Why I unfollowed @scienmag

Update 20th December 2017. @Scienmag appears to have been taken down for violating Twitter’s T&Cs. More when I find more. Been several comments from Scienmag supporters recently in the comments so it’ll be interesting to see if they stick around. One that I did allow to post had an account creation date if Dec 2017 so it looks like a bit of a rearguard action…

So here’s the thing. A few people have been tweeting sciencey-looking articles into my timeline of late, which come from the website scienmag.com which bills itself as Science Magazine, and the Twitter account of the same name, @scienmag with the name Science.

I recently stopped following this account for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being that they are clearly trading off the name of the well-respected scientific journal/magazine Science. The latter, published by the AAAS famously uses the web address http://www.sciencemag.org and the Twitter handle @sciencemagazine, as in the early days of the commercial internet for one reason or another, science.com was already taken, and similarly, in the early days of Twitter @science was quickly snapped up.
Now most scientists I know do not get the two confused, but every now and then, even quite prominent scientists forget and RT articles from Scienmag. In fact when I started on Twitter one of the accounts I started to follow was @scienmag, thinking it was the real deal. I soon learnt it wasn’t but was too lazy to unfollow them.

But the main reason that I dislike @scienmag, and the final prompt for me to unfollow is that it seems to take science stories from various sources, often press releases about new research, and publishes them verbatim or near enough on their website, but annoyingly nearly never provides the link to the actual research article in question.
Why would they do this? Well it all comes down to the commercial web page principle of eyeball residence time. Basically websites that make their money selling advertising space never want you to leave their site by anything but a sponsored ad (usually Google ads). In fact, the only links off the page you may have arrived at are ones going to other Scienmag stories, or ads. What we as scientists want to do of course is get to the actual science as fast as possible, so we would likely just click on the actual journal link and leave their webpage behind. Thus creating a very low eyeball residence time, and therefore less ad dollars for them.
Take this example that crossed my Twitter timeline this evening. It was a retweet of a quote tweet that linked to a Scienmag page about survivors of pediatric Hodgkin lymphoma studied at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and their long-term disease burden.

This is the Scienmag page.

And as you can see it looks like an original magazine article, complete with quoted scientists that you might be led to believe were actually interviewed by the journalist. But there is no link to the Lancet Oncology article under discussion.
So I went to the St Judes web page and looked around for their press release on this subject and found this, that is strikingly similar to the “story” at Scienmag:

Paragraphs extracted from the Scienmag site (left) and the original St Judes press release (right)

Except that this time, there actually is a link to the real published article at Lancet Oncology.
Hmmm. Unfollow.

About martin

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12 Responses to Why I unfollowed @scienmag

  1. blag glab says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if scienmag is actually just some bored grad student trolling Science.

  2. dllahr says:

    Beg to differ on this assessment: “trading off the name of the well-respected scientific journal/magazine Science”. Isn’t Science a league-leader in retractions and mistakes?

    • martin says:

      Your concerns are valid but these are two separate issues. Yes, high IF journals appear from some data to have higher rates of retraction, but the reasons for this are poorly understood. Probably there are more fraudulent papers submitted due to publication pressures on academics, but also likely is that these journals are subject to higher levels of scrutiny. But this has no bearing on the topic of discussion here: that a knock-off website is stealing content to make $$$.

  3. bioalexknoll says:

    1. They publish only press releases which are submitted by selected institutes and universities through major press release distribution services and news agencies. “ONLY press releases”

    – Could you share any stolen content?

    2. They have rights to use ads on their site but they can’t make cash with ads on their website.

    * They purchased thousands of stock images in 2017 (you can check the photo on the page http://scienmag.com/?p=1574006 It was purchased by Scienmag. Not Springer).
    * Subscription fee for new agencies
    * Managed dedicated server hosting in Tier IV data centers

    3. AAAS registered Science logo as a trademark
    in 1969 (inactive),1998, 2006, 2011, and 2015
    AAAS also registered trademarks in 1976, 1977 and 1980
    (Please search “Science”. It is not oldest Science trademark)

    Scienmag doesn’t act as AAAS Science. They don’t use Science logo

    People from Scienmag deserve a little respect.

    • martin says:

      2) I regard the wholesale use of swathes of content (highlighted in the figures) without attribution or links back to the original site as being essentially plagiarism or theft.

      I don’t care what level of server they’ve built. It’s irrelevant to my point.
      3) the use or not of the Science logo is not in question here. It is the name sciencemag/scienmag that I regard as “trading off”

      • bioalexknoll says:

        2. It was purchased by Scienmag with business licence. Links to Scienmag.com?
        Please search the price info

        3. AAAS doesn’t have have a trademark for sciencemag / scienmag

      • martin says:

        I have no idea what you’re asking. In any case this is all totally irrelevant to the content of the original post. Anyone can register pretty much any domain or business ID. But we have provisions in our laws against “trading off”. In this jurisdiction this would be a clear case if Science ever thought it worth suing over.

  4. A Sage says:

    FYI: Not saying you aren’t right about scienmag being fake, but press releases for ALL sites look the same because they are press releases and therefore are supposed to look the same. Phys.org and ScienceDaily almost always have exactly the same description of science articles, but that doesn’t prove either one is fake

  5. Pingback: How Do Press Releases End Up in Our News Feeds? – NewsQ

  6. Pingback: Rare mutations in 4 young men with severe COVID-19: Jamanet | Conrad Theodore Seitz

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