12 March 2023

Register for “Publication bans & DORA” roundtable

The anniversary week for DORA is still some weeks away, but I just realized that people who learn about it now might want to get updates as the event gets organized.

I have created a registration form for the “Publisher bans & DORA” roundtable event. Just enter your email and you will get an update when I have panelists and links to the online discussion ready to go. 

External links

Dora Tenth Anniversary events

11 March 2023

A star chamber for predatory journals

Look, I am not one for conspiracy theories. 

But if I was a major academic publisher, and I saw a lot of business going to new, upstart publishers that had even slightly questionable editorial practices, I’m not sure I would back a way from a little aggressive corporate public relations. I might set up a website that claimed to be providing a service by listing dodgy journals and publishers, and then – Bam! 💥 – I label a bunch of stuff coming from the competition as “predatory.”

Meanwhile, today I learned about a website called Predatory Reports in Scientific Publishing. I noticed today because they recently stuck a bunch of MDPI journals on their blacklist.

Their Twitter account has been around for a little over a year. It’s interesting that I never heard of them before they target MDPI, which fits the narrative of people who are already grumpy (legitimately so) with MDPI.

Looking around their website, I clicked the “About” page, I thought this was an overly honest image:

Empty conference room

An empty conference room.

The written description is no more informative. This group is “association of scientists and researchers.” No names, emails, how many people are involved, nothing.

Now, there may be a reason for this. The debates about anonymity in science are long, but usually come down to, “There are some cases where it’s appropriate.”

For instance, the creator of the original blacklist of predatory journals, Jeffrey Beall, tended to have people threaten to sue him with alarming regularity. You may recall he took down his list and never explained why.

But a far more important question is how this “association” decides what journals to include on their list. There is zero description of criteria or process here.

Compare this to another organization that tries to identify predatory publishers, Cabell’s. Their list is a commercial product, but their “About predatory reports” page at least promises that the full report includes, “A complete record of when, what and why a journal is put in Predatory Reports.”

I looked at one of their blog posts about SCRIP to try to glean how they are assessing publishers. They quote Beall’s work, they quote Cabell’s report, and have a list of references at the end. It looks like just a haphazard compilation of other people’s writings.

This is a step up from how I thought the list might be generated (just by using vibes), but there doesn’t seem to be anything new here. I don’t see a lot of value.

Poster for the movie “The Star Chamber” (1983).

For an association that wants to “build trust in scientific research and publications,” they don’t seem to have given much thought to how a blacklist made by a completely opaque process by a group of utterly unknown people looks more like a star chamber than a trustworthy organization.

External links

Predatory journals in scientific publishing

About Predatory reports (Cabell’s)

07 March 2023

Are grad students employees or students?

Many people have noted that grad students are in a weird dual state. Sometimes that are treated as employees. Sometimes they are treated as students. Which they get treated as often seems to depend on which is advantageous to the university at that particular moment.

Over the last couple of years, a combination of events has meant that many professors – particularly in the US – are finding it harder to get graduate students and post docs. So the number of people broadcasting on Twitter that they are recruiting students has gone up.

And what has struck more more and more is that those tweets look like job ads.

They’re not, “Come join our master’s program in my department,” they’re “I have a master’s position to study desert fishes using ecological modelling and environmental DNA” or what have you. 

Opportunities for graduate students are consistently described as “positions,” not programs.

I would have expected this for postdoc positions. I think postdocs have always been more or less this way, because there6s no degree associated with being a postdoc. But I wouldn’t have expected this as much for a doctoral programs, and lately I’m seeing a lot of tweets that are advertising for master’s students like this.

This is probably an inevitable outcome of graduate students being supported by professors’ research grants.

So I think we have to really stop thinking of graduate degrees as degree programs, because we aren’t treating them that was. They are entry level contract positions for scientists, in which you are partly compensated with a credential rather than money.

06 March 2023

I miss the fail whale

At least when Twitter tanked when it was a new service, you got an amusing, cute marine mammal to look at.

Black screen reading "Your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint, please see https://developer.twitter.com/en/docs/twitter-api for more information"

Now you just get a cryptic error message.

Several sites are reporting that every link on Twitter is doing this.

External links

Every link on Twitter is broken right now

Twitter Displaying Error Messages for Web Links Posted in Tweets 

Twitter’s busted again

05 March 2023

My social media style

 Okay,I blame Doc Becca for linking to abbrevia.me. It generates descriptions of how people use Twitter.

Doctorzen’s tweets cover a wide range of topics, including science, education, politics, and social issues. They often share articles and express their opinions on current events. They also engage with other users and respond to their comments and questions. Doctorzen’s writing style is straightforward and concise, with occasional humor and sarcasm. They use hashtags and retweets to amplify important messages and promote causes they support. Overall, Doctorzen appears to be an active and engaged Twitter user who uses the platform to share information and connect with others.

Ooh, concise! I worked hard for that one!

External links


02 March 2023

That “intelligent design” bill hasn’t died yet

Well, hell.

The pro “intelligent design” bill in West Virginia passed the Senate Education Committee.

The bill has now gone to the House Education Committee. The bill’s progress can be tracked on the West Virginia bill tracker

This Metro News article has more background on the bill, including the slightly strange fact that the bill was prompted by an idea from a high school student.

Committee chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, is leader sponsor and told the committee that the idea was brought to her by Hayden Hodge from Hurricane High.

Hodge appeared before the committee and said a teacher gave him the idea. The teacher wanted the option to teach ID alongside evolution.

“I am not in favor of getting rid of evolution,” Hodge said. And ID is not ultimately religious. (I hope this is Hodge’s opinion, not the reporter trying to state a fact. - ZF)

“I’m not asking for religion to be taught in classrooms, period,” Hodge said.

This is, of course, untrue. “Intelligent design” is a religious argument. This has been documented many times. We have the receipts. 

Reading the comments from the committee members is depressing. A retired science teacher was arguing in favour of this bill. In favour.

I’m glad the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the bill.

The bill made it out of committee with only one vote against it. The report doesn’t say who it was, but my hat is off to you, anonymous West Virginia senator.

External links

Senate education committee approves 4 bills including ‘intelligent design’ measure

‘Intelligent Design’ bill threatens science education in West Virginia

16 February 2023

A zombie idea rises again: New attempt to get “intelligent design” into classes

Policy analyst Bryan Kelley is reporting on a bill in West Virginia – Senate Bill 619 – that would legalize the teaching of intelligent design.

There is zero ambiguity in the text of this short bill.

(A)llowing teachers in public schools that include any one or more of grades kindergarten through 12 to teach intelligent design as a theory of how the universe and/or humanity came to exist.

Last year, I predicted that we would see a renewed push to get religious ideas into public schools in the United States. The legal landscape has completely changed for teaching religious ideas in public schools after the US Supreme Court said, “We don’t use the Lemon test any more.”

Honestly, I’m only surprised it took this long.

At this point, the bill has been referred to committee. And many state bills die in committee, never get voted on, never become law. But here’s the thing. There is a pattern of political parties acting in many states more or less simultaneously to push bills towards legislation. I would not be surprised to see a whole bunch of similar bills in state governments before the end of the year.

Hat tip to Tara Smith.

P.S.—Hey, support the National Center for Science Education!

Related posts

Prediction: American creationists will try again to get evolution out of schools 

Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) decision clears way for new science education battles

External links

Senate Bill 619, West Virginia

13 February 2023

Context matters as much as data

In the novel Passion Play, author Sean Stewart has a rant about Sherlock Holmes. 

It’s one of Doyle’s famous scenes where Holmes says, without prompting, what Watson was thinking about the war he was in. I think it might have been this, the opening to “The Dancing Men”:

 “So, Watson,” said he, suddenly, “you do not propose to invest in South African securities?”
I gave a start of astonishment. Accustomed as I was to Holmes’s curious faculties, this sudden intrusion into my most intimate thoughts was utterly inexplicable.
“How on earth do you know that?” I asked.

 Holmes goes on to explain how he arrived at the conclusion. But while Holmes is famous for his “deduction,” what Holmes did was not deduction.

“Very likely not; but I can quickly show you a close connection. Here are the missing links of the very simple chain: 1. You had chalk between your left finger and thumb when you returned from the club last night. 2. You put chalk there when you play billiards, to steady the cue. 3. You never play billiards except with Thurston. 4. You told me, four weeks ago, that Thurston had an option on some South African property which would expire in a month, and which he desired you to share with him. 5. Your check book is locked in my drawer, and you have not asked for the key. 6. You do not propose to invest your money in this manner.”
“How absurdly simple!” I cried.

You couldn’t have come to the same conclusion as Holmes if you didn’t have the same detailed knowledge that Holmes had about Watson. You had to know practically everything about Watson. You had to know the context for all of these little details that Holmes observed.

It’s been reported that human brain size is shrinking. I think I’ve even said this in a Quora answer or two.

The Guardian mentions this claim (as well as the “sea squirt eats its own brain” myth) in a new article about language using artificial intelligence like ChatGPT.

Alain Gorely tracked the origin of this claim back to one particular paper. He found reasons to be skeptical of the “brains have shrunk in the last few thousand years.

Suzanna Herculano-Houzel looked at this sleuthing and wrote:

ALWAYS look at the data. Always. The data are one thing; the interpretation of the data quite another. Robust findings are the ones that already appear with basic statistics, not that require the complex analyses.

The funny thing is... the data are not at issue here. That is, the values that are used in the analysis are not in any way wrong or under dispute. It’s not, “Someone moved a decimal place, and that screws up the average.” 

What Gorely does is put the data in context. In particular, he asks, “How were the data collected? How consistent was the collection methods? Are the numbers in line with other numbers?”

“Show me the data” isn’t a definitive mic drop. And when people “look at the data,” they are usually doing something much more complicated.

08 February 2023

Killing Twitter

Today may be the day that signals the end of Twitter for me.

I initially had a good day on Twitter. I live-tweeted a great presentation. I was pretty pleased with that.

But late afternoon, I tried to follow-up and got a message saying:

You are over the daily limit for sending Tweets.

Then Tweetdeck wouldn’t let me log in. I’d been worried about Tweetdeck for a while, given that Twitter was killing its open API so there couldn’t be third-party Twitter apps. But Twitter owns Tweedeck, so I thought it might be safe. But apparently not.

This seems to be another restriction to force more people to subscribe to Twitter Blue. I just can’t see myself doing it. Yes, Twitter has provided great value to me, but. I just can’t stomach the thought of sending money to a billionaire who is poisoning the town well so he can sell more bottled water. 

Update: News services are saying that a change to number of tweets was not announced, so could be a bug. But it sure doesn’t feel like one. It feels like a preview.

30 January 2023

DORA at ten: Publisher ban roundtable

On a bit of a whim, I proposed an event for the 10th anniversary events around the Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA).

And they said yes?

And now I have to do this. Mark your calendars and if you’re interested in being part of the roundtable, email me!

Publisher bans and DORA

Publisher bans and DORA

Publishers like MDPI, Frontiers, and Hindawi have experienced enormous growth in the number of submissions from researchers, which would suggest they they are meeting needs of the research community and providing good value to researchers. But multiple institutions have told scientists that research in journals from these publishers will no longer “count” for assessment. Such policies suggest that these are “predatory” publishers that do not perform the basic functions of academic journals. The publishers dispute this, as do many authors whose work appears in their journals. Many authors believe that choosing where to publishing their findings is part of their academic freedom. Blacklisting publishers with hundreds of journals may be too blunt an instrument for research assessment and inconsistent with DORA. Are there cases where such bans are valid and useful to the community?

This event will be held as an online round-table discussion followed by a moderated Q & A session.

Update, 12 March 2023: I have created a registration form for the publisher bans and blacklists event so that you can be notified of updates.

I’ve been ripped off! OMICS journal messes up my work

Matt Hodgkinson drew my attention of that fact that one of my articles on authorship has been ripped off and turned into mush by someone in OMICS. (Lightly edited)

Allied Business Academies, a.k.a. Allied Academies, are another publisher to avoid. Quelle surprise, as they’re a brand of the notorious publisher OMICS.

Compare: Zen Faulkes’s 2018 article, “Resolving authorship disputes by mediation and arbitration” with Laura Sandra’s 2021 article, “Alternative Dispute Resolution in Academic Publishing”, in Journal of Organizational Culture Communications and Conflict.

Ms. Sandra, of course, does not exist.

I am always glad when someone finds my work worthy enough to re-use, but I have to say: This is not what I had in mind.

It is weird to see my work in this garbled form. I can recognize some of the elements of my paper, but it’s like they’ve been put through a blender, no doubt to avoid setting off plagiarism detectors. My original paper was 7 typeset pages with 95 references. “Sandra’s” version is a page and a half with three references. 

I have not included a link to the OMICS article because they don’t need the clicks. Go read my paper instead. I think it has something useful to say.


Faulkes Z. 2018. Resolving authorship disputes by mediation and arbitration. Research Integrity and Peer Review 3(1): 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41073-018-0057-z

External links

Matt Hodgkinson on LinkedIn

Why my new paper on award-winning conference posters is short

You know, sometimes you have plans for a project. Big plans. And sometimes those pan out. And sometimes, you are pleased that at least something came out.

I have a new little paper about conference posters out today.

It started when Paige Jarreau wrote somewhere (can’t remember if I saw it first on her Twitter or a Slack channel) that she was going to be organizing a special collection on visual narratives in science communication. And I thought, “Hey, I could use this to make the point that even though posters are a form of visual communication, they are usually very heavy on text.”

I submitted an abstract for a proposal to see if it fit the project. I had an idea for checking out a few posters every week over the summer to build up a little database. 

I didn’t want just a hodge-podge of random posters. I wanted distinct sets that were publicly archived. I had already bookmarked a few conferences that archived their posters.

Then reality set in. Some of my bookmarks had already succumbed to link rot, and the posters were no longer available. The semester started, and it was a hard semester in terms of preparation. So instead of posters from multiple conferences, I ended up with just one conference. But I think it was an interesting set of posters, because they were award winners from one of the biggest conferences in the world. Surely these would be awesome!

I hadn’t gotten as far or as detailed as I originally planned. But this project had a deadline, and 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing. I wrote the paper and submitted it. 

Things got worse, time wise, when reviews came back. It wasn’t rejected! But then, not only was class preparation had gotten more time-consuming, not less. I just couldn’t get to the revisions. Then there was a family emergency, so I got an extension.

Unfortunately, I was already so far behind that I missed one opportunity to make the paper better. 

One reviewer suggested a work I hadn’t heard about. But it wasn’t online or in the library. And it wasn’t a short article. It would take time to read. I decided not to wait until I could get the interlibrary loan. I submitted the revision without it. I have since gotten the work and... argh, it was so on point. It would have been a completely logical thing to include and discuss in my paper.

It’s going to be one of those losses that will haunt me until I put it right somehow.

I hope the paper has something to offer. It gave me more ideas for how I could push forward with bigger, better analyses in the future.


Faulkes Z. 2023. The “wall of text” visual structure of academic conference posters. Frontiers in Communication 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2023.1063345

14 January 2023

Publisher bans: A repeating pattern of attack on academic freedom

Last week, a couple of websites reported that a couple of departments at Zhejiang Gongshang University were not going to count publications appearing in three large open access publishers: MDPI, Frontiers, and Hindawi.

The policy appears to be leaked from internal memos. I searched the university site for the memo, and Google reports a result, but it is hidden behind an institutional login, so I can’t see the rationale behind this move.

This is the third attempt I know of to stop researchers from using certain publishers. I say again, publishers. And this doesn’t include the Chinese Academy of Sciences flagging dozens of journals as “risky.” 

You know, back when European funding agencies were announcing so-called “Plan S” to promote open access publication, some folks got all huffy 😤 about how vital it was to academic freedom that researchers be able to exercise choice in where they chose to publish their results. How dare a funding agency tell a researcher that they can’t publish in journals like Nature or Science, just because they are not open access! 

If that principle of researchers being able to choose their journal is important, then we are seeing a lot of attacks on academic freedom. But not many people seem to care. Far from being concerned, a lot of researchers seem to think banning researchers from using particular publishers is a great idea. That’s kind of blowing my mind. 🤯

Have these people not heard of the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)? It says, we “need to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published.” The same principle should extend to publishers. If we shouldn’t judge research based on the journal it is in, we shouldn’t judge research based on the publisher of the journal, either.

For what it’s worth, I’ve tracked a lot of the criticism of MDPI in particular here on the blog. There are valid reasons to be concerned about editorial practices. But on the other hand, I’ve read a lot of useful papers in journals from all three of the publishers that Zhejiang Gongshang University are trying to blacklist.

Hat tip to Mario Barbatti and Richard Sever.

P.S.—Weirdly, when I searched the university for references to this new policy, one of the hits was to an open access library that said, “Most of these papers come from internationally renowned publishing institutions, including Hindawi, PlosOne, MDPI, Scientific Research Publishing and some high-quality articles from Biomed.” (Emphasis added.) So the library knows not what administrators are doing?

Update, 18 January 2023: I ran a couple of polls asking if people considered being able to choose their publication venue to be important to their academic freedom.

People on Twitter voted “Yes” more than twice as much as “No.” The vote on Mastadon was smaller but even more lopsided.

External links

Related posts

University tells scholars what journals to publish in