A case of a fake journal that passed Google Scholars’ bots and algorithm checking to become indexed. The journal contained articles that were completely plagiarized but assigned new titles, abstracts and authors.
See updates at end of blog for table of plagiarized papers, and a small win for open science after the domain host revoked the content of the plagiarized paper’s URLs.
A colleague of mine was searching Google Scholar using certain words and the number two hit appeared with the following title and direct download link.
The PDF looks like a journal article. The journal has an ISBN instead of DOIs, but this is not unheard of. It even has an impact factor listed: 7.11, it must be good.
It turns out that this seemingly interesting paper with an alleged author who is an expert in this area, is plagiarized.
How do I know it is plagiarized? Just ask the real authors of the paper which appeared with a different title and abstract in Social Science Research one year earlier. Oh and with an identical word-for-word text, with some mistakes relating to equations – possibly a failed scraping algorithm.
The journal title is Journal of Current Research and Review, but it is extremely difficult to find through an internet search. This requires endless scrolling (as of 10.08.2023), or removing the ending on the download URL to arrive at the index page.
Scrolling down on the home page reveals the “Latest Articles”. Here I find the same title that appeared in Google Scholar. However there is no download link, only the title and abstract. In other words, the URL that Google Scholar found to download the paper is not accessible through any link on the journal’s website.
How is it possible that Google Scholar would pick up and index such garbage?
I asked ChatGPT to tell me how Google Scholar works, and the results suggest that someone or something had advanced knowledge and programming skills that would provide the right meta-data and materials on the journal webpage to pass the automated Google Scholar bots which are constantly scraping the web for academic papers and publications.
From ChatGPT prompted with “How does a journal get indexed in Google Scholar?” (09.08.2023). I received the following answer. Note that I removed the descriptions of each point, as they are mostly self-evident.
Google Scholar indexes scholarly literature, including journal articles, conference papers, theses, and other academic resources. In order for a journal to get indexed in Google Scholar, there are several steps and criteria to consider:
- Quality Content
- Digital Format
- Open Access and Accessibility
- Consistent Publishing Schedule
- Meta Tags and Structured Data
- Proper Article Metadata
- Citations and References
- Author Profiles
It’s important to note that Google Scholar’s indexing process is automated, and there is no formal application process for journals to get indexed. Google Scholar’s algorithms discover and index content based on various factors. However, journals can follow best practices to increase their chances of being indexed and improving their visibility within Google Scholar’s search results.
The journal website and meta-data had to pass Google Scholar’s algorithm. This is no lucky feat. Although Google does not reveal any usage of AI to evaluate journals for indexing, it clearly has an advanced system of scraping, filtering and crawling. Who or whatever designed this journal, or really this website that looks like a journal, understood how to pass the test. For example, the “Latest Articles” appear to be from “Volume 14” suggesting to potential crawling bots that the journal may have been published for 14 years now.
This is of course false. There are no other articles readily accessible from the journal’s website other than the two that appear. The other article is also plagiarized, in case you were wondering. But, a closer look at the URL reveals that the article I am discussing has the number “800” at the end of its URL.
Changing this number yields other papers. At least as far back as number 795; prior to that yields 404 errors. Moreover, I cannot find the papers from 795-798, only their titles and abstracts.
The journal website’s main page yields something even stranger. It looks like what a computer science student might create as an example page to try and sell as a template or to demonstrate the services on offer for a website construction gig. The content has absolutely nothing to do with journals, academia or publishing.
It even comes with fake testimonials. I wonder whose pictures were stolen for this…
The real question for me is, ‘what to do about this?’. Clearly this is fraud and constitutes both ethical and legal infringements on science. Looking up the host of the domain of the journal using ICANN reveals that it is provided by a Lithuanian company Hostinger.
Looking at this company’s website suggests they are legitimate. The provide contact information to report abuse. So that is what I did by sending them the info in this blog post.
Hostinger replied within two days and told me they take abuse of their services very seriously and asked me for more evidence so they could pursue the case. I gave them the two links for the plagiarized papers and their original versions published one year earlier in Social Science Research.
Word for word plagiarized from:
For all the negative publicity surrounding Elsevier, they are still a player in the academic world. In 2020 they owned roughly 16% of the academic publishing market. If there is anyone who would want to prevent abuse of their services, including plagiarism of their work, it is Elsevier. They have a trove of lawyers fighting and winning battles to protect their content across the world. As the two plagiarized papers that I can download are from the Elsevier journal Social Science Research, it made sense to contact them as well. Elsevier’s due process suggests contacting the journal editor first. Thus, I have sent this information to the lead editor.
The journal also lists an ISBN number. But this number is a fake, and returns an invalid search with the ISBN lookup tool.
Google certainly would not want its products indexing fake journals with plagiarized papers, so I took the liberty of contacting them as well.
What is striking about the journal is that they have a long editorial board list. Internet searching reveals that these are real scholars. I also contacted them. I will continue to report on this case as it unfolds.
The question for me is: ‘what motivated someone to create this site?’. There is clearly no profit associated with it. There is also no status gain, because the plagiarized papers have authors assigned to them who are not the original authors and clearly not players supporting the fake journal. They are highly established scholars in their respective sub-fields. These fakely assigned authors are perfect examples of what an AI might choose to assign to a certain topic. I tested this by asking Chat GPT if Seamus McGuinness could have written the abstract. The response points at AI as a source for potentially re-writing abstracts of the plagiarized papers and for finding suitable authors to assign to them. ChatGPT said:
Yes, Seamus McGuinness could be a potential author who might have written this abstract. Seamus McGuinness is known for his research on labor market issues, including education-job mismatches, gender disparities, and remote work. His expertise aligns with the themes discussed in the abstract, making him a plausible candidate as one of the authors who could have written it.
It remains a mystery for now what is up with this website and the fake journal. Was it a computer science project that accidentally got picked up by Scholar, one that was never intended for public consumption? Was it an attempt to create a journal, but try and hide the real content of the journal until it could pick up real submissions? Was it entirely AI generated, to showcase the power of an AI?
Thanks to Random Cat on Twitter, I learned that there are more papers than just two. Using Google Scholar they searched by journal.
This allowed me to compile a table of plagiarized papers.
Table of Plagiarized Papers in JCRR, found via Google Scholar
|Link to Original Article
|Link to Plagiarized Article
|The motherhood wage gap and trade-offs between family and work: A test of compensating wage differentials
|Nick Wuestenenk & Katia Begall
|Social Science Research
|COMPENSATING WAGE DIFFERENTIALS AND THE MOTHERHOOD WAGE GAP: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
|HK Kleven & CL Landais
|Conflicting signals: Exploring the socioeconomic implications of gender discordant names
|Andrew Francis-Tan & Aliya Saperstein
|Social Science Research
|BREAKING BOUNDARIES: EXAMINING THE INTERSECTION OF GENDER DISCORDANT NAMES AND SOCIOECONOMIC ATTAINMENT
|AL Roberts & M Rosario
|Gender overeducation gap in the digital age: Can spatial flexibility through working from home close the gap?
|Ana Santiago-Vela & Alexandra Mergener
|Social Science Research
|BRIDGING THE GENDER OVEREDUCATION GAP: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF WORKING FROM HOME IN THE DIGITAL ERA
|How the Great Recession changed class inequality: Evidence from 23 European countries
|Social Science Research
|CLASS INEQUALITIES IN THE WAKE OF THE GREAT RECESSION: A STUDY OF 23 EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
|Higher education and high-wage gender inequality
|Natasha Quadlin, Tom VanHeuvelen & Caitlin E. Ahearn
|Social Science Research
|ASSESSING THE CONTRIBUTION OF EDUCATION TO GENDER WAGE DISPARITIES IN HIGH-EARNING PROFESSIONS
|TRANSFORMING RESEARCH: EXPLORING THE INTERPLAY OF DATA MINING, MACHINE LEARNING, AND KNOWLEDGE DISCOVER
|Robert M. Bond & Christopher J. Fariss
|Social Science Researchs
|Knowledge Discovery: Methods from data mining and machine learning [b]
|Xiaoling Shu & Yiwan Ye
|SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION: PROPOSED INDICATORS AND STAGES
|Zakaria I. Saleh & Omar Zakaria Saleh
|International Journal in Commerce, IT and Social Sciences
|UNPACKING THE CYCLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION: UNDERSTANDING SYMPTOMS, PROGRESSION, AND RECOVERY [a]
[a] Published twice in JCRR with different authors
[b] Not indexed in Google Scholar
All are from Social Science Research except one. There are also other papers where I cannot find an original. These papers might actually be original papers, or stolen working papers that are not easy to find online.
Interestingly, some papers that appear that they may not have been plagiarized have a different display in PDF form. This includes contact details for the journal. I thus emailed them as well to inform them that they are committing ethical and legal fraud.
Hostinger investigated the reported problem and determined that the user of their domain had violated the terms of ethical/legal usage and removed the plagiarized papers. However, the journal website still appears. In other words, a journal that obviously intentionally plagiarized several articles, possibly to boost its reputation and encourage others to submit and thus pay the 45 dollar fee, is still out there lurking. Moreover, this journal is part of a larger company called Zenodo Publishing. On their main page the list dozens of journals. If I had to guess I would assume these journals are also predatory, and may contain plagiarized content. Only investigating this will prove if this is true.
More to come.