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Spam!

This one totally faked me out at first. It was an email from “Nick Bagnall” that began:

Dear Dr. Gelman,

I made contact last year regarding your work in the CMG: Reconstructing Climate from Tree Ring Data project. We are about to start producing the 2014 edition and I wanted to discuss this with you as we still remain keen to feature your work.

Research Media are producing a special publication in February of 2014, within this report we will be working with a small selected number of PI’s with a focus on geosciences, atmospheric and geospace sciences and earth Sciences..

At this point, I’m thinking: Hmmm, I don’t remember this guy, is this some sort of collaborative project that I’d forgotten about?

The message then continues:

The publication is called International Innovation . . .

Huh? This doesn’t sound so good. The email then goes on with some very long lists, and then finally the kicker:

The total cost for each article produced in this report is fixed at a tax free amount of $ 2,980 USD for the full three page development, this is a required contribution.

OK, now I get it. But there’s more:

By publishing open access, researchers benefit from a higher visibility and increased cross pollination of their article.

Luckily, I can publish open-access for free whenever I want!

Finally:

Could you please drop me a mail and advise when would be a good time to discuss further?

Speak soon,

Nick Bagnall

Research Media
T: +44 7791 510 287

I don’t think so.

P.S. This happened last month; I scheduled it on a day when just about nobody should be reading this blog, that way I’m not wasting too many people’s time with it.

In all seriousness, though, this sort of thing really does hurt my feelings. I do all this research because I think it’s important. So it hurts when people like this guy come along and think of me as nothing more than a mark.

P.P.S. A few weeks later, “Bagnall” emailed me again:

Dear Dr. Gelman,

I sent you an email some weeks ago concerning the CMG: Reconstructing Climate from Tree Ring Data project. I understand how busy you are at present and may not have seen my email so I thought I would try one last time. . . .

Still with that juicy charge of $8940 $2980 per article. I wonder, does this guy get any takers at all, or is there some other game they are playing. Ugh. Although I guess this is better than mugging old ladies for spare change or selling Herbalife dealerships.

9 Comments

  1. John Mashey says:

    I hadn’t realized you were doing tree rings, but when I looked this up, it pops up in various grant lists…
    So I wouldn’t take it personally…
    I’d guess somebody has a program (or bunch of people) to go through grant lists , extract some text and stuff it into email like this, which likely helps it get through spam filters better.

    After all, who better to chase than people with grants?

    Q: Why to you rob banks, Willie Sutton?
    A: That’s where the money is.

  2. Shira says:

    I can’t imagine they get any takers, which begs the question: why do they do it? Did they just start and have not yet figured out that it won’t work? Or is this something that has been happening for a long time?

    • John Mashey says:

      There have long been automated harvesters for email addresses for typiucal spam, which is why people often avoid posting myname@place.com in favor of myname AT place DOT com, or better: I’m at place DOT com and use ID myname.

      It is quite plausible that if you were gong to do an open access SPAM, that you’d at least start by harvesting from relevant lists, especially that would offer some text to include.

      Andrew might want to pass this along to Jeffrey Beall.

      • Rahul says:

        That “myname AT place DOT com” trick really assumes spammers are damn stupid doesn’t it? Think guys smart enough to hijack machines & run email harvesters wouldn’t be able to write a Regex to parse that?

        I think the only chance at success any more is to hide your email behind a captcha or post it as a scanned image.

  3. Ian Fellows says:

    Sort of begs the question: Will spam be the first to pass the Turing test?

    Certainly the economic incentives are there.

  4. Alex says:

    To be fair, he says the ‘total cost’ will be $2980, not the cost per page (to get the $8940 you mention in the last paragraph). This is quite near the going rate for open access papers, though presumably an article on PLOS One would get rather more reads than a ‘special publication’ called International Innovation.

  5. John Mashey says:

    Rahul: just out of curiosity, when did you start using regex matching software ~daily?

    The point of comment was that many people have long known there were harvesters being used, not that the specific actions were necessarily effective against potentially-smarter harvesters. Whether it’s cost-effective for a harvester to bother being smarter is unknown to me. It’s awfully cheap just to scan for @.

  6. Mary Ann says:

    I’m glad I did a search on the web and found this info.
    Got an email from the same guy.
    Thanks for letting people know!

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