Bogus Study Fools 157 Science Journals

Author says it shows huge flaws in 'open-access' system
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2013 10:28 AM CDT

(Newser) – An investigation into the world of so-called "open-access" scientific journals has turned up, well, not much scientific credibility. Inspired by colleagues who'd come across some dodgy-looking journals, John Bohannon made up a study describing the anticancer properties of a chemical, then shipped it to 304 open-access journals. (These types of online journals don't charge readers, unlike standard peer-reviewed journals such as Nature. Instead, the researchers themselves often get charged for publication, explains NPR, which interviews Bohannon.) Of those 304, 157 accepted it, though "its experiments are so hopelessly flawed that the results are meaningless," Bohannon writes for Science. "I created a scientific version of Mad Libs."

He wrote it under a false name (Ocorrafoo Cobange) and nonexistent institute (Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara), but none of that seemed to matter. Just 98 journals rejected his work of fiction. The others didn't reply or were still contemplating. More alarming: "About 60% of the final decisions occurred with no sign of peer review," Bohannon writes. Of the 106 journals that did go over the paper, 70% still accepted it—including 45% of journals he canvassed from the Directory of Open Access Journals website. Overall, "the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing," Bohannon writes. "Ensuring that journals honor their obligation is a challenge that the scientific community must rise to." Click for the full piece.

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