In a humorous experiment that exposes published “science” as a subjective mess of opinions and oftentimes deliberate deceptions, a Harvard University medical doctor has confirmed that almost anything can get published in a medical journal for the right price.
Dr. Mark Shrime, M.D., who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in health policy at his esteemed institution, generated a completely made-up study using the website RandomTextGenerator.com, testing a hypothesis that he could get utter nonsense published into a medical journal.
Inspired by the constant and annoying stream of e-mail spam he says he receives daily, petitioning him to pay a flat-rate sum, usually around $500, to have a single study published in a medical journal, Dr. Shrime decided to take some of these journals up on the offer.
He manufactured a paper titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals,” which is filled with five whole pages of complete gibberish. Dr. Shrime proposed the fake study to 37 different journals, and, surprisingly, 17 of them, thus far, have accepted.
None of these journals have actually published the phony study, which opens up with the nonsensical line, “In an intention dependent on questions on elsewhere, we betrayed possible jointure in throwing cocoa.” But each of them has promised to, pending receipt of the respective “processing fee.”
Dr. Shrime has no intention of actually paying these journals to accept his ridiculousstudy, which is amusingly authored by “Pinkerton A. LeBrain” and “Orson Welles.” But the fact that these would publish his study in exchange for cash is deeply disturbing on many levels.
You can view the fake study in PDF form here:
Fake paper reviewed as “novel and innovative” contains not a single meaningful sentence
If you’re assuming at this point that the journals in question simply failed to read the study, you’d be wrong. Several of the journals actually typeset the study and issued reviews, with one glowingly endorsing it as being “novel and innovative”!
The simplicity with which Dr. Shrime was able to initiate his study into the system is mind-boggling, especially in light of the fact that the study contains not a single line of sensical information. Consider the following quotations taken directly from the counterfeit paper:
“Remainder household direction zealously the unwilling bed sex,” and
“Comfort reached gay perhaps chamber his six detract besides add.”
The only aspects of the fake paper that even remotely resemble what might be found in a real one are its structure and headings and the references section.
Top experts, scientists admit even they don’t know which journals and studies are real
The field has become so saturated, apparently, with so many journals and studies pouring in from all over the world, that even top experts and scientists in their own fields admit that they can’t make heads or tails of what’s legitimate anymore.
“As scientists, we’re aware of the top-tier journals in our specific sub-field, but even we cannot always pinpoint if a journal in another field is real or not,” admitted Dr. Shrime toFast Company.
“For instance, the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is the very first journal I was ever published in and it’s legitimate. But the Global Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is fake. Only someone in my field would know that.”
While the National Library of Medicine tries to overcome this problem by maintaining an official list of legitimate journals in the PubMed database, even this resource is incomplete. Some newer, legitimate studies aren’t in the database yet, and who’s actually in charge of determining which journals are legitimate, for that matter?
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