Springer writes back, defending its publication of a creationist paper

Yesterday, after reading a ridiculous creationist paper in a Springer journal (International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology), I wrote both a post about the paper and a kvetching letter to the “general inquiries” address of Springer Nature. I got a reply within 24 hours, which is good, but the response was lame and evasive, which is not good.  First my letter (again), which was sent to General enquiries: info@springeropen.com.

Dear Springer,

I am writing to call to your attention to something you probably already know: the December issue of your International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology has published a straight-out Genesis-style creationism paper by Sarah Umer, “A brief history of human evolution: challenging Darwin’s claim.” (Link is at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41257-018-0014-2). Not only does the paper make a number of false statements about evolution, and misquotes prominent evolutionists, but also quotes the jailed Turkish creationist loon Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) in support of its thesis that humans and all species originated instantly at the behest of the “divine”. The editing is also dreadful: there are grammatical and spelling mistakes throughout. Did anybody whose first language is English even edit the paper?

I would like to know how this paper got published and what review process you used. Are you going to let the paper stand as is? Also, why was it so poorly edited?

This paper is an affront to all evolutionary biologists who do good work, as well as a tremendous embarrassment to Springer, who should have known better.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply. In the meantime, I’ve posted a short critique–it would take pages to refute Umer’s misstatments and lies–on my website Why Evolution is True. That link is here: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/creationist-paper-gets-into-a-springer-journal/

Cordially,
Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago

Here’s Springer’s response, which comes not from the editor of the journal but from a “Global Open Research Support Executive”:

I have no idea what information I’m referring to that is also “a resource that the authors based their work on.” But the response is basically a self-exculpation, more or less saying that since the paper was submitted (DUH) and accepted after peer review, they can’t do anything about it. Note that they didn’t answer my questions about the terrible editing (I doubt, given the infelicities of writing and grammatical errors, that it was even edited.)

And of course there’s no point in contacting the author (there’s only one author), as she, as a creationist in Pakistan, is certainly not going to correct her article.

Well, I’m not giving up yet in trying to call Springer’s attention to this travesty. Springer’s management team has no email addresses listed (why is that?), and the CEO, Daniel Ropers, has only a Twitter site that he seems to never check.  Nor do the journal’s editors have any contact information. Nevertheless, I tried tweeting at the CEO. (Feel free to retweet it to @DanielRopers, though it’s almost certainly futile.)

I’ve written back to another “support” address I found at Springer, but really, it’s hard to find anybody in charge to talk to. Readers’ help here is appreciated. And if you don’t know whom to contact, you can give some publicity to Springer’s publication of this ridiculous paper and their non-response.

 

39 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Sub

  2. mikeyc
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I dunno, but that email from Cruz looks like boilerplate. My guess is the fool has no idea who you are, didn’t read more than the first sentence of your letter then reflexively sent a standard “don’t blame us, blame the author” non-response, intending to deflect.

    • Posted December 19, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Draken
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      I even suspect it was sent as a robotic autoreply after linguistic analysis of Jerry’s letter. Cruz ain’t never seen no letter from Coyne.

    • Joe Dickinson
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Yep, definitely stock verbiage.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The twitt3r link says “We can’t show you everything! We automatically hide photos that might contain sensitive content. [ Show more]”

    What content do you suppose there might be hidden? Crystals retrieved from a cave in South America? Physics instruments for the latest Mars Robot? Dairy products?

    It’s so intriguing!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Typo “Media” not “more”

    • Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      That happened when I tweeted a Jesus and Mo cartoon a while back, and the usual suspects complained. It doesn’t happen to everyone, and you can adjust your twitter settings so that the content isn’t hidden.

      After Jesus and Mo, EVERYTHING on this site (which goes automatically to Twitter) is deemed “sensitive”!

      • Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        See pornh ub.com/jerrycoyne for more such salacious entries. /s I agree that this looks like a boilerplate response but I’m guessing that the works it’s based on refers to the Harun Yo Mama comment as PCC stated that was a source for this bunkum.

  4. Teresa Carson
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I agree with previous commenters. You got a form letter. I would like to know who these peer reviewers are. The entire so-called journal must be a joke — another vehicle for the publisher to make money. I’m starting to get depressed about the future of scientific publishing. Back in the day, neither one of us could have imagined such a future. We used to get crazy manuscripts at the American Naturalist and Evolution, but they were quickly and politely rejected. I feel like a crabby old woman bemoaning the state of the universe and wishing for the old days when folks did things the right way! I’ll go back to my rocking chair and dream of the days when I worked with promising young scientists like Jerry Coyne.

  5. Jonathan Dore
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    These seem to be the editorial principals for the journal:

    Editor-in-Chief
    Yanzhong Wang, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China

    Associate Editors-in-Chief
    Jun Jing, Tsinghua University Beijing, China
    Hubin Yin, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China
    Jijiao Zhang, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China

    Managing Editor

    Wei Jiang, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China

    Editors
    Zhen Liu, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China
    Tong Wang, The Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, CASS, China

    In other words, this journal is more or less owned by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Whatever else it may be, I doubt it’s particularly tolerant of creationism (institutionally speaking at least). Haven’t been able to find email addresses, but there is one for the Publishing Editor, Amapola Wu: amapola.wu@springer.com. Tweeting on Springer’s main feed would probably also get someone’s attention.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Yes, maybe a letter to Springer’s “headquarters” would help. Publishing this drivel under the Springer flag should be devastating to their reputation.
      I’m not a fan of Springer because they are using pay-walls, but I never doubted the quality of their publications. This journal sounds like a ‘rogue’ journal within the Springer bosom.
      And indeed, as pointed out, who were these peers that reviewed it? Either none of them has any knowledge of evolutionary biology and English,or they simply did not read it.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      After a little more digging.

      This is the page of the website of the institute where they all work: http://iea.cass.cn/index.htm

      This is the page of the editor-in-chief: http://iea.cass.cn/deptstaff-481.htm. His email addresses are wangyzh@cass.org.cn and wangyanzhong01@163.com

      This is the page of one of the associate editors-in-chief: http://iea.cass.cn/deptstaff-89.htm. His email addresses are zhjijiao@126.com and jjzhang@cass.org.cn

    • eric
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes I was going to suggest that ‘Springer’ may be too high up, and the letter might be better directed to the person/people running the journal.

      But then again, if it’s predatory, they probably don’t care. In which case Springer is the better option, even if people at that level don’t generally respond to questions about individual journal entries.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Since this paper was published in an anthropology journal, I commented disparagingly about the field the other day, and was rightly taken to task for it. I admit my error.
      But what really needs to happen is for figures in the field to call out this paper. This should be an embarassement.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Where’d Springer dig up the “peers” who reviewed Umer’s nonsense?

    • Steve Bracker
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      As best I can tell, all this confusion is just based on a spelling error — what they mean is “pier review” — reviewer in a deck chair on the resort pier, laptop, another round of drinks. Clicks the “whatever” box, next…. It will be interesting to see how far up the Springer hierarchy the craziness goes.

  7. ploubere
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t appear to be a reputable journal, even if it once was.

  8. Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Springer Nature contacts:

    https://group.springernature.com/gp/group/media

  9. drew
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Here’s a link to the editorial board https://www.springer.com/social+sciences/anthropology+%26+archaeology/journal/41257?detailsPage=editorialBoard

    And here are the emails of some of the members of the editorial board for the journal.

    Maurice Godelier, EHESS, France maurice.godelier@ehess.fr

    David W Haines, George Mason University, USA dhaines1@gmu.edu

    Stevan Harrell, University of Washington, USA stevehar@uw.edu

    Ronald Hustedde, Kentucky University, USA-this one is really strange as his specialty is economic development and rural entrepreneurship?- rhusted@uky.edu

    Pookong Kee, University of Melbourne , Australia -This one is psycology extpert?- pkee@unimelb.edu.au

    There’s a whole lot more on the list, some who have relevant specialties and some who don’t.

    • Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Thanks! I’ll tried to find more email addresses and send out one big email within the next day or two.

      • drew
        Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        I have this sneaky suspicion that when you contact them, the response will be something like, “I’m on the board of what now?”

    • Posted December 19, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      There have been reports of some of the predatory journals creating editorial boards of people that were not even contacted to see if they wish to participate. (Brian Leiter I believe had something on this a while back.)

  10. Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    > Springer’s management team has no email addresses listed (why is that?), and the CEO, Daniel Ropers, has only a Twitter site that he seems to never check.

    I poked around online and found that most Springer Nature email addresses are of the form firstname(dot)lastname(at)springernature.com. That’s worth a shot.

  11. Barney
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Judging by the list of other articles in the ‘journal’, the economic development specialist isn’t out of place – it’s the title of the journal that is.

    https://link.springer.com/search?sortOrder=newestFirst&facet-content-type=Article&facet-journal-id=41257

    Quite a lot of it is economic, and ‘ethnology’ in terms of modern ethnic groups. This paper is really out of place in it. I also notice the author and her PhD supervisor are in the ‘fine art’ department.

    Reading it, I notice it doesn’t use any reference newer than 2002, and it is just cherry-picking (and what looks like misleading quotation) of some writing on human evolution and archaeology, with an argument of incredulity – “since human art is only known from 40,000 years ago, and I can’t believe that if humans had ancestors they wouldn’t have left identifiable art too, therefore those ancestors can’t have existed”.

    I suspect this was a suggestion to look at the earliest art known that developed into a religiously-approved “art appeared, therefore humans must have appeared then” essay. And since it’s a PhD programme, the urge to publish made paying for the best-sounding journal they could get into was too much.

    This shows that Springer seem willing to accept anything to their open access journals if they get the fee. I’m not that worried by a Pakistani fine art PhD student having these opinions; it’s Springer giving it a false sense of rigour and respectability.

  12. rickflick
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    sub

  13. Posted December 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    What does Springer do other than provide an imprimatur and collect money? They need to guard the first or they won’t be doing the second.

  14. Blue
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I did reTweet.

    Angering. Utterly.

    Blue

  15. A C Harper
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I recall reading some time ago that with so many broadcast TV channels (in the UK) broadcasters were desperate for content.

    Perhaps there are so many ‘scientific journals’ available that they too are desperate for content?

    Never mind the quality, measure the column inches?

  16. Posted December 19, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Springer could not improve the journal and its contend, but could disown it. But, as others commented before me, they seem not to care about quality, as long as they get the fees. To me, this affair is very depressing. In recent years, more and more journals demand page charges. I have submitted manuscripts to such journals. Most were eventually published after a peer review, a few were rejected. I wouldn’t want next time when I pay hard-earned money to have my work published, to see it sitting next to crap like this.

    • Posted December 19, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      “content”

    • rickflick
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I wonder it Springer is some guy living in his mother’s basement.

  17. Posted December 19, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Sarah Umer hold a bachelor’s in Graphic Design and a Ph.D. in Fine Art. This has not deterred her from publishing on a wide range of topics outside her field:

    https://lcwu.academia.edu/SUmer

    Either the International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology will publish absolutely anything, or a quid pro quo exists between Springer Verlag and the gov’t of Pakistan, whereby Springer publishes garbage in exchange for market access.

    • Barney
      Posted December 19, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Wow, she’s using classy places to publish. I picked one of the papers listed for her at your link – “The Common Origin of World Religions”, published by “Asian Academic Research Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities”. I went to their website, asianacademicresearch.org, clicked on ‘Aboutus’ [sic], and literally got an advert popup window for a male impotency pill and other such things.

  18. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Their reply is seems very inappropriate, to say the least.
    I am sure that if a published paper was found to be larded with fabricated data then there would be an investigation and at least an editorial response if not a full retraction. But a paper that is chock full of historical fabrications is genetically related to a research paper with fake data. I see no reason to make a distinction here.

    It seems to me that the ‘meh’ policy they are invoking is indeed the wrong policy. This should not be the end of it.

  19. dani
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    That is so disappointing!I really admire what you are doing, Jerry!

  20. Diane G
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    sub

  21. Posted December 20, 2018 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    This response shocked me to the point where I new blogged about it myself.

    https://dailytokoloshe.com/2018/12/20/springer-nature-editors-whats-your-job/

    I’m left wondering just how anybody involved in this justify their salaries.


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