The further adventures of Anna O. Szust

by Greg Mayer

In yesterday’s New York Times article about the large judgment against a predatory journal publisher, there was a link to an earlier story about a “Scholarly Sting Operation”, in which an entirely fake academic, named “Anna O. Szust”, was created, and shopped around to various journals as an aspiring member of the editorial board, and managed to get on over 40 editorial boards, most of them for putative predatory journals (the rest for several open access journals). The details are even more frightening or amusing (or perhaps both), including asking for payments from Szust, and offers of profit sharing (“60% us 40% You”). Do read the original piece in Nature, and the New Yorker also has an interesting article on the affair.

I was interested to see what Szust was up to now. Her Twitter page, shut down by the investigators once the sting was complete, is still up, and appropriately labeled.

I also found on a quick search that she’s still on the editorial board of three journals: the Global Journal of Multidsiciplinary Studies, which may no longer exist; the International Journal of Art and Humanity Science, which seems not to have published anything since 2017, though it seems to still have a full website; and the Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, which is still fully functioning. Here’s the cover of this month’s issue:

Cover Page

Note that it professes to be “A double-blind peer reviewed monthly international journal”, and reports an “Impact Factor” and several indices, which, I suppose, it takes to be some measure of its quality.

The Journal‘s welcome page provides the following description:

Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies (AJMS) is monthly international journal approved by published in English, Hindi & Marathi for scholars, practitioners, and students. The Journal welcomes original research articles, book reviews, commentaries, correspondence, review articles, technical notes, short communications, case study, books, thesis and dissertation relevant to the fields of Agricultural Science, Ayurved, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Botany, Chemistry, Commerce, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Food Science, Geology, Geography, History, Horticulture, Library & Information Science, Linguistics, Literature, Management Studies, Mathematics, Medical Sciences, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physics, Social Science, Zoology. All research papers submitted to the journal will be double – blind peer reviewed referred by members of the editorial board.

and a list of where it is “Indexed”:

Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies (AJMS) is included in different indexing agencies, J-Gate, Google Scholar, Directory of Research Journal Indexing, BASE – Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, International Impact Factor Services (IIFS), India Environment Portal etc.

A very revealing bit of information is on this page:

Last Date of Online Manuscript Submission: 20th April 2019
Date of Online Publication: 1st  May, 2019

I wonder how much double-blind peer-review can occur in 11days!


  1. Posted April 5, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    But she looks soooo academically with this white coat!

  2. Posted April 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Odd how these predatory journals don’t seek publications within pseudoscience (hypnotherapy, homeopathy, etc.).

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted April 5, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      There is still “Ayurved” (for ayurvedic “medicine”)in the list of subjects covered by AJMS.

  3. Jenny Haniver
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    She is really a descendent of Bertha Pappenheim.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    relevant to the fields of Agricultural Science, Ayurved, […] Social Science, Zoology.

    Literally doing an A-Z.

  5. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Many years ago, an obscure Biology journal published in India solicited a manuscript from me. It appeared to have a respectable editorial board, so I telephoned a few of the listed members whom I knew. One of them had never heard of the journal. Another recalled having been invited to join their board, but said that he had declined.

    But Art Chovnick, a well known Drosophila geneticist, told me that he had indeed agreed to serve on their editorial board. He said they were a well-intentioned squad of Indian scientists, grouped around Benaras Hindu University, and they just wanted to keep in touch with the wider world of Biology. He had actually met some of them in India, and quite liked them. Art’s recommendation persuaded me to do our bit for scientific connections between the US and the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges.

    So, a British post-doc and I put together a short paper for them, on some experiments we had done with an ambiguous outcome, which in due course they published. There were no page charges, and they even sent us a packet of reprints, on rather cheap paper. Checking with an index of libraries, we discovered that the journal was taken by a total of something like 3 libraries in the USA and 2 in the UK, so publishing our ambiguous results there came within a hair of not publishing them at all. I wouldn’t call the little journal in question predatory. Maybe aspirational is the right word.
    I don’t know if that journal still exists.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 5, 2019 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Many years ago? Somehow I assumed this was a new phenomenon. I guess not.

    • Posted April 6, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Have you uploaded the article in ResearchGate? Then it will be visible to others even if the journal no longer exists.

      Two or three decades ago, all scientific journals published in my country were so obscure that we were saying that to publish a work in any of them was tantamount to burying it. Hence, the best Bulgarian scientific journal was nicknamed “Central Cemetery”, after the most prestigious cemetery in the capital. (The rest did not qualify even for this honor.) We were saying, “This manuscript has been rejected from 5 places, I want just to stop caring about it, why not give it to the Central Cemetery?” Nobody had heard of anything rejected by the journal.
      Happily, times have changed. The Central Cemetery, along with several other journals, now has an impact factor (and, alas, has rejected two manuscripts of mine).

      • Jonathan Gallant
        Posted April 6, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Здравейте, Маямърков,

        ResearchGate? Every now and then, a ResearchGate Email appears in my Inbox,
        congratulating me on the milepost that some
        ancient, obscure paper of mine has finally reached 10 citations. But even ResearchGate will never locate that paper published in Benares in the 1980s. It is not even listed in PubMed. I don’t remember its title myself. Maybe the whole event was a hallucination, except that the reprints are still around, somewhere, in my office.

        • Posted April 6, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for the “Hello” in Bulgarian!
          If the journal is really obscure, ResearchGate will indeed not be able to locate it. However, you can use the button for manual upload and do the job yourself. It will be good to scan a paper copy of the article as “full text”, because otherwise those interested will be forced to ask it from you every time.
          I have manually uploaded this way a lot of my old “buried” papers, notably those in the Bulgarian-language journal Andrologiya, which I think is defunct (not to be confused with the journal Andrologia published in Marburg in English).
          I will be looking forward to see your “Indian” article!

  6. CAS
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies
    What total coverage of disciplines! Obviates the need for other Journals in Physics, etc.

  7. rickflick
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Is nothing sacred? What has become of science?

    • Posted April 6, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Such crooks are an inevitable by-product of the relentless pressure on scientists to publish, publish, publish. I am actually more worried about the fraudulent papers that sneak into the real scientific journals.

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