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.

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