Predatory publishing comes to paleontology

JZBR info 3

Yun (2017) as it appeared on the Journal of Zoological and Bioscience Research website. Screenshot from the latest archive, dated January 25, 2020.

Back in July 2017, a paper by amateur paleontologist Chan-gyu Yun1 proposed the replacement name “Teihivenator” for Cope’s old “Laelaps” macropus. This paper immediately proved to be controversial due to glaring issues with the text. Firstly is that a significant portion was plagiarized from the online Theropod Database (Mortimer, 2017). Secondly is that the holotype was already being described by another author and turned out to be a chimaera of tyrannosauroid and ornithomimosaurian bones (Brownstein, 2017). It is evident that Yun did not examine the material firsthand and instead relied on uncredited information from the Theropod Database. This in itself is ethical grounds for rejecting “Teihivenator” as a valid name.

JZBR info 1

The oddly long list of subjects published in JZBR. Screenshot from the latest archive, dated December 4, 2019.

However, there is a third issue which is even more concerning. The journal where Yun (2017) was published, the Journal of Zoological and Bioscience Research (JZBR), recently removed their entire website. All links are dead, all papers gone except for archived versions. I found no evidence that JZBR ever produced a print edition. This is confirmation of something I suspected for almost 3 years – that JZBR was a fake, predatory journal. Predatory journals are a scam where authors pay to have their papers published with limited to no editing or peer review. Although they take on the appearance of a legitimate journal, their only goal is to profit from submissions.

JZBR info 2

The contradictory editorial team and mailing address info for JZBR. Screenshots from the latest archives, both dated December 4, 2019.

Before their website disappeared, there were other warning signs that JZBR was predatory. It was only published for a short period of time between 2014 and 2017, with a mere total of 14 issues. It had a suspiciously broad scope for being an obscure, low-impact journal (see list above). Despite having an editorial team of members from Turkey, Spain, Croatia, and Iran, the mailing address for the journal was given as “12012, 102C, 162 Avenue NW Edmonton T5X 4W9 Alberta, Canada”. Searching this address reveals that it is in fact a unit in the Warwick Apartments complex! This is registered as the “headquarters” for Medlife Scientific Press, which publishes other fake-looking journals like Entomology and Applied Science Letters.

JZBR headquarters

The “headquarters” of JZBR and Medlife Scientific Press. Screenshots from Google Earth.

Given this evidence, it is almost certain that JZBR originated from a journal mill and was never intended to be a legitimate scientific journal. The deletion of their website is a violation of ICZN Article 8.1.1, which states that scientific publications “must be issued for the purpose of providing a public and permanent scientific record” (ICZN, 1999). As such I do not consider Yun (2017) to be a published work nor “Teihivenator” to be an available name. I would recommend that other researchers do the same; the best way to combat predatory journals is to not cite their papers.

Notes

1The “Vertebrate Paleontological Institute of Incheon” that Yun claims to be affiliated with appears to be fictitious. I can find no record of it outside of the author information given in his papers.

References

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5 thoughts on “Predatory publishing comes to paleontology

  1. Chan-gyu Yun? Wait, I remember that name. I first bumped into one of his publications some years back; it was a reply to Rothschild (2013) about some tyrannosaurid pathologies the latter interpreted as from conspecific claws. I actually emailed Dr. Rothschild himself a few years later (just to see if he was aware of the reply and what he thought of it) and as it turned out, Yun seems to really like publishing (rather short) pre-prints that never seem to actually get peer-reviewed and published. I found that rather odd.

    And now I’m learning about this. Wow.

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    1. The majority of Yun’s publications are completely frivolous. He has never studied any of the relevant fossils in person, so I doubt serious research is the intent. Instead I suspect that he publishes as a form of “resume boosting”. This is also demonstrated by the fabrication of his institutional affiliation.

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  2. I’m not sure I agree that JZBR going down means Yun’s paper does not constitute published work. Many new names published in the nineteenth century were in works published by printing houses that no longer exist, yet the names are still valid because the physical copies still exist. Likewise, the archived PDF copies of JZBR papers continue to exist despite JZBR itself being shut down. The ICZN has envisioned the possibility of a digital publisher shutting down and requires archiving of electronic copies for this exact reason. A case to the commission (ironically not unlike the one Yun himself submitted regarding Deinodontidae) asking them to suppress Teihivenator may be justified.

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    1. A major difference is that JZBR never produced paper copies and was never digitally archived by the journal staff itself. As far as I can tell, JZBR never made any effort to be a “permanent record”. Since it was a predatory journal, it can be argued that it was never intended to be a “scientific record” either. Of course, Article 8.1.1 is ambiguous on exactly what these terms mean and they are open to interpretation.

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