Science

Fake Star Wars-inspired research paper published by several "predatory journals"

Fake Star Wars-inspired resear...
One journalist set out to test the credibility of several journals by writing a fictional research paper inspired by the science of Star Wars
One journalist set out to test the credibility of several journals by writing a fictional research paper inspired by the science of Star Wars
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One journalist set out to test the credibility of several journals by writing a fictional research paper inspired by the science of Star Wars
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One journalist set out to test the credibility of several journals by writing a fictional research paper inspired by the science of Star Wars

Not all scientific journals are created equal. With the advent of "predatory" journals that seem legitimate but function essentially on "pay-for-publish" economies, some commentators are claiming we are facing a looming crisis in science. One journalist set out to test the credibility of several journals by writing a fictional research paper inspired by the science of Star Wars. Four journals fell for the joke and published the clearly absurd paper.

Predatory journals have become the scourge of academic publishing over the last few years. These bogus journals seem like legitimate sources but often lack peer-review procedures and will publish any paper if the author pays a fee. A major, two-year investigation revealed in early 2017 found that dozens of journals accepted a sham scientist onto their editorial boards without any investigation into the applicant's background.

Similar recent "stings" include a dog getting appointed to seven different medical journal editorial boards and a sham cancer research paper, riddled with intentional errors, that was accepted and published by scores of journals.

The latest predatory journal "sting" came from a journalist blogging for Discover magazine. An absurdly obvious paper was constructed based on the Star Wars mythology of midichlorians. The fake research paper was mostly copied from the Wikipedia entry on mitochondrians but contained a few strategic edits.

A brief scan of the paper easily reveals it to be a farce, with the concluding paragraph even including the line: "Decreased enzyme throughput of the respiratory chain proteins has been spied in tissue from old Jedi." If that wasn't enough to mark the paper as a joke, simply look at the authors - Lucas McGeorge and Annette Kin.

Out of the nine journals the paper was submitted to, three published it, with a fourth willing to publish for a fee. While some journals picked up on the joke, several frighteningly just republished the absurd, error-ridden paper with no questions asked.

There is no question if this spoof research paper was submitted to a credible journal with a reputable peer-review process it would have quickly been thrown aside. The problem this stunt reveals is that there are literally hundreds of sham predatory journals out there, and it's often quite difficult to identify a credible source. For all intents and purposes these "predatory journals" have real sounding names and look from the outside like credible publications.

In the age of hyper partisan politics and fake news it is becoming exceptionally difficult to find sources of information we can trust, but that is the challenge we all now face. This Star Wars scam again highlights the scourge of predatory journals.

Academics must themselves make sure they publish their papers in credible journals. Journalists must be wary of scam publishers, and not simply rely on a published journal reference as a source. And the general public need to engage critically with information delivered to them. Not all scientific journals are created equal.

Source: DiscoverMagazine

7 comments
Username
How about listing the known bogus journals so the scientifically challenged can avoid even more confusion.
ei3io
Please provide a strong clue to the bad journals if you can't give their actual names if it's an absurd liability issue. Thanks keep up the good reporting Discover
Douglas Bennett Rogers
These are pretty obvious, even to the non expert. There is a lot of stuff, like cold fusion, that made its way into serious journals. In this case, the finding was somewhat believable but getting 2 KEV out of a chemical reaction made it suspect.
WB1200
...fake science
ljaques
One of the problems is the "reputable peer review process" is that it is now -politicized- and cherry-picks and prints only the articles which meet its own agenda or world-view. Another problem is that some of these "investigator" teams are from the Dark Side. Fake science ensues. Thanks, Discover Mag. Boo, Nature.com.
christopher
The opposite happens as well; peer review is done by total morons in my experience - if they don't understand anything, they will often reject in favor of something more "simple"; but the world is not simple, so more and more non-trivial research is not seeing the light of day.
Paul Muad'Dib
Just Google, predatory journals. There are hundreds of them.