The paper was actually about “midi-chlorians”, which is a made-up scientific term taken from the Star Wars movies.
A sting operation
The paper was a sting operation by a writer called Neuroskeptic, who blogs for Discover magazine, in an attempt to expose the fact that predatory journals will publish anything for money. According to Neuroskeptic, these predatory journals claim to offer peer-reviewed, open-access publication.
Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, agreed that it’s all about the money when it comes to predatory publishers. Mr. Beall claims that there are no real peer reviewers, it is the journals’ owners, who are posing as the reviewers and most of the time, they do not even bother to check the submitted papers before publishing them.
These journals make it seem as if anyone can have their papers published, but only if they are willing to pay – because that’s how the journals make their profits.
It is not the first time predatory journals have published something silly. In many other stings, researchers have managed to have different papers on silly topics published and another researcher even managed to get a scientist she made up on the boards of 48 different predatory journals.
All about the money
Neuroskeptic was inspired at how easily these journals accept the silliest of requests that he decided to put together a fake paper that included mixing up mitochondria and midi-chlorians. His paper included words heavily inspired by a monologue from Star Wars in his paper.
Speaking on what he did, Neuroskeptic said, “The goal was to see whether journals would publish a manuscript that, while seemingly scientific, was actually a joke. I didn’t want to just submit nonsense (like a computer-generated text), or a bad paper, but rather something that was verifiably based on fiction (i.e. Star Wars).”
Neuroskeptic sent his paper to nine journals that are known to spam scientists. The four journals that accepted to publish this fake paper are The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research, the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access, the Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the American Research Journal of Biosciences.
According to Mr. Beall, these journals wanted to artificially inflate their publication record and make their websites appear more legitimate. At the end of the day, all these journals want is to earn money, which is why they are ready to accept any papers without any fact-checking done.
Too many bogus journals
Despite the discovery and damage done, no legal action can be taken against these journals as they are headquartered overseas. Researchers have been advised and warned that not all journals are legitimate. This is clearly a problem that is present in scientific publishing, which is hard to get rid of.
The Think, Check, Submit organisation has advised researchers to look for the warning signs, which include journals that have grammatical errors and those who have titles similar to the names of big journals. Bogus journals like these spoil the hard work of researchers, who do good work just to get their papers published in the top journals.
The reality of bogus journals has been coming out for a while now. It is hard to determine which journals are legitimate, but according to Neuroskeptic, journals on MEDLINE’s listings appear on PubMed, which almost indicates that these journals are legitimate. There is a huge chance that most journals that are not listed might not be legitimate. MIMS