Pakistan’s PhDs – Cheaper by the Dozen?

AS an Internet user you would have experienced the Nigerian lottery scam. But you may not have heard of the academic scam of the African Journal of Business Management (AJBM) — unless you are in one of the countless management schools that have sprung up in Pakistan since the 1980s.

There it tops the popularity chart. The Higher Education Commission (HEC)-approved supervisors for PhD students in management sciences have published nearly 50 articles in it.

Should one be proud of the four Pakistanis who are on its long editorial board? No! This is so even though the AJBM appears in the (previously reliable) Thomson Reuters listing of journals.

Why? To understand this let’s see how this and similarly dubious business journals work. Its reviewers are recommended by authors. It does not check the relationship between the reviewers and the authors, nor verify the reputation of the reviewers.

If submitting a paper, you can create a fake email, nominate Prof X who does not exist and use the email address you created, where the paper is sent for reviewing, if at all. The journal gets $500 for an ‘accepted’ paper.

The mechanism ought to be clear by now. AJBM, a member of a large family of similarly dubious publications headquartered in Nairobi with over 100 such journals, sends out spam mail to academics globally enticing contributions from writers.

Friends of friends join their editorial board. Members of these boards probably can publish their own articles for free or at a discount, while recommending the journals to others.

Africa is not the only continent maligned by such operations. Down under is the Australian Journal of Business and Management Research on whose board is a Pakistani assistant professor — let’s call him Prof A. (For all we know this journal may have its offices in Faisalabad, which is the hub of many such dubious publications, and of which the HEC was told eight years ago by the writer. But it decided to pay no attention.)

Our Prof A does not operate in isolation. I learned this after informing Prof Susan Taylor, chair of Human Resource Management and Organisational Change, University of Maryland, whose name was displayed as editor of the International Journal of Business and Social Research without her knowledge. Her university’s attorney got its website squashed.

This journal had another Pakistani on its board — let’s call him Prof B — a prolific paper-producer who churned out 20 international publications in 18 months in such dubious journals. What’s even more interesting is that these two professors, A and B, did their PhD under the same supervisor, Prof C.

Prof C clearly practises what he preaches; he is a prolific contributor to such unsavoury journals. In recognition of his work, the HEC gave him, with 56 others, the 2010 Best University Teacher Award.

Such gross violation of academic etiquette prompted me to download the résumés of all 71 HEC-recognised PhD supervisors in management sciences to carry out a rough analysis of their publishing work in HEC-recognised journals. The result is mind-boggling.

These academics fall into two categories: 21 did their PhD in Pakistan; 50 went abroad (to largely second- or third-rate universities).

Of these 71 academics 39 (18 with PhDs from Pakistan and 21 from foreign universities) published 180 articles in dubious journals. Eighty per cent of those with Pakistani PhDs contributed to such journals. Having relatively better training and having learnt higher research ethics the overseas-trained academics contributed less to such publications: 40 per cent.

Overall, the 39 academics involved in such padding of their résumés bagged 4.6 publications each on average.

Undergraduates and postgraduates students trained by such academics are unlikely to learn the high ethics of research, and honest business practices. Surely this ought to agitate the business community and universities. Information about such fake dubious has been provided to the HEC and the documents are available to the reader by writing to the author of this piece.

The writer is an independent researcher.

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