Editor's Blog

Journal Accepts Paper Reading “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List”

November 23, 2014 | by Stephen Luntz

Photo credit: David Mazieres and Eddie Kohler. Who says swearing is not scientific?

A paper that largely consists of the words “Get me off your fucking mailing list” repeated 863 times has been accepted by a journal that claims to be peer reviewed. The move might appear to offer hope to scientists struggling to get marginal work published, but really just exposes the extent of scam publications pretending to be contributing to science.

“Publish or Perish” is more than a catch-phrase for scientific researchers. With rare exceptions, such as those working for secret military projects, research scientists need to publish regularly if they hope to advance, or often just keep, their career. High impact journals such as Science and Nature help most, but getting into these is hard and even less prestigious journals can be a challenge.

This has created a market for bottom feeders with impressive sounding names and absolutely no standards. For a fee, they will publish anything. Unscrupulous, desperate or very naive scientists can pad out their CVs and hope no one notices the quality of some of the journals they list.

No one goes into science to do this kind of stuff though, so these “journals” spam email lists  in the hope the suggestion will arrive in a moment of weakness.

Dr Peter Vamplew, a computer scientist at Federation University Australia got one too many invites from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology and hit back with the seven words repeated over and over, along with headings, pseudo-citations, a flow chart and graph.

David Mazieres and Eddie Kohler. Flowchart and graph, for those who like their information visually.

Vamplew didn't expect to be published – he just hoped the “editors” would stop cluttering up his inbox. Instead a return message said a reviewer had rated the paper as “excellent” and IJACT would publish for the low, low price of $150.

Even that was too much for Vamplew, but he has achieved a moment of fame, although one unlikely to earn him a promotion.

Besides the improbability of defining the endless repetition as a something of outstanding quality, the mock-paper isn't even Vamplew's own work. It was created by Stanford's David Mazieres and Harvard's Eddie Kohler in 2005 to respond to repetitious conference invitations, and has been in circulation ever since. So we can add failure to check for plagiarism to the IJACT's numerous sins. To be fair Vamplew didn't substitute his own name for the original authors, and the Journal apparently didn't think to ponder why he was submitting work without his name on it.

Fooling these pseudo-journals has become a bit of a sport lately, but this looks like the most extreme example yet.

Funny as it is, the existence of these sorts of journals is no joke. Good scientists have probably missed jobs in favor of people with resumes padded like this. Moreover, dubious medical cures and climate change denial published in these places sometimes gets a run in popular media with people thinking it has been genuinely peer reviewed.

H/T Vox

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