Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting

From the “may the Farce be with you” department and the Neuroskeptic Blog @ Discover

By Neuroskeptic | July 22, 2017 4:57 am

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it.

Inspired by previous publishing “stings”, I wanted to test whether ‘predatory‘ journals would publish an obviously absurd paper. So I created a spoof manuscript about “midi-chlorians” – the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars. I filled it with other references to the galaxy far, far away, and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin.


Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

  • “Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”
  • “Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”
  • “Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”
  • “midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper:Ironically, I’m not even a big Star Wars fan. I just like the memes.

 

To generate the main text of the paper, I copied the Wikipedia page on ‘mitochondrion’ (which, unlike midichlorians, exist) and then did a simple find/replace to turn mitochondr* into midichlor*. I then Rogeted the text, i.e. I reworded it (badly), because the main focus of the sting was on whether journals would publish a ridiculous paper, not whether they used a plagiarism detector (although Rogeting is still plagiarism in my book.)

For transparency, I admitted what I’d done in the paper itself. The Methods section features the line “The majority of the text of this paper was Rogeted [7]”. Reference 7 cited an article on Rogeting followed by “The majority of the text in the current paper was Rogeted from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion Apologies to the original authors of that page.”

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70 thoughts on “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting

  1. You do not appear to have discovered anything new. But then again they do say the old jokes are the best.

    What would be nice to see is the response from the cnuts responsible just in case one of them actually has the cojones to fess up to being worth only a tiny fraction of what they are being paid.

    • I,m so glad my “Conceptual penis as a social construct” is in the highly/lowly journals of none note!

      • The “Conceptual Penis”, loved that one. Yes, no one understood it but in all its abstract obtuse suggestion was was elevated to an Art Form (that no one understands either) that sells for millions.

        Yes, this painting sold for 60 Million in 2008.

      • “The painting represents a constellation of geometry and color in space with remarkable austerity.”

        Yea, alrighty then.

      • @Duncan
        It looks like someone took a snapshot through a Norden bomb sight on a run over Hamburg and colored it up.

      • Dont Kid D.J. here in Toronto, in a small gallery, there is just such a painting of the bombing during WWII from the bombers perspective. As a war buff, it was beautiful and disturbing, not 60 million so, but fantastically enough.

      • Drive into Melbourne from Tullamarine Airport and you will see some huge beams painted in primary colours (back to the nursery) and standing at angles (somewhat phallic). I take it these monstrosities are rated as ‘art’? Yeah, right, if you say so!

      • Don’t worry, in Toronto, we paid $120,000 for the inflatable Duck. But apparently it has been a big hit.

  2. I used to be an academic. BA, M.Ed., Ed.D., but moved up to become a truck driver. (and made more money)

  3. They’re on to you now. 404 errors result from the links provided. May the farce be with you.

  4. Will this h oax get better coverage than the “virtual penis” paper? I think some of the media were a bit loathe to mention “penis”.

    • Gunga Din July 25, 2017 at 4:20 pm
      Actually, I think either definition would apply.
      [snip… -mod]

      I don’t remember exactly what I said that was snipped but I remember enough to be glad the snip was only virtual! 8-)

  5. The next one should be about how an irradiated spider-bite can give you the ability to stick to walls.

    • Huh….next you’ll be telling us the gamma rays don’t make you big and strong. Also green.

      • The next one should show how mitochlorians from decaying animals increase the ozone hole — mitochlorians might even be accepted again for publication!

    • “Roget” – v. to disguise plagiarism through the use of synonyms to confound text searchers for the original document, from the use of “Roget’s Thesaurus” to select synonyms.

  6. Too bad you didn’t try for a climate related spoof.

    Maybe using • “Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions
    such as [temperature] sensitivity…” in plants, especially conifers.

    Toss in a bunch of citations from the “Team” about annular differentiation in
    rings and you’re sure to get published.

  7. Hilarious. Loved the ‘K-word’ cycle reference:

    Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer

  8. There is an almost infinite demand from folks desperate to publish lest they perish. That leads to a lot of garbage. That, in turn, leads to spoof papers. The first, that I know of, was Sokal.

    The Sokal Affair discredited a postmodern journal. That led to a revenge spoof on, IIRC, a physics journal.

    Academic publishing of all sorts is a sick puppy.

    My favorite is the Bogdanov Affair. Is it a spoof? Is it fraud? Lubos Motl seems to think it’s the genuine article.

    Both were given the low, unusual, but passing grade of “honorable”; Igor initially failed and was required to publish three papers in peer-reviewed journals before being given a degree.

    What I get from that was that the thesis readers couldn’t understand the work and did an end run around that problem by assuming that peer review would sort it all out.

    If Donald Trump thinks Washington is a swamp, he should check out academic publishing. :-)

  9. It is obvious the peers never read the article, but saying the editor did not is unbelievable. If it is not a crime, it should be – at least all involved should be up against a review board to loose their accreditation.

    • They’ve already loosed their accreditation upon an unsuspecting universe. For that, they should lose their accreditation.

  10. I had to look up “predatory journals”. These are like vanity publishers, yes? They look legit, charge you money, and publish your submission without really doing legitimate, field-related editing and screening of the information, right?

    What would one expect in this set up.

    Off to submit my latest, groundbreaking paper now: Leprechaun-induced phase changes converting metal alloys to gold within the constraints of broad-spectrum, arc lights

    • In some of the Star War scenes various “beings” are drinking in what looks to be a bar. Surely one of the liquids being consumed is beer. Beer works on so many levels.

  11. Part of the web that results in “science news” being worthless.

    I mean, if even 10 or 20% was junk, it would render the whole useless (as summary, in other words you would have to review each paper yourself, expertise or no).

    I suspect the number is substantially larger than that.

    If you care about the system generating results, integrity has to be your focus now.

  12. From what I can tell, they have removed the PDF’s. Can someone find them on the way back machine?

  13. If you had thought of a way to blame the modichlirian crisis on climate change you could have published published it in Nature!
    But that is not a criticism of you at all.
    Congratulations on a great achievement!

  14. I think I should probably write a paper explaining the physics of how taking money from the west and giving it to other countries (with a big cut for the UN) cools the planet. I think maybe “thermoredistribution” based on refrigerating the money before mailing it.

  15. None of the links to the published articles now works.
    I hope you had time to make a web.archive.org copy or similar of the published articles.
    If you did, can you please provide a working link to the published articles as they appeared at the time?

  16. Just waiting for the trolls to come to their defence , Charles the dragon slayer .

  17. Look how many papers have been published that depend upon the existance of a radiant greenhouse effect caused by trace gases with LWIR absorption bands. The fact is that a radiant greenhouse effect has not been observed anywhere in the solar system including the Earth. The radiant greenhouse effect is science fiction hence the AGW conjecture is science fiction and anything based on the AGW conjecture is also science fiction. There are a lot of “science journals” that are really “science fiction journals”. Peer review is really a political review depending upon the peers.

    • @willhaas. Well that’s one opinion, there are others here and I think the most common is a belief in the GHG effect but a thinking its effect is somewhat smaller than the CAGW adherants. We certainly see it talked about a lot, and still no nearer a resolution of these conflicting views. Dare I suggest a novel approach – conduct some repeatable experiments.

      With a selection of appropriately designed experiments it should be possible to confirm (or falsify) the existence of a GHG effect and also, if so confirmed, to get some handle on it’s magnitude. If we can quantify it we can make some progress.

      Possible outcomes are:

      1. It’s actually negative and acts as “holes in the blanket”. Earth cools.

      2. It’s zero. Dead dragons litter the Earth.

      3. It’s nearly zero, very very small. One dragon lives.

      4. It’s significant but won’t cause Global Warming. Anthony buys the beers.

      5. It’s actually as high as the IPCC calculated, or higher. Mann wins court case.

  18. Two questions for our distinguished authors. 1) What does say about the amount and quality of peer review? And, 2) what does it say about how dense the gray mater (if it exists) in the journal editors and publishers.

  19. When I was a chemical engineering student, working at CSIRO, I came across a (hoax) paper entitled, the toxicological properties of laevorotatory ice crystals, in the Analyst. Google it, there is an interesting back story.

  20. So it was the Midichlorians in the atmosphere all along that was causing the warming?
    Dare I mention the ‘N’ word or has it already been awarded to Trump for getting elected?

  21. Maybe someone should rearrange the words and try some climate journals where so much outlandish unchecked quackery gets published demonizing CO2.

  22. LiveScience covered this too, and noted that “JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology requested Neuroskeptic revise and resubmit the paper; whoever read it there got the joke and asked that the revised paper include such citations as Palpatine, et al. 1980.”

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