60 seconds to digest drug review

Concerns over open access publisher as journal containing ‘world’s shortest review’ disappears from Pharma Research Library list

March 12, 2015

Academics are often accused of using half a dozen words where one would suffice, but that is not a criticism that applies to Subha Ganguly.

Dr Ganguly has produced what one blogger dubbed the shortest review article ever written – but Times Higher Education’s enquiries appear to have seen it erased from history.

The article, “Efficacy of levamisole as non-specific immunomodulator: a review”, consisted of an 89-word introduction, 100 words on the efficiency of the drug “in small ruminants and poultry” and a 27-word conclusion. Dr Ganguly listed his affiliation as the West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences in Kolkata, India. However, THE was unable to find him among the relevant department’s listed faculty and nobody responded to requests for confirmation.

The paper was published in October 2014 in the first edition of a journal called the Annals of Biomedicines and Natural Products, published by the Indian open access publisher Pharma Research Library. It was flagged up earlier this month by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian and associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, who blogs about “potential, possible or probable predatory” open access publishers.

Review articles aim to summarise current knowledge in a particular field. However, Dr Ganguly cited only seven papers, including three of his own. One of those, published in another Pharma Research Library journal, is also a three-paragraph review article of 254 words.

When first asked about the Annals paper, the unnamed editor-in-chief of Pharma Research Library promised to “look [into] the matter and instruct our team in [a] serious manner”. Asked subsequently why the journal had disappeared from the company’s list, he confirmed that it had been “stopped”, and the journal’s website – and Dr Ganguly’s paper – disappeared overnight. He added: “We will start the journal completely with research papers” and added that his company was “planning to publish [fewer] review papers”.

A page on Pharma Research Library’s website lists Dr Ganguly as an “honorary member” of an unspecified editorial board and a member of the board of the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biological Research. However, he was not mentioned on the list of Annals’ board members before it, too, disappeared. The only figure from a Western institution was Vaclav Vetvicka, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Louisville. He denied any active involvement with the journal, from which he had now resigned.

As for Dr Ganguly, he may still have some work to do to write the shortest article ever – that accolade still belongs to psychologist Dennis Upper’s 1974 joke paper, “The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of ‘writer’s block’”, which consisted of no content whatsoever.

paul.jump@tesglobal.com

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