Predatory "scientific journals" tricked into publishing Star Wars-themed hoax

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The pay-to-play journals are a kind of parasite that masquerades as open access journals, publishing anything and calling it "peer reviewed." But it would be a mistake to lay this as the feet of the open access movement: even "traditional" journals have been revealed as fakes, funded by the pharmaceutical industry and others.

But what is frustrating about all these hoaxes involving “predatory journals” is that people who don’t know much about the open access movement conflate the concept of open access and/or paying a publication fee (which is kind of required if you aren’t charging for access to the articles) with “predatory journals”. And the closed access journals like Nature know this very much – they always love to write an editorial shitting upon open access whenever one of these hoaxes occurs. However, the thing is these hoaxes are literally the only time one even hears about these “predatory journals” in practice. In reality, everybody knows the difference between a real journal (open or closed access) and these predatory ones, which generally have websites with all the credibility of spam e-mails. Just leave them alone and they’ll eventually go away.


Still not as good a this paper:

… which was accepted for publication by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology (but not published, because the author refused to pay the publication fee).


Everything in Star Wars is true, it just hasn’t happened yet, I think.


The fools!
NO ONE accepted midi-chlorians!


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


Why are you not supporting Papasan? He carried you in the last election. Sad.

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But but but… it’s “long, long, ago.”


In reality, everybody knows the difference between a real journal (open or closed access) and these predatory ones, which generally have websites with all the credibility of spam e-mails.

I’m sure in any given field, the relevant academics and industry experts know which journals are really worth watching. I’m sure if you went to each journal’s web page you could probably figure out which ones are credible.

But… fake peer review and junk journals definitely make my job a little harder. I very often have to answer questions from non-experts of the form: “I just heard about [new invention/company/paper in a field I’m moderately familiar with.] How does this compare with what else is out there, what’s the state of the art, how important is it?” I’m in no position to know which journals do real peer review beyond the very top echelon everyone knows. In practice my response is to focus on how many papers/academic groups/universities/companies are working on something, and look for general trends, but it would be great if I actually knew a paper had really been reviewed by experts.

I also wonder if/how much these kinds of journals overlap with the “We breathlessly republish random press releases and paper titles as headline news” sort of press coverage, distorting popular science/technology discussions.


Given that the “journals” don’t care about the content of what they publish, were they really tricked? If someone forges a ticket to gain admittance to a non-ticketed event, is that person really committing a deception?

The true tricksters remain the predatory publications, who will probably continue their malignant practices, easily shrugging off the fact that they were caught.

Such pop culture-flavored sting operations may help spread awareness of these bad actors, but are there any ways to actually stop these folks? I doubt it.


The original Neuroskeptic post went up on July 22, but at the time of writing one of the journals still has the PDF live. Crazy.

ETA: This is particularly hilarious:

Finally, I should note that as a bonus, “Dr Lucas McGeorge” was sent an unsolicited invitation to serve on the editorial board of this journal.


I can so relate to that.

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Yes. Stop giving them money.
(Okay, they’ll just move on and think of a new scam. Still, never give up, never surrender.)

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I’d not bet on that, there are thousands of journals, legit and otherwise.

Plus the need to “publish or perish” will drive marginal/clueless academics to unethical lengths to add lines to their publications list.


Sorry to quote that in full, but THIS.

The worst bit ous when you express doubts, argue that if this or that would have a solid scientific basis more groups (and publications) would cover the subject, and then get criticism that The Establishment™ would surely stop this being published.

I know from experience that informal citation cartels exist, but this drives me nuts. Every. Single. Time.

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Why are you hating on these guys? My career as a yeti researcher has flourished because of these open access journals.


+1000. On top of which, as an editor of an OA journal I regularly see nonsense submissions some of which which I suspect are hoaxers trolling us and wasting our time.

Predatory / parasitical journals are a favoured medium of the Alternative Facts industry. Got an anti-vax online poll which you want to dress up as an objective survey? OAText will publish it (though the fee might increase). Got a climate-change-denial paper that science journals laugh at? A predatory publisher will be your puke-funnel. Got some alt-med fraud involving dowsing for diagnosis? Here’s the “American Journal of Immunology” (from the United Arab Emirates).

No, they will not eventually go away.


Most of these publishers are ‘parasites’ rather than predators – they fill a symbiotic role in the ecosystem, providing a service for academics who desperately need publications for their tenure or promotion, but who are not good at Doing Science. “Predator” implies that authors were victims of a fraud, tricked into publishing against their better judgement, which is generally not the case.

So for the real bottom-of-the-barrel low-lifes, being caught in a sting like this is actually good for business… it proves to prospective customers that they will indeed publish put anything on their website, with completely negotiable peer-review standards. From that perspective, I am surprised that MedCrave unpublished the Midichlorian paper when they realised that the publication charge would not be arriving.

Yeah, but we know which journals we publish in, and which journals we review for, and which journals we read. And we all carry a mental hierarchy of which titles are top shelf, which are very good, which are so so and which it’s beneath our dignity to publish in.

Sure, there are thousands, but in any given field and sub-discipline there are only a couple dozen you care about. If you tell me about a paper in my field, but it’s in a journal I have never heard of in my life, that’s a big big red flag.

When in doubt, the impact factor gives you a good sense for whether a journal is garbage: it’s a numerical measure of how often the papers in that journal get cited by other papers, and so gives you sense of whether anybody is reading and cares about the work in the journal. There are legitimate open access journals with high impact factors, and there are legitimate pay access journals with lower impact factors, but the predatory bullshit spam journals are usually both open access and low impact factor. And we keep lists of the scam journals. So we know.

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