Sting Reveals Research Journals Accept Rubbish

When I first read the news that a spoof paper almost made its way into several open-access journals I thought I was reading something from The Onion. I poked around and found the news was true – and sad.

John Bohannon, a writer for Science, concocted an obviously flawed research paper touting the anticancer properties of a chemical extracted from a lichen. In addition to the made-up research, the author's name (Ocorrafoo Cobange) and college (Wassee Institute of Medicine) are big fat fakes, too. How does this happen?

Reading like a plot to a whodunit, Bohannon states in his article: "From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees rather than traditional subscriptions. Most of the players are murky. The identity and location of the journals' editors, as well as the financial workings of their publishers, are often purposefully obscured. But Science's investigation casts a powerful light. Internet Protocol (IP) address traces within the raw headers of e-mails sent by journal editors betray their locations. Invoices for publication fees reveal a network of bank accounts based mostly in the developing world. And the acceptances and rejections of the paper provide the first global snapshot of peer review across the open-access scientific enterprise."

The plot thickens as a pay-to-publish agenda is revealed and many reputations are ruined all in the face of publish or perish.

In the mood for a page-turner? Grab a cup of tea and read Bohannon's entire article. And then try to fall asleep knowing that what you thought was sound research could actually be nothing more than rubbish with deep pockets.

Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor and fan of really good investigative journalism. Bravo Bohannon.