Is This the Worst Academic Journal Ever?

Update: Since I first drafted this post, ABRJ has revamped it’s website. Not to worry, it’s still hilarious.

Spoiler alert: yes, probably.

We are all aware of the growth in open access ‘journals’ of dubious quality, but my attention was recently drawn to one of the worst examples I have ever seen. It is so bad, and unintentionally hilarious, that I couldn’t resist sharing it.

The American Based Research Journal (ABRJ) is, and I quote, an “Open-Access–Monthly–Online–Double Blind Peer Reviewed Journal”. This American based journal lists a UK contact address, which google earth shows to be a rather nondescript suburban lane on the outskirts of Manchester.

This is far from the first warning sign. The mere scope of the journal is baffling: “All areas of Accounting and Finance, Business, Management, HRM, Marketing Computer Science, Engineering, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Arts (Including Fine Arts) are covered”.

In case that isn’t broad enough, the page provides a long list of specific topics, ranging from “Fundamentals of Income Tax” to “Fashion Designers” and “Fashion Trends”.⁠ The latter two are inexplicably linked to some dodgy looking .biz fashion website which, at the time of writing, hosts a fascinating article entitled “What To Wear With Peasant Top This Summer”.

ABrj-final-logo

The logo the Journal chose to convey this broad scope? A DNA double helix.

As for its peer review policy, the website explains:

We adopt double blind peer review policy in which both authors and reviewers are kept anonymous to each other so as to maintain the high technical and quality standards as required by the researchers’ community these days.

Researchers these days are so picky, with their newfangled double blind studies and whatnot.

The ‘journal’ regularly spams scholars asking them to submit, but at the very least the emails are (unintentionally) funny. Jeffrey Beall has archived it online for posterity. Showing that the sender never learnt how to do a mail merge, the email starts:

Dear Dear Author, We are really impressed after reading your research work: ‘Research Article’

It continues:

Our journal American Based Researche [sic] Journal… with good reputation and published by USA PhD Doctors Collaboration and referred from them, which focuses on business, management,… and relevant subjects.

Online publication costs only $150, and the reader is exhorted to submit  “articles for publish from students, Research scholars and professors for Calls for Papers-Sep-25-2014 publications”.

Here comes my favorite bit. The email is signed:

Best wishes
Editor
Dr. Merry Jeans
New York, USA

No matter how many times I’ve read it, I still chuckle a little at Merry Jeans, possibly the funniest fake name ever concocted. Or is it? The editorial board of ABRJ features other gems, including “Dr. belly Joseph”, “Dr. Jazzy Rolph”, and “Prof. William” (no surname), while reviewers include a “Dr. Phineas drown”. At some point I stopped even bothering to google these names to confirm my strong suspicion that none of them really exist.

This journal is so obviously bullshit, but I had to know who was behind it. I dug around a bit and found that ABRJ’s web address is registered to one Abid Ali from ‘Zoom SEO Services’, based in Lahore, Pakistan. A couple of searches later and I found myself on his personal blog site, which consists of one rather telling page.

Ali is/was in fact a student of the Virtual University of Pakistan (incidentally a real bricks and mortar university, not actually a virtual one). He gloats that his blog had previously been shut down because he had been posting completed university assignments. To his apparent joy and amusement, he reregistered the name when it became available again, only to make this one announcement.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that the worst of all the awful fake open access journals that I’ve seen to date comes from the bedroom of some cheating student in Pakistan – half the battle in the internet age is that pretty much anyone with a computer can throw together a sham journal and, apparently, make some cash.

As Derek Lowe puts it: “It’s a long way down, that’s for sure, and the bottom is nowhere to be seen.”⁠

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5 thoughts on “Is This the Worst Academic Journal Ever?

  1. Hmm, I don’t see how this could be the ‘worst’ of all journals. After all, it does no harm: nobody reads it, nobody publishes there. Well, whoever publishes can only be a nobody 🙂

    Magazines like Science and Nature, however, publish more irreproducible science than any other journal (relatively speaking) and even the science that may be reproducible, is done with a weaker methodology than elsewhere. In contrast to the harmless little gem you found, they publish people like LaCour, Wolf-Simon, Stapel, Schön or Wakefield, with serious repercussions for policy or human lives.

    I have no idea how you can get the impression the journal you describe can be any worse than the cabale of parasitizing journals that are risking people’s lives for profit.

    Don’t believe me? Well, I’ll let the data speak for themselves, then:
    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00291/full

    • There is nothing in there that supports the statement that “Science and Nature […] publish more irreproducible science than any other journal”.

    • I have to wonder sometimes whether the papers received by certain journals such as you mentioned above are peer-reviewed at all especially when results with n=2 are published.

  2. “Magazines like Science and Nature, however, publish more irreproducible science than any other journal (relatively speaking) and even the science that may be reproducible, is done with a weaker methodology than elsewhere. In contrast to the harmless little gem you found, they publish people like LaCour, Wolf-Simon, Stapel, Schön or Wakefield, with serious repercussions for policy or human lives.” A stern and quite correct indictment of boutique magazines.

  3. For fun, yes I know I need to get out more, I decided to play on Google. One of the Board of Directors is listed as Dr. Imam john ud din (chosen randomly from the list). When you Google this name, you get this person:https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-imam-ud-din/21/2b8/a80. YOu will note that he has nothing to do with the University of Tehran, but is in Karachi.

    Then, I just picked one of their editions – Volume 3, Number 12. The only article was titled, “Instructional Design and Science Education in Nigeria” by Jacinta A. Opara,PhD-Center for Environmental Education-Universidad Azteca Chalco-Mexico. Yet the photo they use is of Steven S. Volk, Professor of History, Oberlin College (possibly taken from here: http://college.usatoday.com/2011/11/25/2011-u-s-professors-of-the-year-named/).

    When you Google the authors name, find out she is from: http://www.univ-azteca.edu.mx/En/faculty/. But given the spelling errors on their landing page, I have reservations about it.

    Now I wonder how many people cite articles from this ‘journal’.

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