Unethical academic publishing
Academic witch hunters in the Czech Republic

It is a season of the academic witch hunting in the Czech Republic. With the unexpected shutdown of the famous "Beall's List" in mid-January 2017 (and nothing to refer to in justifying not producing productive research output in Scopus and WoS journals), "modern-day Van Helsings" from the Czech Academy of Sciences are at large spreading lies and accusing other researchers of imaginary misdeeds.

A group of young researchers from the Institutes of Sociology, Philosophy, and Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences were so startled and confused by the disappearance of the so-called "Beall's List of the Possible Predatory Publishers" (which they widely used in their academic wars with other Czech researchers for grant money, power, and influence) that they started to spread false accusations on their blog derivace.wordpress.com (the blog itself, similar to Beall's blog, is their private endeavor and does not reflect an official position of any Czech official institution). They even asked their friend and "digital sociologist and social media consultant" Mark Carrigan to spread the lies further which he gladly did.

Their latest post "Predators and bloodsuckers in academic publishing" co-authored by Tereza Stöckelová, Luděk Brož, and Filip Vostal (deliberately published in English in order to tell tales out of (Czech) school) features not only a collection of lies and personal accusations of Dr. Wadim Strielkowski but also attacks such respectful publishing companies as Elsevier and Clarivate Analytics and their Scopus and Web of Science databases (which Stöckelová, Brož and Vostal accuse of concentrating on profit rather than academic quality and openly call "bloodsuckers").

The short text hastily prepared by Stöckelová and her sidekicks primarily concentrates on Dr. Wadim Strielkowski, a Czech economist and a well-published author (94 publications listed in Scopus, 46 publications listed in Web of Science (WoS)), a research associate at the Cambridge Judge Business School and a professor at the North-Caucasus Federal University, accusing him of... well, publishing to many papers in journals indexed in Scopus and WoS databases!!! 

The accusation is quite comic because neither Stöckelová nor the other "witch hunters" cannot boast any impressive publication record: according to Scopus and WoS records, Stöckelová has 10 publications listed in Scopus and 10 listed in WoS, Brož has 8 publications in Scopus and 3 in WoS, and Vostal has 3 publications in Scopus and 4 in WoS (meaning that all together Stöckelová, Brož and Vostal have 4 times less publications in prestigious journals than Strielkowski alone). However, this is not an issue for the "witch hunters", because even such miserable academic output apparently makes them true experts in academic publishing who can also judge other scientists accross all fields of research.

The post itself is full of disinformation and fabrications. Here are just some of them to prove the point: 1) Dr. Strielkowski is an author of 6 monographs and co-author or editor of several other proceedings, his monographs are published by the Faculty of Social Sciences and this fact can be verified by checking across the ISBNs in the database on the National Library of the Czech Republic (see an example of one of the records below). 2) According to the Czech laws, one does not need an official accreditation to offer an MBA degree. 3) Dr. Strielkowski works as a Professor at the North-Caucasus Federal University and the incriminating news page listed all his jobs and positions at that time and did not mention any institutional cooperation (which could not pass unnoticed for Luděk Brož, a researcher specializing in the Russian region of Altai and apparently speaking good Russian).

Apparently, Stöckelová, Brož and Vostal never heard about academic ratings too. In their post they call Cambridge Judge Business School "not particularly prestigious". This is a very peculiar comment, especially in the light of the fact that one of the "witch hunters", Luděk Brož, boasts a PhD from the University of Cambridge (2008). What is more prestigious for Luděk Brož than the University of Cambridge? An Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences where he ended up after Cambridge and where has been working ever since? 

Another interesting thing in this debate is that Tereza Stöckelová is an Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of the Sociologický časopis - Czech Sociological Review (the journal indexed in Scopus and WoS) and she very much likes to publish in the journal she edits. One should ask: what happened to the peer review here? Moreover, Stöckelová lists her 2-page editorials and "open letters" as articles in WoS database (probably in a vain attempt to boost her publication output). Using these tactics, Stöckelová managed to get herself promoted to an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague, with just a handful of publications. 

Apart from using her key position in the journal listed in Scopus and WoS to gain various benefits, Stöckelová is basing her academic expertise on her books publishes at Sociological Publishing House (SLON) which lists her fellow "witch hunter" Luděk Brož alongside with Prof. Miloslav Petrusek (who passed away in 2012) as the members of the Editorial Committee). 

Although SLON publishes numerous reseach monographs in the field of sociology that are used by people like Stöckelová for doing habilitations (being promoted to an Associate Professor) in the Czech academic system, it operates from an apartment building on the outskirts of Prague (a criterion typically used by Jeffrey Beall for adding such a business to his famous list of "possible and probable predatory publishers").

There are more stories like that related to the Czech Sociological Review and SLON and people who are lurking around it: using the journal's prestige thanks to its indexation in Scopus and Wos, careers are built and research grants are earned. An by the way, the famous "conference in Prague in June 2016" attended by Jeffrey Beall himself was also organized by the people gathered around the Czech Sociological Review, a journal that probably also deserves to be added to the "Beall's List" for the unethical practices of its editors. Perhaps such "invitations" from questionable researchers around the world who used "Beall's List" for covering their own suspicious practices and which Beall gladly accepted in oder to visit interesting and exotic places, put an end to his activities? The darkest place is always under the candlestick.

"Modern Van Helsings" are quick to criticize the others juggling with words like "parasitism" but somehow along the lines forget to inform everyone that all of them have multiple jobs at various Czech public academic instituions (e.g. Czech Academy of Sciences or the Charles University in Prague), earn two (or maybe more) salaries while producing mediocre publication output but quite suprisingly have plenty of time for protesting agains anything and everyone and writing and maintaining blogs like DeRIVace. To most of us this is a clear example of parasitism and wasting taxpayers' money.

So, where does so much personal grudge come from? The explanation should probably be looked for elsewhere than the debates over the "Beall's List" and its disappearance: in 2009, the Czech government wanted to introduce dramatic cuts to the funding of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The whole situation resulted in massive protests by the employees of the Academy of Sciences led by the sociologists, philosophers, historians and other social scientists. Barricades were built and demonstrations were summoned. The government revoked its decision but introduced a system of funding based on publication outputs in journals listed in Scopus and WoS. Now, 8 years later, it seems that the very same people who headed the protests and pledged to "save the Czech science" are struggling with the research criteria imposed on them by the Czech government and are looking for ways how to draw the public attention away from their own problems and to make money without producing any valuable research output. The tail is clearly wagging the dog.

Wadim Strielkowski