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Fake Medical 'Studies' Published Online on 157 Journals

Update Date: Oct 04, 2013 01:36 AM EDT
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A "research" paper filled with errors was published but not one but 157 open-access science journals, its author says, highlighting the need for better moderation.

To find out just how common predatory publishing is, a spoof organized by Science magazine contributor John Bohannon sent a deliberately faked research article 305 times to online journals. More than half the journals that supposedly reviewed the fake paper accepted it.

Bohannan, who has a PhD in molecular biology from Oxford, wrote the "research" paper under a fake name, "Ocorrafoo Cobange," who claimed to be a biologist at "the Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara." As it turns out, neither Cobange nor the institute pretending to employ him exist; however, despite the forged credentials and grossly problematic content, the majority of journals to which Bohannan submitted the paper accepted it.

"From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees," says journalist John Bohannon, writing in the Science magazine

"The goal was to create a credible but mundane scientific paper, one with such grave errors that a competent peer reviewer should easily identify it as flawed and unpublishable," Bohannon says. Of 255 open-access journals that said they would review his study, 157 accepted the fake study for publication. "Acceptance was the norm, not the exception," he writes.

The potential damage to the public from what Jeffrey Beall calls "predatory publishers" can be far-reaching. Academic articles, even in the sciences, are cited by legal professionals in order to determine matters of law.

The result of this is that low-quality studies are accepted into the body of published work that future scientists, doctors and engineers use as a reference. These studies are used as the basis for government grants, which directly effects which lines of research are funded. Moreover, they are used by corporations as material evidence in the implementation of drug trials.

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