Journal 'fails the test'

13 October 2014 - 02:02 By Shaun Smillie
An aerial view of the University of South Africa (Unisa) Pretoria campus.
An aerial view of the University of South Africa (Unisa) Pretoria campus.
Image: Supplied

An academic journal accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training has come under scrutiny after failing a peer review test.

The Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, published in Italy, has been called a scam but it appears on the CVs of several professors at Unisa as the publisher of papers authored by them.

This journal, owned by the Mediterranean Centre of Social and Educational Research, will publish an article only on payment by the author of a fee of $200 (about R2200).

But the quality of this publication was put into doubt recently by the author of an anonymous letter addressed to Unisa vice chancellor Mandla Makhanya but circulated widely.

The letter's author questioned the publication's peer review system.

He said he submitted to the journal a "98% plagiarised" article that had appeared in it before, in 2011.

Some names were changed and the author used a pseudonym.

The article was accepted for publication with a request for a publication fee "with no peer review report attached", the letter to the vice chancellor claims.

The author called on Unisa to investigate the journal. The university had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

At least two professors at Unisa list articles published in the journal on their CVs.

Peer review is the process in which experts comment on and evaluate articles by their peers.

US librarian Jeffrey Beall has made it his mission to expose what he calls "predatory journals" and has accused the Mediterranean Journal of Social Science of being one.

"The standard among high-quality scholarly publishers is to perform a rigorous peer review and to use plagiarism-checking software before accepting a manuscript for publication," Beall said.

He said predatory journals made money from authors desperate to get their work published.

Diane Parker, an acting deputy director-general in the Department of Higher Education and Training, said the publication was listed in Scopus, a database of academic journals.

"No one has come to us about this journal, but if someone sent a complaint to us, we would investigate," she said.

The Mediterranean Journal said the Unisa article had been accepted because the publishers did not have plagiarism detecting software.