Don't believe the hype: When that DATA seems just too good

Life lessons from medical science

I admit, I tend to the slightly conservative when it comes to publishing in peer-reviewed journals – a title such as ‘Li Fraumeni syndrome, cancer and senescence: a new hypothesis’ is as racy as it gets.

Not so with some authors: Aussie computer scientist Dr Peter Vamplew scored headlines worldwide when the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology accepted for publication a paper entitled 'Get Me Off Your F*cking Mailing List'.

The paper consisted of the seven words in the title repeated ad nauseam throughout the rest of the text, along with variations on the theme in graphics and headings. Of course, the paper should have been rejected on the grounds of plagiarism as the text was actually authored by David Maziere and Eddie Kohler back in 2005.

Vamplew had responded to being repeatedly emailed by the journal by sending them a copy of the 2005 paper as a mark of irritation.

Being regularly hit up by journals, conferences and scientific publishers is a fact of life for anyone who publishes in the academic literature – along with the usual requests for help in shifting hundreds of millions out of locked accounts in various hell holes, help with erectile dysfunction and so on.

What Vamplew had not expected was that the journal would respond by accepting the paper for publication and forwarding an invoice for a publication fee.

Legitimate peer-reviewed journals, including the increasing number of online open access journals, charge authors an article processing fee. These charges, which can easily be upwards of £1,500 a go, are used to pay for the production costs of the journal.

In return the journal makes sure the articles go through a peer review process, that the manuscript is properly edited, formatted, put online or into print, that the paper is indexed properly so that other scientists can find and reference it, and so on.

However, more enterprising netizens have sensed there’s money to made here. All you need to do is set up what you claim to be an online journal, convince scientists that you are legit, and then you can ask for payment.

Of course you have to claim to do peer review, that you are properly indexed, that you are interested in the science and so on. Do that, and it appears that you can make a tidy profit.

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