10 Sept 2012

Lambert Academic Publishing (or How Not to Publish Your Thesis)

[Updated March 2014, see update below]

Lambert Academic Publishing (LAP) is an imprint of Verlag Dr Muller (VDM), a publisher infamous for selling cobbled-together "books" made up of Wikipedia articles mainly under their Alphascript Publishing imprint. LAP, on the other hand, specialize in "publishing" academic theses [update: they also use the names Scholars' Press and Editorial Académica Española (EAE)]. Below, I summarize what's known about LAP's operations (and my opinion of "publishing" a thesis with such an organization), but consider this first:

Lambert Academic Publishing on Facebook have an Acquisition Editor called "Kevin Woodmann". This is a little curious as Kevin is not a common German name, though apparently it was popular in East Germany in the 1990s. Here's his profile:

He's a handsome guy with salt-and-pepper hair; there's a touch of George Clooney to him.  There's a catch though - Kevin's photo is actually a stock photo of a "Confident middle aged man sitting and smiling against white background" by Yuri Archurs

Yasmine Watson, another Acquisition Editor, is actually a "Smiling business woman with colleagues at the back"; Sophia Campbell is a "Young business woman laughing over a thought"; Lisa Thompson is a "Happy casual business woman holding her coat over shoulder at her workplace".

And so on. Legitimate publishing businesses do not create false profiles on social media sites.

What else is known about VDM/LAP (and the many other names used by this company)?
- They find authors largely by bulk-emailing students who have recently published theses;
- They have no selectivity - anyone who submits their "book" will have it "published";
- They do not conduct peer review;
- They do not edit the "book", and they "publish" exactly what is submitted - and apparently they charge for any changes made by the author after submission;
- Authors will almost certainly never receive any royalties (a blogger notes that "I have yet to found the testimony of anybody who has received royalties");
- They do not market the "books";
- The "books" do not count in many research assessment processes.

For example, see this summary of the business practice of VDM/LAP from an Australian university:
"LAP Lambert does not conduct a peer review/editorial process. Manuscripts are published exactly as they are submitted to the publisher." 
"Where royalties average less than 50 Euro a month, the author is given book vouchers for other LAP Lambert stock. An author’s share is usually always under this because at the average rate of 80 Euro a book, it means they would have to sell 11 copies a month to exceed the 50 Euro threshold, which is difficult since the company does not undertake any marketing on behalf of the author." 
"This could adversely affect the opportunity to have your work accepted in a reputed peer-reviewed journal."
Also see this experience of "publishing" with LAP:
"I should point out that once you’ve submitted your publication-ready document to LAP’s online system, that’s it. If you’ve made a mistake and left off one-third of your reference list (as I almost did) they impose a hefty fee for having to intervene to make corrections." 
"My personal copy arrived last week. Looks just like my thesis (but with less expensive paper, a smaller font and packaged as a paperback!)" 
"When I checked my author's account at Lambert Academic Publishing at the end of the last financial year (after my beautifully paperbacked master's thesis had been on sale via Amazon for 12 months) not only had no royalties accrued to me, but zero copies of the book had been sold."
Is the publication of these "books" solely the responsibility of Lambert Academic Publishing and their ilk? (author mills, vanity presses, call them what you will) Are these authors all unwitting victims? I think the answer is no. Many new authors starting out on an academic career are desperate to get published, but "publishing" an unaltered thesis with a print-on-demand publisher without making clear that the "book" is a copy of the thesis is, in my opinion, an attempt to gain unearned academic credit for no additional work. I do not think that charging people $97 on Amazon to read a repackaged thesis is reasonable. I believe that many who buy these books will think that they are buying a published book and not an unedited thesis, and they will be misled and angry.

If you only want your thesis to be made available to more readers, there are many acceptable self-publishing and/or open access options. If you want to get academic credit beyond the qualification gained from publishing the thesis then there is no short cut: you need to publish with peer-reviewed journals or book publishers. See for example Resta et al. Publishing a Master’s Thesis: A Guide for Novice Authors. J Genet Couns. 2010 June; 19(3): 217–227  (free to access).

Find a reputable publisher and do not simply copy your thesis word-for-word - otherwise, don't be surprised to see your own academic reputation suffer.


Update, March 2014:

Lambert Academic Press continue to offer their "services" under a number of different names - Scholars' Press, Omniscriptum, GlobeEdit, the Spanish-language Editorial Académica Española (EAE) and Publicia, the Italian-language Edizioni Accademiche Italiane (EAI), the German-language Akademikerverlag, Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, and Saarbrücker Verlag für Rechtswissenschaften, the French-language Éditions Universitaires Européennes and Presses Académiques Francophones, Palmarium Academic Publishing, the Polish-language Wydawnictwo Bezkresy Wiedzy - and unwary authors continue to "publish" with them, but this blog post and others like it at least serve to warn some academics of the nature of their business. One of the latest is the delightfully titled "Please do not publish my thesis" by Eva Amsen, aka easternblot.

I was interviewed earlier this year by a journalist, Joseph Stromberg, based on this post.

"plenty of people consider the company’s strategy predatory—and in his research, Hodgkinson uncovered a curious pattern that lends credence to this" 
As well as interviewing me and Thorsten Ohm, the CEO of VDM, Joseph 'took one for the team' and "published" his own thesis with LAP, discovering in the process that LAP do a hard sell on their new authors to try to make them purchase copies, something I believe is a new angle on their business model.

"LAP Lambert’s real plan finally became clear: They make money not by selling arcane tomes to readers, but by selling the books back to their authors after they’ve already signed away the rights."
His fascinating piece, "I Sold My Undergraduate Thesis to a Print Content Farm", was published by Slate.

p.s. I noticed that Betascript, an imprint VDM uses to sell their collections of Wikipedia articles, uses the name "Lambert M. Surhone" for one of their fake editors. Someone at VDM obviously likes the name "Lambert".

9 Sept 2012

Will the real Wulfenia journal please stand up?

In mid-August, the AuthorAID mailing list came up with an intriguing case. An author asked "Can you help me? Is this journal is true or fake: "WULFENIA" http://www.wulfeniajournal.at/editorial.html".

The response on the list was clear: "I searched an article from their archive entitled 'Decision making-- Eastern and western style: A way to synthesize the best of each' by Felix Kaufmann. This is a real article but it was published in 1970 in Business Horizons, vol. 13, issue 6, pages 81-86. It looks like they pinch stuff from elsewhere to seem legitimate." The journal purported to be run by "Editor in Chief: Prof. Dr. Vienna S. Franz" at Landesmuseum Kärnten, Austria, but - though the institution was genuine - nobody by that name could be found. PLOS ONE Academic Editor Jack Gilbert also gave reason to be certain that this journal was fake: "Wulfenia - a fake journal using myself and others as 'editorial board members' that makes you pay for all 'articles'".

The author who queried the validity of wulfeniajournal.at let wulfeniajournal.com know, and this site posted a warning:

 "To all scientists about www.wulfeniajournal.at : 
Wulfenia journal has not a website, and it is published as hard copy. Wulfenia journal does not publish online and www.wulfeniajournal.at is a fake site. All http://sciencesarchive.com , www.sciencerecord.com and www.wulfeniajournal.at are for one person that he/she is a hustler. If you check 2009-2011 issues of this journals, You know that all published papers are for another journals which he/she used them for your trust and fraud. Wulfenia just publish as hard copy and just publish Biology science articles NOT ALL SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING. www.wulfeniajournal.com is made just for informing you about this fraud and does not accept any papers for reviewing."
I emailed the Landesmuseum Kärnten to let them know that "Your museum's name is being used by a fake journal", tweeted about it, and thought that would be the last of it. Yet one commenter on the AuthorAID list noted that: "Even the more legitimate journal is a bit suspicious".

He was right.

Roland K. Eberwein, Editor-in-Chief of Wulfenia Journal emailed me last week to say that "The site www.wulfeniajournal.com is a criminal site too!". Wulfenia, as it turns out, is an annual print journal in botany. As the real Wulfenia notes on its website:
"The websites http://www.wulfeniajournal.at and http://www.wulfeniajournal.com ARE NOT the official websites of the journal "Wulfenia: Mitteilungen des Kärntner Botanikzentrums" published by the Regional Museum of Carinthia. Both websites criminally usurp the identity of the official journal. They fraudulently use false informations, a false editorial board and false publication requirements to encourage authors to submit articles and to transfer page fees to a bank account in Yerevan (Armenia). The Regional Museum of Carinthia is not liable for any offence undergone by potential authors who would have submitted articles via the websites mentioned above. Download of articles from these websites which were published in the official journal Wulfenia is illegal."
He let me know that "You can find 'Wulfenia' at http://www.landesmuseum.ktn.gv.at/210226w_DE.htm?seite=15".

I asked about issues with indexing of the journal, and he replied that "I got an e-mail from Thomson Reuters. They told me that they are only indexing the printed journal."

The journal is treating this as a criminal case: "We have a meeting at the police to involve the Austrian Agency against Cyber Criminality. We want to close the website www.wulfeniajournal.at. It seems that this is possible. The site www.wulfeniajournal.com is not hosted in Austria - in this case, we have no chance".

http://www.wulfeniajournal.com is currently down, while the fake http://www.wulfeniajournal.at/index.html is still accessible.

Jeffrey Beall has also written about this and he notes that print journal Archives des Sciences has also been hijacked.

My advice - before sending money to any journal, be sure who you are dealing with. Watch for poor spelling, editors with no academic record, claims to be based in one country but requesting money to be sent to another. And other print journals without an online presence should get one before they get their identity stolen too.