Bad chemistry: How fake research journals are scamming the science community
OTTAWA — I have just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble.Now science publishers around the world are clamouring to publish it.They will distribute it globally and pretend it is real research, for a fee.It’s untrue? And parts are plagiarized? They’re fine with that.Welcome to the world of science scams, a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.And even veteran scientists and universities are unaware of how deep the problem runs.When scientists make discoveries, they publish their results in academic journals. The journals review the discovery with independent experts, and if everything checks out they publish the work. This boosts the reputations, and the job prospects, of the study’s authors.Many journals now publish only online. And some of these, nicknamed predatory journals, offer fast, cut-rate service to young researchers under pressure to publish who have trouble getting accepted by the big science journals.In academia, there’s a debate over whether the predators are of a lower-than-desired quality. But the Citizen’s experiment indicates much more: that many are pure con artists on the same level as the Nigerian banker who wants to give you $100 million.Last year, science writer John Bohannon sent out a paperwith subtle scientific errors and showed that predatory journals were oftenfailing to catch them. The Citizen covered his sting, published in Sciencemagazine.Estimates of their numbers range from hundreds to thousands.To uncover bottom-feeding publishers, the simplest way was to submit something that absolutely shouldn’t be published by anyone, anywhere.