Respected Medical Journal Sold To Scammers Willing To Publish Anything... For A Fee

from the nice-business-if-you-can-find-it dept

We've talked in the past about the ridiculous nature of the academic publishing world these days, which involve a variety of questionable tactics mostly focused on (1) predatorily preying on those who "need" to be published, (2) enabling researchers (and sometimes large companies) to whitewash shoddy research by "publishing" it for a fee, and (3) making the "publishers" filthy stinking rich despite doing no actual work. The problem is that, while much of this is scammy, the line between fraudulent practices and more "legitimate" practices are pretty damn blurry. After all, when you have "legitimate" names like the American Psychological Association trying to charge $2,500 to "deposit" newly published papers with PubMed (as required to do for NIH funded papers) or publishing giant Elsevier having an entire division devoted to publishing fake journals paid for by giant pharmaceutical companies promoting their drugs, sometimes it's tough to tell who's legit and who's the out and out swindler.

But, there's definitely been a flood of "predatory" publishers lately, who will basically offer to publish absolutely anything for a fee. This has resulted in some amusing stories of purely gibberish papers getting published as "legit" (that link points to a paper that directly claimed in its own text that it was a fraud and also widely quoted My Cousin Vinny). There are reports of such gibberish papers flooding academia, sometimes in attempts to highlight how lax publishers are, and what a giant scam all of this is.

The Ottawa Citizen has a story highlighting yet another twist and turn in this ongoing battle of bogosity in academic research, involving sketchy people stepping in to buy a formerly respected journal and turning it into a pure pay-to-play publication willing to publish absolute gibberish (which the Ottawa Citizen tested and easily proved). The Ottawa Citizen was turned onto the story by Jeffrey Beall, author of Scholarly Open Access, a site that chronicles predatory publishing scams, and who was last mentioned on these pages after being threatened with a $1 billion lawsuit and "criminal charges" for outing a predatory publisher based in India.

In this case, the Experimental & Clinical Cardiology journal had been a widely respected publication covering research on (you guessed it) experimental and clinical cardiology. However, last year it got sold to some unknown folks who appear to have turned it into a pure gibberish publishing enterprise -- so long as you can pay the $1,200 fee. In other words, the new publishers are trading on the old reputation of the journal, now allowing it to publish junk science or nonsensical rantings. Here's how Tom Spears at the Ottawa Citizen tested it out:
To test the journal, the Citizen sent in an outrageously bad manuscript. The title is a hodgepodge of medical-sounding words adding up to nothing: “VEGF proliferation in cardiac cells contributes to vascular declension.”

For the rest we plagiarized a study on HIV but replaced “HIV” with the word “cardiac” throughout, to make it look (sort of) like cardiology. But it wouldn’t impress anyone who knows the subject.

We submitted detailed captions for graphs — but there are no graphs.
In case you're wondering, Spears notes that "declension" is not a medical word. "It means a group of nouns in Latin that behave the same way." And, it appears that other articles in the same journal have gone through a similar level of review (i.e., none, so long as the check clears):
This is paying off spectacularly. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published 142 articles in July alone, worth a total of $170,000 U.S. for one month. It operates online only and doesn’t bother with editing, so it has almost no costs.

The result is sloppy, or worse. Some articles are called “Enter Paper Title” — the layout instructions instead of the intended title. One is filled with visible paragraph markers (¶). Some authors’ names are missing.
The academic publishing world is already massively profitable, and with that it appears that the scammers have jumped in and are abusing the system to make money. Of course, the "legit" publishers made this quite easy in the first place, and now it appears that there are opportunities to jump in by using previously respected journal brand reputations as part of furthering these kinds of predatory practices.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

    That One Guy (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 7:52am

    By the FSM...

    Out of curiosity I checked the link about the fake Elsevier journals article, and the comment section is nothing but bots, spammers, and horribly worded threats. Guess something in the article struck a nerve...

    It is kinda funny at times though, when the individuals commenting miss out on the reason for the 'snowflakes', and have elaborate 'conversations' with themselves, congratulating themselves on their own posts.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Ninja (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Am I the only one that thinks this as yet another reason to make articles free and available online ans simply cut middlemen like these? I'm quite sure people would quickly filter the trash out...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Matthew A. Sawtell, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 10:05am


    Sorry, but the "Jenny McCarthy Effect" on vaccinations has pretty rendered that concept novel at best.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    djl, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Fake Journals

    "publishing fake journals paid for by giant pharmaceutical companies promoting their drugs" If you pay radio stations to play songs it would be called payola. But you can pay a publisher to wrap your sock puppets in a vernier of academic respectability without facing similar charges.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    zip, Aug 27th, 2014 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re:

    "Sorry, but the "Jenny McCarthy Effect" on vaccinations has pretty rendered that concept novel at best."

    it's funny the way that whole anti-vaccine craze came out of a single research article published in the Lancet medical journal, and despite a large (and ever-growing) body of contradictory evidence, it wasn't until years later, when the "research" was proven to be not just bad science but a complete fraud, that the Lancet finally retracted it.

    But who needs the scientific community to sort things out when you can always just blindly put your faith in Orpah Winfrey to be the arbiter of what to believe and what not to believe? And if Winfrey has Jenny McCarthy on the show to give medical advice to the millions of bobbing Winfreyheads out there, well then, it simply must be true.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    nasch (profile), Aug 27th, 2014 @ 2:23pm


    (1) predatorily preying on those who "need" to be published,

    Is there some other way to prey on someone?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Kyrani Eade, Sep 20th, 2014 @ 7:47am

    This is really free to be published press

    While there is a fee to publish in this journal, you are free to publish work that journals controlled by big pharma won't publish because it doesn't suit them. So this is really free press even though you have to pay some money. Don't forget the other journals still charge people to read the articles/ papers published.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Recent Stories
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.