Opinion: Why I Published in a Predatory Journal

Our totally bogus case report swiftly passed muster, with only minor revisions requested.

By | April 6, 2017

© DUSAN PETRICICEarlier this year, I was invited to submit a paper to a dubious urology journal. I’m not a physician, much less a urologist. But I am an editor of scientific writing who has a strong antipathy for predatory journals. I’m also a Seinfeld fanatic.

So I decided to troll this publication, the MedCrave Group’s Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal, to see whether they would agree to publish a totally made-up, Seinfeld-themed “case report” about a man who develops “uromycitisis poisoning.” This was inspired by the classic 1991 episode, “The Parking Garage,” in which Jerry Seinfeld can’t find his car in a mall lot, has to urinate, does so against a garage wall, is caught by a security guard, and tries to get out of a citation by claiming that he suffers from a condition called uromycitisis. Seinfeld argued that, due to his illness, he could die if he doesn’t relieve himself when he feels the urge.

I went all out. I wrote my report as Dr. Martin van Nostrand, the physician-alter ego of another Seinfeld character, and listed more show-inspired names as bogus coauthors. I made an email account for Dr. van Nostrand and created a fake institution where the authors worked: the Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute. In the acknowledgments section of my report, I thanked phony physicians including Tor Eckman, the bizarre holistic healer from the Seinfeld episode “The Heart Attack,” giving him a Doctor of Holistic Medicine (HMD) degree. Basically, I wrote the manuscript in a style as close to a real case report as I could, except that it was 100 percent fake.

To my surprise, a representative at Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal wrote to say that my manuscript had been sent out for peer review. Three days later, it was conditionally accepted. I was asked to make minor revisions—including trimming the abstract and including the phony patient’s lab results—and pay a “nominal” $799 fee, plus tax.

Continuing to dupe the publication, I did all that was asked—except remit payment—and, on March 31, my report was published on the journal’s website (PDF). I have no intention of paying the requested fee.

A simple Google search for “uromycitisis” or “Martin van Nostrand” returns thousands of references to Seinfeld. Checking just one of the “papers” I included in the manuscript’s reference section, the editors or reviewers could easily have determined it was fabricated.

Why did the journal publish a report so easily identifiable as fake? I’ll leave that to the publication to explain.

Why, you might ask, did I take this stunt as far as I did? For nearly a year, I have been on a personal mini-crusade against fake scientific journals, and I have written several articles on the topic. In 2016, I was invited to submit a paper to the Journal of Nanomedicine Research, which is also published by MedCrave. I posted an article on LinkedIn about this, but it was not widely read, nor effective at exposing the journal as dubious. So when the urology journal came calling, I thought a more-extreme trolling operation might be more effective. I wrote the fictitious case report over a weekend.

My short-term goal is to expose MedCrave as a publisher that will print fiction, for a price. My long-term goal—an ambitious one, I know—is to stop the production of predatory journals altogether. 

John H. McCool is the founder and senior scientific editor of Precision Scientific Editing, based in Houston, Texas. 

Editors note: Prior to publication of this article, The Scientist and Retraction Watch requested comment from Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal/MedCrave Group, but did not receive a response on deadline.

See “Hello…Newman: Yet Another Sting Pranks a Predatory Journal, Seinfeld-style,” Retraction Watch, April 6, 2017

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Comments

Avatar of: Neurona

Neurona

Posts: 70

April 6, 2017

Good job reporting your project. Another example of how fake news brings the best work under a common cloud of suspicion, at least for those not in the know.  "Snake oil" has never really gone away.  

Avatar of: Kailash

Kailash

Posts: 1

April 6, 2017

Thanks for your extraordinary efforts in exposing the online publication business.  I wrote a similar article in the Scientist of September 03, 2015, "Pay-to-Play Publishing": Online scientific journals are sacrificing the quality of research articles to make a buck.

I have come to realize, it is all about greed.  Nobody cares about quality, honesty and ethics, just make money by whatever means.  We the scientists have not done much to stop it.  Instead we have helped proliferate it by being a part of these sham oganizations by taking up honorary editorships.

Avatar of: Dee29

Dee29

Posts: 1

April 6, 2017

How can we determine if a journal is a "predatory" journal? Reputable journals sometimes solicit articles on specific topics. If it's not a journal we're familiar with, how can we tell if it's "predatory"?

Avatar of: Terje

Terje

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Dee29 made on April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017

Unfortunately, Beall's list of predatory publishers is no longer updated, but an archived list can be found here: 

https://web.archive.org/web/20161222020349/https:/scholarlyoa.com/publishers/

 

 

Avatar of: JonRichfield

JonRichfield

Posts: 132

April 7, 2017

Applause!!!

Sokal and McCool for president say I.

Avatar of: Agilemind

Agilemind

Posts: 8

Replied to a comment from Dee29 made on April 6, 2017

April 8, 2017

If you don't at least semi-regularly read articles from the journal or at bare minimum from another journal from the same publisher, then you shouldn't be publishing there.

April 11, 2017

The scientific community must be grateful to you Mr. McCool for your efforts in exposing a predatory publisher. With the disappearance of Mr..Jeffrey Beall, there is no one to lead the "antipredatory journal program". The practice of getting papers published in predatory journals has become very common in India. Readers can get an idea about it from an article published in December 2016 in CURRENT SCIENCE, a very respected publication from India.

The link: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/111/11/1759.pdf

 Dr. R Prasad, the Science Editor, The Hindu is one among the handful journalists who have been in the for front against predatory journals. He competently summarized the article in CURRENT SCIENCE. 

Please see the link:

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/Researchers-from-national-institutes-publish-in-predatory-journals/article16806280.ece.

Various official agencies such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), India Council of Medical Research (ICMR) etc in India are getting interested in the issue.However, the progress has been very slow.

Avatar of: rgdudley

rgdudley

Posts: 1

April 18, 2017

Sadly the issue of fake journals will only improve when there is true open access to both read and to publish with out excessive fees.   "Real" publishers have created this scientific nighmare.   When open access first took off the ideal was improve access to scientific knowledge for everyone.     The big publishers response was the "pay to publish" open access model.   Unfortunately this incentivised the creation of predatory journals.  There is no easy answer, but we need one. 

Avatar of: Lenguado05

Lenguado05

Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Dee29 made on April 6, 2017

May 1, 2017


 

Take a look and decide by yourself if this could be regarded as predatory?

As in the article, Google Kelvin the editor and search returns a basketball pleyer.. Contrast all the different domains of the Webs provided, think why an OA journal may want to totally waive the APF, journal title is confusing and mimiking the well reputated Molecular Immunology  etc.

 

Journal of Molecular Immunology

Dear Dr. MY NAME ,

Hope you are doing well…!!

We would like to invite you to contribute a paper for publication in upcoming issue of Journal ofMolecular Immunology . For this upcoming issue, you are welcome to submit original research articles, reviews, or case studies which may advance our current knowledge about immunology. We gone through one of your publication entitled MY PAPER of 2013 published in Q1 journal and were very impressed by it.

Journal of Molecular Immunology being an Open Access peer review journal, always stands forward to support researchers & publications. As a token of appreciation for research excellence, journal publishes all Original research submissions for free and all review, short communications / commentaries for only 50% of actual publication fee

For further details please visit the journal's website at: http://www.omicsonline.org/molecular-immunology.php

If possible, we would appreciate receiving your submission by May 31st, 2017.

You may submit your paper by online at http://www.editorialmanager.com/cell-mol-biol/ or e-mail at molimmunol@immunologyjournals.com / molimmunol@peerreviewedjournals.org

Anticipating a quick scientific relation

Thanks & Regards

Kelvin Parker

Executive Assistant Editor

Journal of Molecular Immunology

5716 Corsa Ave, Suite 110

Westlake, Los Angeles

CA 91362-7354, USA

Phone: +1-650-268-9744

Fax: +1-650-618-1414

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of: emaronde

emaronde

Posts: 1

June 2, 2017

Recently I received a request from the "World Journal of something" if I wasn`t willing to serve as "co-executive editor". First I felt honoured. Then I read that for each accepted paper I would personally get 20% of the publication fee. That seemed odd to me. But since a very famous and (correctly) high regarded collegue was announced as Chief editor I wrote him a note. He answered that he was never asked by the journal if he is willing to recruit more more "co-executive editors" had a closer look at the journal once more and immediately retired as Chief editor. I think that was an appropriate reaction. World journals are on my spam list now. Predatory journals have to be eliminated.

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