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I recently published an open-access paper. Shortly after, someone from the 'Communication Initiative' reached out, regarding a 'summary' of the paper which they would like to share, asking me if I'd care to 'review' it.

The 'summary' turns out to be a large chunk of the content of the paper, probably about 90% identical to it. For reference, the full paper is here and the summary here.

I can't easily discern if this is some kind of scam or other shady business, or just someone who did a lazy job summarizing a paper. For example, why are they asking me to 'review'? Is that some legal trick so they can claim I co-authored the 'summary' so it doesn't infringe upon copyright?

Is anyone familiar with comminit and know if they're shady?

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    The summary is around 800 words long. The paper is 19 pages long and contains 8 figures, 1 table, 4 appendices, and a list of 72 references not in the summary. Why do you think the summary is "a large chunk of the content of the paper"?
    – JRN
    Feb 11 at 15:23
  • Large relative to the size of the summary. Feb 12 at 12:52
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    The summary is "large relative to the size of the summary"?
    – JRN
    Feb 12 at 13:13
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    Out of the 800 words that constitute the summary, a large chunk of those 800 words are directly copied from the paper, is that clear enough? Feb 13 at 10:41
  • Yes, thank you.
    – JRN
    Feb 13 at 13:17

1 Answer 1

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THE ORGANIZATION THAT PUBLISHED THE SUMMARY OF YOUR ARTICLE

Although a bit difficult to find, summary information about the Communication Initiative Network is provided at their website:

https://www.comminit.com/global/content/overview-communication-initiative

The Mission of the effort is described as follows:

“Convene the communication and media development, social and behavioural change community for more effective local, national, and international development action”

More insight into the organization and what it seeks to do comes from a description of the Executive Director, Warren Feek, at the website:

https://www.comminit.com/global/content/warren-feek

“Warren Feek is Executive Director of The Communication Initiative Network and Partnership, a network of 100,000 people using media, communication, social and behaviour change strategies to address priority local, national and international Development issues.” [bolded for emphasis]

It is hard to tell how the organization is funded and managed, but the partners page lists a large number of legitimate organizations in the international development field as partners.

https://www.comminit.com/global/ci_partners

These organizations include, the World Health Organization, the Wellcome Trust, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) and many many others.

The network seems to publish/publicize research on a variety of topics related to international development, including but not limited to health.

THE SUMMARY OF YOUR ARTICLE

There appears to be chunks of text in the summary that are reproduced from the original article verbatim. Some of this identical text is delineated with quotation marks; some is not.

A single (elegant) Figure from the original article is reproduced twice in the summary. In one instance, the original article is cited as the source for the figure; in one instance, the original article is not cited. It is unclear whether permission to reproduce the Figure should have been obtained.

Your question about violating copyright seems apt.

It is not clear why they have asked you to “review” the article (and presumably approve or not approve it). At this point (2/11/2022), the material exists at the website without your having approved it.

Accessing the summary directly, it would be easy (IMHO) to conclude that the summary was authored by the authors of the original paper (you and your co-author).

BOTTOM LINE / OPINION

This is a legitimate organization that “publishes” and/or "publicizes" summaries of content taken from other journals. There does not appear to be an obvious profit motive in publishing and/or publicizing the summaries.

Exposure of previously published material by this organization at its website might bring it to attention of policymakers (or other interested parties) more quickly. This is an opinion.

“Approving” the “publication” of the summary that has problems with attribution might make a problem for you and your co-author, especially given the fact it is easy to conclude that you and your co-author (authors of the original paper) also authored the summary. This is an opinion.

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  • "the partners page lists a large number of legitimate organizations in the international development field as partners" - do all those listed reputable organizations actually endorse the one being suspected of shady behavior here? From your helpful summary, it (comminit) reeks of scam even more: using big names and figures is surely a hallmark of your typical shady business, especially in academic space.
    – Lodinn
    Feb 12 at 10:00
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    @Lodinn S Impossible to tell from the website. I agree that it has the hallmarks of the shady business of reproducing content that the business does not own without appropriate permissions. And I suspect that someone (not the authors) is making money somehow. Feb 12 at 16:01

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