighting a very important issue. HEC should take immediate measures to stop this academic corruption.


  • Salman Ahmad
    Jan 3, 2012 - 1:56PM

    I do look at “ISI web of Knowledge” for evaluating the credibility of any journal. It is a quite confusing to me that much debated African Journal of Business Management was having and impact factor of around 1, in 2009. So for people like me (at an early stage of Phd) it is very misleading on how to judge the worth of a journal? Simply saying that if publisher charges money, is too vindictive. Rest of publishers like Sage, Taylor and Francis and Science Direct spend lots of time in accepting a paper. Now Universities are also making it compulsory of three research papers before awarding a PhD.


  • Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt
    Jan 4, 2012 - 7:46PM

    Great work Dr Sahib, The problem is HEC is still insisting that they have nothing to do with this ……………..nonetheless, I am leaving this country for good, to a place where the distinctions between scholarly work and intellectual prostitution is more clear than Pakistan.

    Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt


  • Zahid
    Jan 4, 2012 - 8:08PM

    @Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt: You and many others like you are leaving the country for their own monetary and social benefits. You want to go, please do so. But, do not say a single bad word about the country in which you are not going to live. Only those who have chosen to struggle in this country have the right to be critical not selfish people like you.


  • Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt
    Jan 4, 2012 - 8:17PM

    @ Zahid who are you to decide about my rights and my motives to leave this country. moreover how you conclude that i am leaving for monetary gains. and which law of this country suggest that an expatriate has no right to talk about the affairs of this country. hope you will use both your right and left brain before sharing your valuable comments


  • Zahid
    Jan 4, 2012 - 10:15PM

    @Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt:
    I have said what I wanted to say. I have chosen to struggle in this country and I own this country more than you, even though I am not a privileged Dr. like you. You please, go and serve the country where you are going for good. Get a red or blue passport and enjoy your life. Comeback in 5 years time for a trip and make us realise that we (who live and struggle in Pakistan) are backward and sick, make us realise that we are ordinary and inferior. But, don’t, don’t say bad about Pakistan Dr. sb. If you so care for Pakistan. Then I dare you to stay and struggle with us.


  • Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt
    Jan 5, 2012 - 12:02AM

    @Zahid: Don’t say anything bad about Pakistan…….even if we are one of the most corrupt nation on the world, even if we sell our vote for a bag of flour, even if our politician change parties more quickly than hoers and we reelect them, even when the people in the power full corridors can pick you up and no one will know what happen to you, even when no one cares what happen in khrotabad, Abbotabad, Salala,

    but if some one dare to ask….. who has more right on this country, the one who sleep hungry or the one who got the gun and sleeping………you will label him a traitor, i am going no where to get another passport you can keep my track on Google, but surely it will be utterly shameful for me if i will be buried on this land.


  • Qasim Abbasi
    Jan 11, 2012 - 12:31AM

    @Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Butt: I am student of Mohsin Butt Sb. . . Sir your thoughts are always hard to swallow. But when I get back in my hostel . I lay on my bed. . I think about your thoughts, I find them 100% correct. And as far as red and blue passports, Money and better life is concerned, I believe Butt Sb has nothing to do with these things.


  • Qasim Abbasi
    Jan 11, 2012 - 12:39AM

    @ Zahid: I am student of Dr. Mohsin Butt Sb. His thoughts are always hard to swallow. But when I get back in my hostel & lay on my bed. I think of his thoughts and find that what ever he says is 100% correct. And as far as blue or red passport, money & better life is concerned, let me tell you Butt Sb has nothing to do with these things. . .


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