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Identity Crisis

Twa, Michael D. OD, PhD, FAAO

Author Information
Optometry and Vision Science: July 2017 - Volume 94 - Issue 7 - p 725
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001098
  • Free

Integrity is at the core of science. It takes years to establish a trusted a reputation, but only a few moments to destroy. Academic reputations are built over time from publications and presentations, from the public defense of sound ideas, from the veracity of data, and the integrity of the investigator. But, within the current hypercompetitive funding climate, there is ever increasing pressure to produce scholarly publications that can help secure research funding and, ultimately, to advance academic careers. It should be no surprise that the current academic reward system is ripe for abuse and gaming.

One of the latest scams is the creation of fake identities. In 2015, Burkhard Morgenstern, tired of the endless stream of invitations to join new journal editorial boards, submitted the name and credentials of a fake applicant to the board. He succeeded in getting Hoss Cartwright, the fictional TV character from Bonanza, appointed to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Agricultural and Life Sciences. As of May 29, 2017, Hoss is still listed as a member of this editorial board as Dr. Hoss Cartwright, Senior Research Fellow, Ponderosa Institute for Bovine Research, Nevada, United States. Altogether, Hoss now sits on a total of five editorial boards and has received invitations to speak at multiple international conferences—quite an honor. With the explosion of new titles in academic publishing, there are endless invitations to participate in journals of dubious quality. It is also possible to learn that you or your colleagues may have been appointed to editorial boards without your knowledge or consent. You should search the Web sometime using your name and editorial board as key words. You might be surprised!

Most academics receive a flood of such invitations to join editorial boards or attend international meetings as an invited speaker. They are like the countless mail invitations for low-interest credit cards or phone invitations for home security systems. These offers are the latest form of spam. For the past 2 months, I decided to save all of the invitations I received to publish in new journals or to serve on editorial boards. The total number of invitations was just over 50 each month from journals such as the Journal of Agricultural and Animal Science (not Hoss’ journal) to the Indian Journal of Immunology and Respiratory Medicine. There are, however, a number of invitations to join eye and vision–related journals, all of which turned out to be predatory titles after further investigation.

One way that journals can defend against fake authors is to require validation at the time of submission. ORCID is short for Open Researcher and Contributor ID ( The ORCID is a unique ID assigned to authors. Requiring authors to provide their ORCID at the time of article submissions can help to disambiguate investigators. While the use of ORCIDs does not fully prevent fakery, impersonation, or other misuse, it can reduce misbehavior. Use of ORCIDs also helps authors to automate the compilation of all published articles and research funding. Users can select what information is shared publicly or kept private. Optometry and Vision Science currently does not require ORCIDs from all authors, but will require ORCIDs from corresponding authors beginning in 2018.

Michael D. Twa, OD, PhD, FAAO
Editor in Chief
Birmingham, AL

Copyright © 2017 American Academy of Optometry