Skip to main content

The Dark Side

J. Appl. Drivel or Gibberish Lett.? Choices, Choices.

People keep hoaxing the predatory “scholarly” publishers out there, and the publishers keep falling for whatever drivel is slung at them. Here’s the latest example from a reporter at the Ottawa Citizen, Tom Spears. He molded a pile of steaming gibberish into the rough shape of a manuscript, and that was more than enough:

I have just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble. . .
. . .I copied and pasted one phrase [in the title] from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology.
I wrote the whole paper that way, copying and pasting from soil, then blood, then soil again, and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars. They had squiggly lines and looked cool, so I threw them in.
Footnotes came largely from a paper on wine chemistry. The finished product is completely meaningless.
The university where I claim to work doesn’t exist. Nor do the Nepean Desert or my co-author. Software that catches plagiarism identified 67 per cent of my paper as stolen (and that’s missing some). And geology and blood work don’t mix, even with my invention of seismic platelets.

And you guessed it – the acceptances came rolling in, and pretty damned quickly, too. Peer-reviewed, refereed, and edited within 24 hours – where are you going to find an honest journal with service like that? 16 of the 18 bottom-feeding “journals” accepted it, and one of the rejections suggested that it just needed a bit of tweaking to be accepted. And one of the publishers has asked Spears to serve on an editorial advisory board, so he’s clearly got what it takes.
Of course, as yesterday’s post shows, even a peer-reviewed journal with a recognizable name can publish gibberish. But I assume that Drug Discovery Today and Elsevier didn’t charge the author $1000 to do it. On the other hand, they might have taken more than 18 hours to review the manuscript. Or not.

14 comments on “J. Appl. Drivel or Gibberish Lett.? Choices, Choices.”

  1. Nothermaus says:

    Just curious as to what journals are classified as “bottom feeding” these days. Due to a career change, I haven’t published in many years, so I’m merely inquiring.

  2. Justin says:

    That’s hilarious, and unsurprising. We’ve known that all sorts of crap gets published. No different, really, than the fake diploma mills. If you need a degree, or a publication, to further your career or ego, you just need the $$.

  3. fluorogrol says:

    @ Nothermaus:
    There are thousands of them. Google ‘Beall’s list’ and you’ll find a site that attempts to document known predatory open access publishers (i.e., those that are only in it for the article processing fees, and consider concepts like ‘peer review’ or ‘having a quick read of the article before you grab the money and publish it’ to be time-consuming and outmoded).
    It’s a useful reference for anyone considering submitting to an unfamiliar journal, although unfortunately from time to time Beall uses it as a platform to smear ALL open access journals.

  4. NoDrugsNoJobs says:

    Damn it, I wish I had some of those referees on many of the papers I’ve submitted through the years – I’ve never had an experience in any of my submissions that were not critically reviewed. Some of the refs were easier than others, no doubt but yikes. Likewise, when reviewing a paper, I take it very seriously and do searches in the literature for novelty of the work and so on – I think it is a solemn obligation on all of us.

  5. Karl says:

    “Seismic platelets” sounds like either a great band name or something that can be treated with exotica like “organic Chinese herbal chemical flush” or “bio-resonating, spin-aligned magnetic wave therapy”

  6. Random Postdoc says:

    This is really hilarious!
    @#4: Clearly the point of this is that it was not reviewed at all, though it is sold as “peer-reviewed”.
    Here is paper like that, however probably meant to be serious: The impact of fullerenes at the origin of life, published in the “Isr Med Assoc J”:
    After I saw that, I wrote to the Journal asking whether they did peer-review, which they very strongly affirmed.
    I think this whole mess is a huge problem for the validity of science in the public discourse.

  7. Bunsen says:

    Nothing copied from old Vladivostok telephone directory? Lobachevsky is disappointed, but only very slightly.
    ( for anyone yet unfamiliar)

  8. newnickname says:

    If I may try to be serious for a moment: I think that many scientists have their favorite list of current, primary and (mostly) trusted journals: Science, Nature, In the Pipeline, PNAS …
    Yet, we and the less experienced still resort to databases when conducting a search on a topic: Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar, SciFinder, Etc. I don’t know the policies of all of those dbases, but, for example, W of S would not index a journal until it had been published for 5 years (either as proof of acceptance by the sci community or that they have deep pockets and cheap ink).
    What if the Big DBases just pulled every bib entry (old and new) from journals that have been proven to be lackadaisical in their responsibility to uphold the most minimal of scientific standards? Could it happen? Do you want it to happen?
    Should the Big Databases somehow flag journals that have been serially tainted this way or just delete them altogether?
    It could spawn a NEW database for crappy journals ONLY — and clearly IDed as such, “Web of Crappy Pseudo-Science” — so you could at least do a complete search on your topic.
    (I can think of some mainstream journals I’d like to flag this way …)

  9. gippgig says:

    Did that paper on wine chemistry by any chance deal with which direction the wine should be swirled?
    There actually are a bunch of small tectonic plates so “seismic platelets” could make sense – but not in relation to blood. Agree it would be a great name for a band.
    Those journals’ idea of “peer review” is probably to stare intensely at the manuscript.

  10. Tom Spears says:

    I’m the reporter on this. I wrote the article because I felt it was well known these journals were sloppy in their reviewing and editing, but I wanted to see if they were in fact just total con artists. (The fractured English and banks in Nigeria were a clue.) I grabbed some names off Beall’s List. Didn’t have room to add this in the article, but when one journal complained my article was short I stole 1,500 words from The Stones of Venice (John Ruskin on architecture, circa 1850) and that mollified them. Peer review? There isn’t any. Oh, and they backdate submissions so it looks like they take months to approve a paper rather than hours. PS I enjoyed “sesmic platelets” in the geology-hematology mix but am kicking myself for omitting blood diamonds.

  11. The Iron Chemist says:

    It is astonishing how bad this problem is. I simply cannot afford to trust a new journal from a lesser-known publisher. Perhaps there are legitimate new publishers trying to do good work, but it is unreasonable to expect researchers to sift through what may be thousands of these things to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  12. sepisp says:

    #5: Excellent! You should patent the “spin-aligned magnetic wave therapy” before a patent troll does it first!
    Information economy indeed.

  13. David Stone says:

    @#8: Personally, I boycott any journal and it’s sponsor/publisher that spams me with invitations to present at one of its “prestigious international conferences” (usually in China) or become part of its “esteemed editorial board”.
    Reputable journals may well solicit submissions for themed editions, but these are usually sent to departmental chairs for internal redistribution, or come from someone you actually know (because you’re familiar with their work or have heard them at a conference).
    It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two, even though the latest conference spam is using a name that is almost exactly the same as one of Elsevier’s oldest journals in my field (actually, that was my first tip-off!)

  14. newnickname says:

    @13 David Stone: Many experienced readers do know the difference, after wasting their time reading something. However, if the databases, compilers, aggregators, etc dropped all references from or to those journals then new readers and the less skeptical would almost never find them and their content would be worthless (without any readership).
    At the risk of never being read, cited or even being found again, would you be more cautious about what you accept for publication?
    I don’t know. I guess they’d still find some way to make money by publishing crap.

Comments are closed.