Response to Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal

In my turn, I would like to welcome Luděk Brož, Tereza Stöckelová, and Filip Vostal’s (alias “Czech academic witch hunters’”) reflections to my response to their earlier blog post. I have always believed in an argumentative dialogue rather than in spreading around fabrications and accusations using social networks.  However, I also found many flaws in their arguments and would like to comment and reflect on some of them here.

For example, Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal’s wrote:

“We stated in our post that Strielkowski produced 17 monographs; he claims in his response that he “is an author of 6 research monographs (and co-author or editor of several other proceedings).” In our statement, we drew upon the information Strielkowski himself provided on his own website in 2015”.

The list of publications displayed on my own website clearly identified which of my outputs were own monographs and which were the conference proceedings or edited collections of papers. Thence, “Czech academic witch hunters” provided a misleading information. Apart from that, they neglected the fact that all my 6 research monographs (and most of my conference proceedings and edited volumes) were published by the Faculty of Social Sciences which can be easily verified by checking across the ISBNs in the database on the National Library of the Czech Republic.

Overall, doubting the quality of someone’s academic papers does not lead us anywhere (especially if the person works in another field of research). Fabricating information is worse. If ones looks at the earlier post by the “Czech academic witch hunters” she or he can find that Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal wrote this:

A substantial amount of his articles were published in journals that could be described, following Beall’s terminology, as “potentially, possibly or probably predatory.

Actually, if you check my articles in question (all of them are listed in the Scopus database – just type my surname into the field marked as “Author last name”), you will not find a single paper published in one of the journals on the so-called “Beall’s List”. Not a single one! So, what the fuss is all about?

I am not going to comment on the explanation of academic prestige of the Cambridge. It has been clearly stated and remains as it is. What is more interesting is the lead on the Stöckelová’s suspicious activities as the Editor-in-Chief of Sociologický časopis – Czech Sociological Review. Here is how she explains why she publishes her own papers without a peer review in the journals she also edits:

 “Stöckelová has indeed been an Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of the journal since 2013. Since assuming the position, she contributed two short pieces to the journal in her capacity as of an editor. Neither in her CV nor in the national register of research results has she claimed that they were anything else than short non-reviewed texts”.

If this is her point, then why Stöckelová published these “two short pieces” in the journal she edited herself stepping around the peer reviews? Perhaps the answer lies elsewhere than in defending that those “two short pieces” were for Stöckelová’s amusement only.  If you look closer at these articles, you will find that for example one of them published in 2016 was ‘An Open Letter to the European Sociological Association: “Conference Business”: as Usual?’ with a purpose to support a blog (another blog, here we are again!) written by the three Czech Ph.D. students from Masaryk University in Brno to criticize European Sociological Association for things like putting the conference fees too high or charging extra 40 EUR for the conference dinner in a luxury restaurant at Vltava River.

I do not want to argue with the “witch hunters” about the fees or about ESA conference being “an ivory tower”, since I am an economist and attend different conferences altogether. I just think the issue is very debatable and does not belong to an academic journal indexed on WoS. In fact, I do not know any prestigious journal indexed on WoS (or Scopus for that matter) which would publish a paper criticizing European Sociological Association for high conference fees or “excluding” less wealthier academics – personal opinions belong to personal blogs (and blogs only). Stöckelová is not new in business and she understood very well that her “short piece” would have never passed the peer review process but still wanted to inform the world on ESA being too entrepreneurial, so the opted for the journal she edited, Sociologický časopis – Czech Sociological Review (indexed in Scopus and Web of Science), which allowed her to publish the dubious article bypassing the peer review process. Here is where the real problem lies: Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal are preaching about the “commercialization” of science and about Scopus and WoS being owned by the private corporations and equity funds who are focused on money-making rather on measuring academic quality (and therefore deteriorating from academic values), but they do not hesitate to use Web of Science for promoting their political agenda which has nothing to do with science, research, and academic values.

Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal criticize the uncritical and unreflexive treatment of bibliometrics and developments in political economy of meta-data” offered by Scopus and WoS but fail to suggest a better alternative. Going away from the two world-renowned databases and creating local publication standards might lead (at least in the Czech Republic and any other post-Communist country in Central and Eastern Europe) to a situation in which a small group of local academics is going to make decisions on which articles (and which journals) are good and which are bad, and who is going to get a promotion and who is going to be fired. I vote for the objectivity of Scopus and WoS over the domestic and mafia-like academic version of “rotting partitocracy”!

josef_mathauser_-_zizka_pred_kutnou_horou

In 1893, Czech writer Alois Jirásek published his novel “Proti všem” (“Against all”). The novel takes place in 1420 and tells about the events of the Hussite Wars and fighting the enemies (Crusaders’ armies) from all over Europe. In those days, the proud Hussite warriors were alone and against all. Brož, Stöckelová, and Vostal seem to wage their war against all in a similar fashion with no light at the end of the tunnel. 

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It is easier to write a blog than a paper in a journal indexed in Web of Science or Scopus

stop-derivaceIn their recent post on the blog called “DeRIVace”, three Czech researchers (Tereza Stöckelová, Luděk Brož, and Filip Vostal) attack 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”).

Czech researchers from the Institutes of Sociology, Philosophy, and Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences were so startled by the disappearance of the so-called “Beall’s List” that they could not think of anything better but to start spreading accusations about everyone and everything.

http://czechacademia.blogspot.cz/

Tereza Stöckelová, Luděk Brož, and Filip Vostal (and their friend and fellow blogger from the U.K., a “digital sociologist and social media consultant” Mark Carrigan)  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, Vostal has 3 publications in Scopus and 4 in WoS, and Mark Carrigan has 5 publications listed in Scopus and 2 publications listed in WoS.

http://zaetickepublikace.webnode.cz/publishing-ethics/

Therefore, it is quite apparent that frustrated by their own misery and inability to write academic papers, a skill that can only be acquired by constant practice, people like Stöckelová or Carrigan prefer to spend their time on creating blogs instead. After all, blogs do not require peer-review and editing, and anyone can write just about anything there. And if one has some skills in Internet trolling she or he can even make it look like that all that nonsense on the blog is actually backed up by multiple sources (usually references to other blogs created by the same person or persons, if anyone bothers to click on them).  Such individuals are true apt pupils of the digital era.

It is true that getting your paper through all that peer reviews and acceptance is a painful and cumbersome process. Many researchers feel frustrated about it and prefer to enjoy the freedom of publishing book chapters and monographs rather than playing the publication game with journals indexed at Elsevier and Clarivate Analytics databases, one of the few (and perhaps the largest) well-established and solid players on the academic publishing market today. However, everyone who went through the peer reviews and has dozens of papers in Scopus and WoS knows that journal peer review is often more rigorous than book proposals (especially if those books are published in local obscure publishing houses with friends as members of the editorial committees). Accusing the others of publishing too much in recognized journals only reveals the weaknesses of those who prefer writing nonsense on their personal blogs to creating valid academic output.

Season of the witch: Czech academic publishing controversies 

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, “modern-day Van Helsings” from the Czech Academy of Sciences are at large spreading lies and accusing other researchers of imaginary misdeeds. However, their message appears to be overstated and stuffed inside a political wrapper.

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 colleagues to seize research grants, power, and influence) that they started to spread false accusations on their blog DeRIVace (their blog, similar to Beall’s blog, is their private endeavor and does not reflect any official position of any Czech public institution). They even asked their friend and “digital sociologist and social media consultant” Mark Carrigan to spread the lies abroad which he gladly did (without thinking twice what consequences this might bring for him as a member of British academic community and a possibly a member of UCU).

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 just 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 them “bloodsuckers”).

http://zaetickepublikace.webnode.cz/publishing-ethics

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 too many papers in Scopus and WoS journals and being “an expert on how to get published in journals listed in SCOPUS and Web of Science”!!! This is quite remarkable, since neither Stöckelová nor the other “witch hunters” cannot boast any impressive publication scores: 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. However, this is not an issue for the bloggers, since in their own eyes, this miserable academic output makes them true experts in the field of academic publishing who can judge the others (even those working in other research fields like Economics).

The post itself is full of disinformation and fabrications. Here are just some of them to prove the point: 1) Dr. Strielkowski has not  been “debated and disputed in Czech academia since 2015” but mentioned in 3-4 articles or blogs written by the small group of Czech social scientists congregated around DeRIVace (or related academic radical groups) or by the journalists with verifiable links to such groups. 2) Dr. Strielkowski is an author of 6 research monographs (and co-author or editor of several other proceedings) and 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. 3) According to the Czech laws, one does not need an official accreditation to offer an MBA degree. 4) Alongside with being a Research Associate at Cambridge Judge Business School, Dr. Strielkowski works as a Professor at the North-Caucasus Federal University and the incriminating page listed all his positions (which could not pass unnoticed for Dr Luděk Brož, a researcher specializing in the Russian region of Altai and apparently speaking good Russian).

Quite a comic nuance is that Stöckelová, Brož and Vostal 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 can be more prestigious for 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 fact is that Tereza Stöckelová is an Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of the Sociologický časopis – Czech Sociological Review (the journal is listed in Scopus and WoS) and she very much likes to publish in the journal she edits. She also lists her one-page editorials and “open letters” as articles in the WoS database and is apparently getting bonuses and promotion for that.stockelova-2016-csr Using these tactics, Stöckelová got herself promoted to an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague with just a handful of publications and a book published by a Sociological Publishing House (SLON) that operates from an apartment building on the outskirts of Prague and features Stöckelová’s fellow “witch hunters” and long-deceased academics as the members of the Editorial Committee thus making itself a candidate of being added to the “Beall’s List” (too bad it does not exist anymore).

slon-publishing-houseeditional-committee-slon

http://zaetickepublikace.webnode.cz/publishing-ethics

There are more stories like that related to the Czech Sociological Review and people around it: careers are built and money are made by people like Stöckelová. It is quite comic that the famous “conference in Prague in June 2016” attended by Jeffrey Beall himself was organized by the people from the Czech Sociological Review, a journal that probably also deserves to be added to the “Beall’s List” for the questionable practices of its editors. The darkest place is always under the candlestick.

“Modern-day Van Helsings” (and their comrades and helpers) are quick to criticize the others (applying an “us-against-them” rhetoric) and use the words like “parasitism” but forget to mention that all of them work both at the Czech Academy of Sciences and at the Charles University in Prague (or Anglo-American University in a case of Dr Vostal), earn two (or more) salaries at the Czech public institution, produce mediocre publication output but have plenty of time to write and maintain blogs like DeRIVace. To most of us this constitutes a clear example of parasitism and wasting taxpayers’ money.