Every time some anti-vax propagandist sends me something about his quack obsession, he quotes some medical journal somewhere as though this is the ultimate trump card. If it’s published in something that calls itself a medical journal, it’s gotta be SCIENCE[TM]!, right?
Not so much as you might think actually. Here, for instance, is the story of a guy who got seventeen different “medical journals” to accept a fake piece called “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?”
Shrime decided to see how easy it would be to publish an article. So he made one up. Like, he literally made one up. He did it using www.randomtextgenerator.com. The article is entitled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?” and its authors are the venerable Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. The subtitle reads: “The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals.” Shrime submitted it to 37 journals over two weeks and, so far, 17 of them have accepted it. (They have not “published” it, but say they will as soon as Shrime pays the $500. This is often referred to as a “processing fee.” Shrime has no plans to pay them.) Several have already typeset it and given him reviews, as you can see at the end of this article. One publication says his methods are “novel and innovative”!. But when Shrime looked up the physical locations of these publications, he discovered that many had very suspicious addresses; one was actually inside a strip club.
When Shrime looked up the physical locations of these publications, he discovered that many had very suspicious addresses; one was actually inside a strip club.
Many of these publications sound legitimate. To someone who is not well-versed in a particular subfield of medicine—a journalist, for instance—it would be easy to mistake them for valid sources. “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,” Shrime says. “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.”