We recently received a pre-submission inquiry from an author, who identified as being fairly inexperienced with writing papers. At first glance it was a fairly standard pre-submission inquiry. The author mentioned the titles of two papers they allegedly had wrote and wondered whether we might be potentially interested in them. The author added that they had a colleague who would also be potentially interesting in submitting papers to our journal and wondered whether we might be interested in publishing 1–2 articles in each issue of the journal.
The author also asked for a swift peer review process and even for me to help with making the revisions to the paper in order to enhance the chances of publication. Finally, the author concluded by saying they would pay me $1100 US dollars to thank me for ultimately accepting the papers.
This is the first time in all my years of editing that I have come across a clear bribe attempt. My main concern is whether I can/should report this situation (and if so, how and to whom) even though the author did not provide any information apart from the name of the affiliations and institution.
Question(s) for the COPE Forum
• What can/should I do considering I do not have information on the affiliation or workplace of the author?
• Should we respond to these emails or just ignore?
The advice from the Forum was that, in general, these types of enquiries from third party organisations can be ignored. They can be added to a spam filter. COPE contributed to this blog on Retraction Watch which explains how some of these companies operate (https://retractionwatch.com/2017/03/07/pay-play-three-new-ways-companies-subverting-academic-publishing/). The journal may like to share the information with COPE who can alert other publishers.
The journal should also ensure that all of the editors of the journal are aware of this issue and the journal’s position that this behaviour is totally unacceptable. Another option is to write an editorial in the journal, raising awareness of the issue.