23 December 2016

The open access “sting” by Science, three years on

In 2013, writer John Bohannon published a Science article where the main drawing card was an obviously bad paper that he got accepted or published in multiple junk journals. He was not the first, nor has he been the last, to set out to punk crappy journals with obviously bad papers. It’s practically a scientific genre in its own right now.

I grabbed four of the papers that made it through the production process (despite Bohannon’s efforts to keep them out of the literature) for teaching purposes. I was recently reminded of those papers, and went looking for them again.

Let’s start with Indandah et al., 7-chloronorlichexanthone inhibits the growth of murine SV40 transformed lymphoid sarcoma Cells in vitro, in Medicinal Chemistry:

The journal is still there, but there is no hint of the retraction. There’s just a gap in the page numbering.

Next, Magaya et al.,Arthogalin inhibits the growth of murine malignant prostate sarcoma cells in vitro, from Journal Of Pharmacy And Pharmacological Research.

The entire publisher website is gone. The same is true for Nonjah et al., Nephrosterinic acid inhibits the growth of murine malignant pleural sarcoma cells in vitro.

The entire Scientific Journal of Medical Science is gone, gone, gone.

With this track record, I was surprised to see one journal acting like a real journal: being transparent and taking responsibility. The Journal of Biochemical and Pharmacological Research still exists, first of all. You need to drill down to find their page for Onnoocom et al. contribution, Schizopeltic acid inhibits the growth of murine polyploid pulmonary blastoma cells in vitro. But when you do:

The journal acknowledges that the paper was there in its table of contents, but the links for the abstract and PDF both lead to a retraction notice:

JBPR has been a victim of bogus submissions; and this paper is one of those and is hereby retracted. The editor in chief takes full responsibility for accepting this bogus manuscript for publication in JBPR. We sincerely assure readers that something like this will not occur again.

The last line makes me raise my eyebrows a bit. No journal can assure readers that they won’t make this mistake again. It’s just not possible to have a 100% failsafe fraud detection system.

Yes, journals should be criticized when they publish deeply flawed papers. But how they respond to those errors matters, too. It is possible that some junk journals are actually new journals run by people with good intentions but little experience that have the potential to improve. I’m not saying a single retraction notice makes a journal reputable,

Related posts

Open access or vanity press, the Science “sting” edition
Using “journal sting” papers for teaching

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