Russian website offers authorship for a fee in papers accepted for publication

Russian website offers authorship for a fee in papers accepted for publication

A Russian website that offers authorship in research papers accepted for publication for a price was recently uncovered by Web of Science, a citation indexing service. In three years of operation, the site 123mi.ru claims to have included the names of more than 100,000 researchers in over 2,000 articles. The journals, as claimed on the site, are indexed in either Scopus or Web of Science, both of which are well-known citation databases.

Presently, the site is offering authorship in 344 papers. The majority of these articles are in journals based in India (73), followed by Venezuela (54), the US (38), Russia (33), and Pakistan (28). Although the site does not mention the names of the journals, it features cover images of many well-known journals, including several belonging to Nature.

Retraction Watch notes that the site seems to work like a mix of a marketplace and an auction site. A researcher seeking authorship can go through the journal profile and a short description of the area under study in the article, choose the level of authorship on offer (first to fifth), and then contact the site to place an order. The price for first authorship is expectedly the highest, starting at about $250 and going up to about $1,200.

Although Web of Science has contacted the site, asking it to cease and desist from its activities, the site continues to be active and offer its services. The Russian site evidently seeks to exploit a loophole in the publication process – of being able to add authors to an already accepted paper. Nandita Quaderi, Editor-in-Chief, Web of Science, has also written to Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE), urging them to “take this opportunity to share best practice guidelines regarding post-acceptance changes to author lists.”

As the Retraction Watch article points out, the site seems to be another manifestation of the growing scourge of predatory publishing, aiming to benefit from the pressure among young academics and researchers to “publish or perish.” In the absence of any information on the site about the exact journals, it is difficult to ascertain the credibility of the listed journals.

The site seems to be the first of its kind, and considering some of the typical identifiers of a predatory journal, the look and feel of the site and the contact information of the editors seem suspicious. On the site, the text (translated into English by the search engine) has several language and syntax errors. Also, the designations of several staff are presented incoherently and those at the same levels are described inconsistently.

It remains to be seen what action is taken against the site and how it responds.

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