Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hoax paper accepted by Benthan Publishers OA journal

One of the new mass-produced Open Access journals published by Benthan Scientific accepted a bogus hoax paper. A Cornell grad student and an editor from the New England Journal of Medicine submitted a paper to the “Open Information Science Journal” titled “Deconstructing Access Points.” The text is complete gibberish; the authors (acting under pseudonyms) listed their affiliation as the “Center for Research in Applied Phrenology” (C.R.A.P. for short).

This hoax is all over the internet; see:

The original exposé by one of the authors, Philip Davis, in the Scholarly Kitchen blog.

An article in New Scientist

Peter Suber's reporting and comments in an entry called "Hoax exposes incompetence or worse at Bentham AO journal..

In subsequent news, the journal's editor resigned, and members of the Editorial Boards of other Bentham OA journals are also resigning.

I have blogged on Bentham's journal "Open Access Anthropology" before: (my post from June 22, 2008). I can't say for sure that this journal would not accept a bogus nonsense paper, but I wonder if it may accept low-quality papers (I say this very tentatively, since none of the papers published so far are close to my own areas of competence).

It is possible that this event may give ammunition to some ignorant people who think that Open Access means lack of peer review. But the problem here is not open access, but rather the LACK or peer review. Peer review is peer review, whatever the kind of journal. Bad peer review exists in respected print journals (I'm sure anyone reading this can think of some examples), and the problems are not open access or peer review in general, but rather poor scholarly implementation of these processes. In many cases, the lapses can be attributed to commercial factors, whether Elsevier's drug-company publicity rags masquerading as scientific journals, or fake fee-generating conferences (see below), or fee-paying OA journals like Bentham's.

One final note on this affair. The authors used SCIgen to produce their bogus paper, a text generator that produces context-free prose in computer science in article format, complete with tables, graphs, and references. In other words, the paper produces gibberish that is gramatically correct and looks like scientific prose at first glance. (the SCIgen page also has information on bogus for-fee conferences that accept all papersfor a large fee, including hoax, nonsense papers; I've been invited to a few of these and you may have been invited also, if you ever received in invitation for a large conference that seemed too broad and strange in its coverage). Now SCIgen will not produce papers that look at all archaeoelogical, but the Post-Modern Text Generator may be closer. When you visit the site, hit the refresh button to generate new meaningless postmodern papers.

I am very tempted here to try an experiment, but I really dont have time for such fun and games right now.....

1 comment:

tingotankar said...

I can finally finish my dissertation! Thank you, thank you!

No seriously - that was horrific, and scary.

I agree that the problem generally lies with peer-review as a process. Unfortunately we don't really take the time to discuss within academia what really constitutes a review. You've written about this before, how some seem to think their task is to insult and demolish the authors, and others view their task as mere rubber-stamping.

Why shouldn't they - this is a complicated task and we don't really take the time to learn how to do it, or teach it to others. Researchers are just magically supposed to master this after writing a dissertation. I honestly think there is a lot of need for a post-doc education on doing reviews, writing expert opinions, handling projects and acting as a supervisor. Not just a bit here and there for those who feel like it, but a better consensus on what is needed for a career as a post-doc.