Not content with past exposes of predatory journals, Discover.com blogger Neuroskeptic tells the tale of hir own saga fighting the evil empire. In hir words,
I wanted to test whether ‘predatory‘ journals would publish an obviously absurd paper. So I created a spoof manuscript about “midi-chlorians” – the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars. I filled it with other references to the galaxy far, far away, and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin.
The idea being that many hoaxes would be obvious to those with an understanding of the relevant field(s), but typically would not be obvious to those without expertise. The question, I suppose, was merely one of how brazen are the fraudulent and predatory journals in their ethical violations, not simply whether they are acting ethically. The results? Out of 9 publishers who received the manuscript:
Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ)
How did Neuroskeptic do it? Well the methodology is easy enough that any of us could replicate the experiment to confirm the results:
To generate the main text of the paper, I copied the Wikipedia page on ‘mitochondrion’ (which, unlike midichlorians, exist) and then did a simple find/replace to turn mitochondr* into midichlor*. I then Rogeted the text, i.e. I reworded it (badly), because the main focus of the sting was on whether journals would publish a ridiculous paper, not whether they used a plagiarism detector (although Rogeting is still plagiarism in my book.)
For transparency, I admitted what I’d done in the paper itself. The Methods section features the line “The majority of the text of this paper was Rogeted ”. Reference 7 cited an article on Rogeting followed by “The majority of the text in the current paper was Rogeted from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion Apologies to the original authors of that page.”
Read the whole blog post for more details, including the excerpt of the paper that retold the parable of Darth Plaugeis. But the most tragic detail included in the post (at least IMNSHO) was that the 3 of 4 predatory publishers who accepted the paper who turned out to actually publish it? They nominally charge fees before publication, but forgot to collect their money:
I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.
Not even competent at fraud. That’ll go over big as a defense if there’s ever a trial.
Finally, the experiment was not without a high note or two:
Two journals requested me to revise and resubmit the manuscript. At JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (JSciMedCentral) both of the two peer reviewers spotted and seemingly enjoyed the Star Wars spoof, with one commenting that “The authors have neglected to add the following references: Lucas et al., 1977, Palpatine et al., 1980, and Calrissian et al., 1983”. Despite this, the journal asked me to revise and resubmit.
Help us, careful peer reviewers. You’re our only hope.