Publications in dubious online Mexican journal show slackness of Pakistani academics

It seems that whatever cases of fraudulent and substandard research by Pakistani academics that have so far been reported in the media only represent the tip of the iceberg as more and more fake and clone research journals have been emerging in which Pakistani scholars have published their papers.

A substandard online journal that has so far published over 70 papers authored by Pakistani academics in its recent issues is published online in two languages — English and Spanish. There are multiple facts that suggest that the journal is fake, one of which is that an issue of the journal has carried five papers authored by the same researcher — something a credible journal would never do.

The online journal is named ‘Revista Dilemas Contemporáneos: Educación, Política Y Valores’, which translates into English as ‘Contemporary Dilemmas: Education, Politics and Values’. The journal, which is published from Mexico, is not recognised by the Higher Education of Pakistan (HEC) but even then many academics working in multiple Pakistani universities chose to have their papers published in it. Their papers can be accessed in both the English and Spanish languages on the journal’s website.

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Coming to light

Last year, Sharjeel Naveed, a PhD student of the mass communication department at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast), published a paper in the journal. When he applied for registration in the PhD Country Directory (PCD) after his doctorate, the HEC raised questions over the validity of the journal.

The HEC’s policy on the 2021 PhD programs reads: “Each PhD researcher shall be required to publish at least one research paper as its first author during his or her doctoral studies in an HEC-approved Y category [or above] journal for the award of PhD degree.”

Though the student had somehow received his degree from Fuuast, the HEC asked him to submit a complete form for the PCD as he had earlier submitted the form without mentioning the name of the journal.

The HEC also sent a letter to Fuuast informing its registrar that the information given in the PCD form was not in accordance with the compliance checklist.

The matter is yet to be resolved but Naveed’s case alerted some other academics who had published their papers in the dubious journal at a cost of around Rs1,500 per paper.

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A Fuuast faculty member who published two papers in the said journal told The News that she had paid around Rs3,000 for having her two papers published in the journal.

“I earlier did not know that the journal was fake but when I came to know that it was fake, I immediately deleted those two papers from my scholarly profile,” she said, adding that she was now trying to have those papers from withdrawn from the journal, but the ‘editorial’ team of the journal was not responding to her.

About the journal

According to the website of Revista Dilemas Contemporáneos: Educación, Política Y Valores, it is an electronic magazine that publishes three issues on a yearly basis. The journal has no complete editorial board. Last year, it published more than three issues, which is against its policy mentioned on the website.

The website reads that the journal was founded in April 2013 and since then it has published over 600 papers.

“The journal provides free immediate access to its content published on the Internet under the criterion of free availability to any national or international reader, and the authors do not receive any economic charge for sending, evaluating and publication of their articles in their regular editions, thus it is supporting a greater exchange of global knowledge,” the website reads.

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Dr Firdous Imran Ali, associate professor at the University of Karachi, said the journal might by fulfilling the criteria set by the Mexican education system but it surely did not follow international standards or rules of any reputable International journal.

“The contact numbers and emails IDs of the editorial board have not been mentioned on the website, which suggests that there is something wrong. The journal also accepted five papers of a researcher for publishing them in a single issue, which confirms that the editorial board was fake. If the editorial board existed, they would not have allowed those five papers in one issue. It seems it is not a peer-reviewed journal as well as the contact emails are not proper,” she remarked.

Random examples

No papers authored by Pakistani researchers were found in the initials issues of the journal. However, after 2017, its issues carried several papers authored by Pakistani scholars. For example, Zaffar Ahmed Shaikh, an associate professor at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Lyari, Karachi, published five papers in a single issue of the journal published in November 2019.

Likewise, Assistant Director Admissions at Gomal University Muhammad Junaid Siraji, Assistant Professor Liaquat Hussain of the Gomal University’s Institute of Education and Research, PhD student Shaukatullah Khan, and Associate Professor Dr Abdul Sattar of Gomal University have published papers.

Other Pakistanis who have published their papers in the journal include PhD student Abdul Qadir Mushtaq and Dr Fariha Sohil of the Government College University Faisalabad, Adnan Tahir Qureshi, assistant professor of English at the Riphah International University’s Faisalabad Campus, MPhil students Muhammad Yasser Masood and Mohsin Saeed of the same university, English lecturer Wassim Hassan at the National Textile University Faisalabad, and PhD student Muhammad Sufyan Afzal of the Government College University Faisalabad.

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Fuuast International Relations lecturer Rizwana Jabeen, PhD scholar Nawab Sher of the same university with corresponding author Sayeda Daud of the Greenwich University Karachi have published their papers in the issue of July 2019. PhD students Sharjeel Naveed and Syeda Maliha Begum with corresponding author Dr Noreen Aleem of Fuuast also produced a paper in the journal.

These are some randomly selected names of Pakistani scholars who published their papers in the journal. There will be many more such academics as more than 70 research papers from Pakistani academics have been published by the journal.

HEC’s stance

When contacted, an HEC Media Relations Department official, Waseem Khaliq Dad, told The News that the commission had been alerting academics, researchers and students not to fall prey to such fraudulent journals. Also, he said, the commission had published a list of approved research journals that could easily be accessed through the HEC Journal Recognition System. The list has also been sent to the universities.

He said that creating awareness about fake research was the responsibility of the HEC, but making sure that if any journal was fake or authentic was also the responsibility of the researcher. He clarified that the HEC did not consider unrecognised papers for promotions or salary increments.

“The researchers have to ensure that their publications are appearing in reputable and recognised journals. If they don’t do so, they are responsible for the loss of their time, money and academic articles. It is also academic dishonesty,” Dad said.

Courtesy of Arshad Yousafzai | The News International

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