Faking it: an example of the flaws of peer review

In October 2013, a fictional scientist, Ocorrafoo Cobange, who worked at a fake institution, the Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara, had a paper accepted for publication by 157 journals, despite the fact the paper had obvious errors that could have been spotted by someone with GCSE level science.

In reality, the author of this experimental paper was John Bohannon, a correspondent for Science  who wanted to show the flaws of current peer-review processes.

Many of the journals that accepted the fake paper were listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, which claims to only list credible publications. In the review of his experiment, Bohannon wrote

“The Sage publication that accepted my bogus paper is the Journal of International Medical Research. Without asking for any changes to the paper’s scientific content, the journal sent an acceptance letter and an invoice for $3,100.”

The fake article caused a buzz amongst scientist, and the Twitter hashtag #PRSting was suggested by Michael Eisen, the co-founder of the Public Library of Science.

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The responses that followed were varied, with some people mentioning the benefits of the study:

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However, the majority of tweets and comments on the study were skeptical about the author’s intentions, and how reliable the study itself was.

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Whether or not the objective of the study was to slam open access, it did get more people talking about the peer review process, and had journals reviewing which papers they would accept.

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2 comments

  1. Submission of false data (author name, address, or data) or duplicated data (one or two simultaneous submissions already gets the ethicists riled, so what, 157?!!!) to any journal is a serious ethical breach, independent of the objective, in this case a “sting”. Bohannon was unethical, point. If any other scientists that didn’t have the backing of Science, and were to try the same, they would lose their jobs, their reputations and their salaries, no doubt. Shame, shame and shame again, independent of what was learnt. There are more ethical ways of reaching C, from A, and never via B.

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