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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cuckoo for peer review

Scientistry at its finest:
Shrime decided to see how easy it would be to publish an article. So he made one up. Like, he literally made one up. He did it using www.randomtextgenerator.com. The article is entitled "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?" and its authors are the venerable Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. The subtitle reads: "The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals." Shrime submitted it to 37 journals over two weeks and, so far, 17 of them have accepted it. (They have not "published" it, but say they will as soon as Shrime pays the $500. This is often referred to as a "processing fee." Shrime has no plans to pay them.) Several have already typeset it and given him reviews, as you can see at the end of this article. One publication says his methods are "novel and innovative"!. But when Shrime looked up the physical locations of these publications, he discovered that many had very suspicious addresses; one was actually inside a strip club.

Many of these publications sound legitimate. To someone who is not well-versed in a particular subfield of medicine—a journalist, for instance—it would be easy to mistake them for valid sources. "As scientists, we’re aware of the top-tier journals in our specific sub-field, but even we cannot always pinpoint if a journal in another field is real or not," Shrime says. "For instance, the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is the very first journal I was ever published in and it’s legitimate. But the Global Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is fake. Only someone in my field would know that."
You can trust scientists. Because global warming. And they have proven that birds are, indeed, cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Labels:

45 Comments:

Anonymous grey enlightenment January 27, 2015 7:48 PM  

it's pretty easy to detect the fake ones. legit journals have high reject rates for example. The peer review process is very time consuming and quite expensive, with a very high reject rate. The system needs to be overhauled, imho

Anonymous Gapeseed January 27, 2015 7:51 PM  

Lots of naked emperors out there.

Anonymous Mike M. January 27, 2015 8:01 PM  

You know, Castalia House could publish a couple of scholarly journals...with carefully selected articles.

Blogger Shibes Meadow January 27, 2015 8:02 PM  

"'Always After Me Lucky Charms': A Marxist Kritik Of Race and Intersectionaity in Irish-themed Breakfast Cereals"

Blogger Northern Hamlet January 27, 2015 8:22 PM  

Who Stole My Cookie Crisp?: A Postmodern Reification of Shibe Meadow's Hidden Assumptions on Irish Privilege and Empiric Ambitions, and their interplay against African-American Stereotypes and Forced Abandonment of the Public Sphere.

Anonymous T January 27, 2015 8:25 PM  

If the 'fake' journals are so easy to detect, what is their purpose?

Blogger ajw308 January 27, 2015 8:34 PM  

he says. "They’re preying on people who aren’t able to get into the mainstream medical journals because they come from a university that nobody recognizes or they have some other scientific disadvantage."
This is a cause for Social Justice Warriors! I'm sure there are a few brave SJW's who read here and can sound the alarm. As long as some researchers are at a 'scientific disadvantage', the better educated ones need to check their scientific privilege.

Anonymous Jill January 27, 2015 8:43 PM  

Vanity presses for the scholarly market. I can't say I'm entirely surprised. Scholars can be as desperate as anybody. They can also be cheaters who have not the slightest idea how to conduct research or write a cohesive paper.

Anonymous Daniel January 27, 2015 8:49 PM  

From the original."If the source is not on PubMed or on Beall’s list..."

I see what you did there. Just follow the typo into spellcheck...

Anonymous DavidK January 27, 2015 9:07 PM  

If the 'fake' journals are so easy to detect, what is their purpose?

Sounds like a good side business. I think I will start one at my home address and undercut my competitors by offering to publish for $350.

Anonymous johnc January 27, 2015 9:12 PM  

I like Cocoa Puffs.

Anonymous Porky January 27, 2015 9:32 PM  

Mmmm....cereal.

Blogger J Curtis January 27, 2015 9:35 PM  

"Honey Smacks?" An in depth look at microaggressions as experienced by the Anura family, resulting in hightened incidences of domestic violence perpetrated by arch protagonist Dig'em

Anonymous Stickwick January 27, 2015 9:56 PM  

I get solicitations from these "journals" all the time. Most of them are based overseas, and are obviously bogus. Everyone in my field knows which are the legit journals -- if it's not on ADS it's probably junk -- but it's true we wouldn't necessarily know which are the bogus journals in non-related fields.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben January 27, 2015 10:08 PM  

I just got an e-mail from a Nigerian prince asking me to contribute an article to the Nigerian Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Anonymous Daniel January 27, 2015 10:20 PM  

If the 'fake' journals are so easy to detect, what is their purpose?

To make money.

Blogger grendel January 27, 2015 10:29 PM  

I often think we've reached peak faith, and that in the next few decades western society will collapse just from nobody trusting anyone any more. Doctors, scientists, the .gov, the neighbors, the cops. Kinda like how in third world countries disease runs rampant because the inhabitants have no faith in the Very Caring (tm) NGO medical providers.

Anonymous pseudotsuga January 27, 2015 10:33 PM  

The title of the article is misleading--those were not "medical journals." But anyway...hahahahah!
Yeah, I'm going to link to this so I can show students that not all publications are equally usable for trying to support your arguments.

Anonymous NateM January 27, 2015 10:34 PM  

Trix are for kids: a study of Rabbits who prostititute children in order to get fruity cereal, the persistent racism of society that allows this

OpenID pancakeloach January 27, 2015 10:36 PM  

I'm pretty sure the word "otorhinolaryngology" is a crime against humanity.

Anonymous Will Best January 27, 2015 10:39 PM  

Why isn't there some sort of general publishing searchable database that every academic submits his article for publication to that then earns points for things like

1) raw data included
2) Methodology validated by Prof. X, Dr. Y, Mr. Z
3) Experiment duplicated by U University
etc.

It would seem to me if something like this exists
a) quality papers would rise to the top since
b) Universities could move away from a quantity approach to a quality approach

Blogger J Thomas January 27, 2015 10:48 PM  

Nom nom nom.

Anonymous kh123 January 27, 2015 10:54 PM  

Would figure "andrew bait" as a label sort of gives the whole game away.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 27, 2015 10:54 PM  

Many of these publications sound legitimate. To someone who is not well-versed in a particular subfield of medicine—a journalist, for instance—it would be easy to mistake them for valid sources.

So, what you're telling me is, for $500 we could have a published paper - settled science mind you - to point journalists at absolutely proving...


...anything we want?

Okay, so I'll tackle the one about children growing up smarter if their moms fix sammiches for their dads while wearing short skirts and high heels.

What else have we got?

Anonymous A Visitor January 27, 2015 10:55 PM  

Sent this earlier today to my brother an ophthalmologist as well as a friend who is an OBGYN. I can't wait for their responses.

Anonymous Herr Doctor Professor Billy Bob January 27, 2015 11:00 PM  

What a wonderful resumé padder! Almost as good as a doctorate from an Indian diploma mill.

Anonymous Stickwick January 27, 2015 11:06 PM  

A couple of months ago, the big news was pay-for-play journals accepting a paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel that was created using a random text generator. The WaPo article also contained this amusing tidbit:

Other science journals have been duped by dummy papers. Last month we wrote about "Get me off Your F**king Mailing List," a riveting piece of scientific literature accidentally submitted to (and unexpectedly accepted by) a pay-for-play journal.

Anonymous Viidad January 27, 2015 11:15 PM  

"Fruit Loops"

Unexpected DNA recombination in various Moracea species leads to behavioral alteration in certain specimens of Rhamphastidae.

Blogger buzzardist January 27, 2015 11:29 PM  

While there have been instances of legitimate scholarly journals accepting nonsense publications, this isn't one of them. The case described here says absolutely nothing about current scientific practices. Scholarly journals do not charge authors to publish their work. These so-called journals are nothing more than scams.

Now there may be some people in academia who, rather than going through a (slightly) more challenging peer review process, submit to these scam journals in attempts to pad their c.v.'s, hoping that no one notices. If a hiring committee or a tenure-review committee is poorly versed in the field or doesn't do its job, they may skip past phony publications on a c.v. without blinking an eye. So, yes, there is potentially a problem in academia here.

But the fact that these scam journals accept an obviously nonsense article is not evidence of a problem in science or academia. They want money; they will accept literally anything...provided you pay the fee. The scam journals aren't run by scientists or universities. It's unfair to reflect their practices back on scientists and universities.

On the other hand, in those small handful of cases where legitimate journals have accepted nonsense papers, academia deserves a black eye. Granted, those papers were more cleverly crafted than this one was. But there is a glaring problem with the peer-review process if the reviewers who are legitimate scientists aren't actually checking the science...which they often don't. Most reviewers aren't paid. They aren't given budgets to actually attempt to replicate experiments. Reviewing articles for publication doesn't do much to enhance one's c.v. It doesn't earn one tenure. It pays to slack on the peer reviews and put one's energy into one's own research. This is a real problem in academia. Non-academics setting up phony journals on the internet to turn a buck? Separate issue.

Anonymous rho January 28, 2015 12:05 AM  

Oddly enough, I get all of my medical news from the back of cereal boxes.

Anonymous tiredofitall January 28, 2015 1:36 AM  

"Kinda like how in third world countries disease runs rampant because the inhabitants have no faith in the Very Caring (tm) NGO medical providers." - grendel

Always thought that had more to do with third worlders believing more in their brand of ooga booga medicine than being keen enough to suss out bad faith on the part of outsiders.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 28, 2015 3:43 AM  

I wouldn't call this a good example of bad scientistry. It's not part of mainstream scientistry, so it's irrelevant to the majority of Ph.D-holding scientists. Most scientists, even ones who support global warming, wouldn't dare to publish in one of those bogus open access journals, because doing that even once would risk damaging your reputation, once it's listed in your CV. I'd say 95% of the papers read and written by an average scientist working within a subfield (or mine, at least) are published in the same 20-30 journals or so (and that's already quite stretching it). So you have a good idea of which journals are legit. The people who end up publishing to bogus journals are usually cranks who advocate for fringe theories - in physics they would be special relativity deniers or the such. If you are a "legit" scientist and have a paper that no one wants to publish, usually you just end up uploading it on arXiv and let it stand there on its own.

Of course you can't judge journals outside your field of expertise, but interdisciplinary research happens quite rarely, and when it does, usually you have a collaborator in the field who knows his shit.

Blogger totenhenchen January 28, 2015 6:05 AM  

[X] Like

Anonymous Trolling all the way down January 28, 2015 6:37 AM  

How do know Pink SF isn't a similar experiment?

Anonymous Trolling all the way down January 28, 2015 6:39 AM  

"special relativity deniers"

Or witches.

Anonymous takin' a look January 28, 2015 8:24 AM  

-tiredofitall

Always thought that had more to do with third worlders believing more in their brand of ooga booga medicine than being keen enough to suss out bad faith on the part of outsiders

Can you blame them? The devil you know....

However, disease is going to drop rapidly in third-world countries.
The primary source of disease and secondary infections is tainted drinking water and un-hygienic bathing practices.

Packaged water multi-billion dollar business in Africa.

Anonymous A. Scientist January 28, 2015 8:52 AM  

Mr. Beale -- in what way are you credentialed to attack science like this? To quote Mr.Obama: "Are you a scientist?"

So I ask you, sir, are you a scientist?

OpenID cailcorishev January 28, 2015 9:21 AM  

One use for a study like this is in meta-studies, which assemble a bunch of studies that have already been done and mine the data for patterns. Meta-studies are notoriously useless anyway, and are mostly done for journalist fodder. Mix a few studies like this in with some more genuine ones, and odds are no one will notice, at least not until after you've gotten paid.

Anonymous Donn January 28, 2015 10:51 AM  

Wasn't A. Scientist one of Tad's sock puppets? Is the puppet being zombified?

Blogger sysadmn January 28, 2015 10:53 AM  

A more telling indictment of sciencism: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/28/382056490/studies-critical-of-bilingual-benefits-often-shelved-because-of-bias

A researcher has admitted that 4 studies were done on whether bilingualism enhanced brain executive function. 3 found no result; the one which did was published. Unsurprisingly, the researcher was unable to replicate the result of that study.

Anonymous clk January 28, 2015 10:59 AM  

"But the fact that these scam journals accept an obviously nonsense article is not evidence of a problem in science or academia"

Just like the existence of Fred Phelps doesnt damn all religion... you can always find these sorts of examples in all areas where humans are involved... but I try not to damn the entire world of science or religion based on few bad cases... Overall humanity has benefited from "science" .. althought what is science is often up for debate.

Anonymous VD January 28, 2015 12:04 PM  

in what way are you credentialed to attack science like this? To quote Mr.Obama: "Are you a scientist?"

I have a science degree.

Anonymous Corvinus January 28, 2015 1:20 PM  

Academia has turned into Idiocracy since the 1960s due to simple dysgenics among atheist liberals. The Women Ruin Everything phenomenon hasn't helped either.

Anonymous daddynichol January 28, 2015 2:39 PM  

Non science SJWs believe they're credentialed to attack real scientists to the point of condemning their shirts.

Blogger Kirk Parker January 29, 2015 3:01 AM  


takin' a look,

"Packaged water multi-billion dollar business in Africa."

Yes it is. The two most startling differences I saw in South Sudan when I was there in 2013, versus when I left in 1985, were (a) cell phones everywhere, and (b) real actual SAFE bottled water everywhere.

However! And this is a huge caveat! I was there as an exceptionally-important totally-revered outsider of the highest order, i.e. an American.

Of course I was offered bottled water everywhere I went. So would other important people, such as local government officials, tribal authorities, bishop of the local diocese, etc.

But the average village person, in their day-to-day life? They aren't routinely drinking bottled water, it's at least 2 orders of magnitude too expensive! So I think your optimism is a bit overdone.

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