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.