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Posted on June 10, 2009 at 1:46 PM

First came The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Density, now comes The Open Information Science Journal. As The Scientist tells us today, it’s not just the large academic publishers that are in hot water for publishing phony journals, but open source publications that are apparently attempting to publish fake papers.

This phony-baloney paper, generated by a computer program and published under pseudonyms, has shone a light on the open-access publishing industry which publishes papers for money and makes claims to peer-reviewing journal articles the same as other academic journals. This “little experiment” as these authors have called it–wanted to test whether or not the process behind the publication of such manuscripts was up-to-snuff. Clearly, at least in this case, it wasn’t.

The authors did not actually have the paper published, however, fearing it would be unethical to pay the $800 to have a phony paper published in the journal knowing that it was indeed fake, even though it was cleared for publication after receiving no reviewer comments and very little communication with the journal at all.

The problems with such a flawed review process such that a journal, open access or not, could not tell the difference between a computer generated manuscript filled with nonsensical sentences and a real manuscript are serious. Whether they are isolated to open access publishers who take money to publish papers or not is an interesting question. As recent weeks have shown, traditional academic publishers face their own struggles with what is counts as a “peer-reviewed” publication.

In this case, however, the paper was simply entirely a sham. It was only because the authors pulled back and chose not to plunk down the $800 did this phony paper not appear in print.

One has to ask themselves: what else is out there lurking in the world of research and publication ethics that we have yet to uncover?

Summer Johnson, PhD

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