13 February 2013

Sasquatch DNA: new journal or vanity press?

The sasquatch DNA story I was watching back in November has moved forward. The promised paper has now appeared.

In the first issue of a brand new journal that has no other articles in it.

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I co-moderated a session at Science Online that talked about how anyone can start a new open access journal on the web, and issues of credibility arising from that. Well, remove the “open access” part of the equation (they want $30 to read the single available paper), and you still have a lot of the same issues, and they are all in full view and writ large with the launch of the journal DeNovo.

Now, I am a scientist who is on the record as people should sometimes submit papers to new journals. I have occasionally taken a shot and submitted articles for new journals. Indeed, became one of my fastest papers to accumulate citations. I like to support new publishing ventures. Would I submit to DeNovo?


  • There is no editor listed.
  • There is no editorial board listed.
  • There are no people who are identifiable by name anywhere on the website that I can see.
  • There is no physical address.
  • There is no phone number.
  • A section requesting people perform “Open peer review” has no manuscripts ready for anyone to review.
  • The bottom of some pages lists “denovoscientificpublishing.com”, which goes to a placeholder.
  • The journal was created with a service that “helps you easily design & create gorgeous websites with just a few clicks.”

This whole thing looks completely dodgy, with the lack of any identifiable names being the one screaming warning to stay away from this journal. Far, far away.

I’m predicting this journal will never have a second issue. Meet me here in one year, and we’ll see if there has been any progress. Or if the journal is even still online.

Update: Carl Zimmer just paid $30 for a copy of the paper. I said I would happily donate to help pay the cost of the reprint, and he said I could buy a book of his instead.

Support science journalism. Go buy one of Carl Zimmer’s books.

Oh, I cannot wait for the critiques. Carl has already written on Twitter:

The phylogeny in this #sasquatchgenome paper is incomprehensibly illegible & doesn't seem to use any method I can recognize.

How... interesting.

Yet more additional: Cryptomundo reports that Ketchum says she had nothing to do with the “acquisition” of the journal or its editorial process. Melba Ketchum is reported to write:

One thing I want to make ABUNDANTLY clear. I did not self publish, but acquired the other journal. I have had and still have NOTHING to do with any publishing, editing or peer reviewing for Denovo. That was all completed prior to the acquisition of Denovo.

But this raises more questions. If this was an “acquired” journal, what name was it previously know by? Are there any existing archives of past issues from before the acquisition and re-branding? Since we have no actual names of the publishers or editors, how can we confirm Ketchum’ claim of non-involvement?

Oh, and there’s this video:

I remain unconvinced, but still hoping there is more evidence.

Additional, 14 February 2013: Houston Chronicle blogger SciGuy is collecting reactions to the paper from some scientists who have read it. One thing I will point out is this from Leonid Kruglyak:

There’s also the strange statement they couldn’t deposit sequences in GenBank because it’s a new/unknown taxon — GenBank does that no problem.

I’ll second that. Marmorkrebs, the unusual clone crayfish I work work, had sequences in GenBank well before it had a proposed species name.

Related posts

Sasquatch DNA?

External links

Ketchum Bigfoot DNA paper released: Problems with questionable publication
Like OMG! Bigfoot DNA paper is published!
Ketchum Sasquatch DNA Study Update: Questions Answered…


Mike Keesey said...

Also, the footer says, "© 2013 - all rights preserved."

Bobbie Short said...

Why is it main stream media focuses on the Journal instead of Dr. Ketchum's written work (the paper)?

Have any of you actually read her paper?

Zen Faulkes said...

Bobbie: I can't speak to mainstream media, because I'm just one guy with a blog. ;)

In my case, I focused on the journal because, as a working scientist, I have enough experience with journals to informed commentary.

I did not talk about the paper in this post because, although I am a biologist, I don’t have enough of the relevant expertise on sequencing DNA and the like to do a thorough and careful analysis of the paper. I will leave that to other people.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Science accepts new things really slowly. Plate tectonics, Chaco Canyon observatory, Mayan script, first people in the new world before Clovis, etc. The list is seemingly endless. This conservatism slows the advance of science often for decades. However, it also protects science from idiocy and quackery, witness the Pons and Fleishman debacle. All balances are hard to obtain. When regular journals scoffed, Ketchum should have meerly put the data free on the web without being wrapped in a fake journal. Then reputable scientists would not have been able to resist having a look, and she would have been vindicated over time, and proven to be a good scientist. By her behavior she self-groups herself with the quacks and frauds. It is sad.

ps The big fella is real. Spied one once.

TheCellularScale said...

This site: http://scholarlyoa.com/ tackles problems with new predatory OA journals; it has a "blacklist" of ones to avoid.

Zen Faulkes said...

Cellular: yes, that’s Jeffrey Beall’s list. I'm familiar with it, and talk a bit about it in this post, "Open access or vanity press". But this highlights a problem with a curated list of "suspect" journals: journals spring up faster than a list can keep up.

Each working scientist has to develop some sort of internal detector for whether a new scientific journal is the real deal or not. It's not always as easy to articulate problems as in this case.

Waynito said...

Looks like in the case of Ketchum et al. vindication was never a possibility. :(

Ghostexorcist said...

Someone just pointed me towards your blog entry on Ketchum's study. I've been following the study for the last couple of months. You might like my blog entry on the subject. I show how she most likely created the JAMEZ journal as a cover story so she could say she "purchased" it and renamed it to Denovo.