Health News Review

Applause for Tom Spears of The Ottawa Citizen for his piece, “Respected medical journal turns to dark side.” He begins:

“A respected Canadian medical journal that was sold to offshore owners last year is now printing scientific junk for hire, but still trading on its original good name.

Experimental & Clinical Cardiology was published in Oakville, Ont., for 17 years and had a solid reputation for printing original medical research. It was sold in 2013, and its new owners say they are in Switzerland, but do their banking in Turks and Caicos.

And for $1,200 U.S. they’ll print anything — even a garbled blend of fake cardiology, Latin grammar and missing graphs submitted by the Citizen.

The journal was flagged last month by Jeffrey Beall, a university librarian in Colorado who compiles a widely-followed list of “predatory” publishers. These are in the business of printing research that isn’t good enough for real science journals. They make it look legitimate, charging a fee to authors desperate to boost their careers.

Now this one has a special Canadian connection. As well, it is demonstrating a new and wildly profitable model for predatory journals.

Instead of running a cheap startup website and hunting for clients, it took over the identity — and readership — of an established business.

This is paying off spectacularly. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published 142 articles in July alone, worth a total of $170,000 U.S. for one month. It operates online only and doesn’t bother with editing, so it has almost no costs.

The result is sloppy, or worse. Some articles are called “Enter Paper Title” — the layout instructions instead of the intended title. One is filled with visible paragraph markers (). Some authors’ names are missing.

Scientists are worried because academic journals do more than print research. They also screen it by sending it to independent reviewers — experts in the field who can weed out low-quality work.

But the “predatory” journals skip this step. They accept everything verbatim, making it appear that experts have approved it.”

Because of what I do on this website, my mind turns immediately to the increasing number of journalists who publish stories unquestioningly about studies that are published in more and more journals – often journals I’ve never heard of.

The machine that cranks out this stuff, and the tsunami of questionable information that floods the American public thereby every day, is getting stronger.

If you are a journalist who feeds off journal studies, you had better be aware of the troubling landscape.

And if you are a news consumer who feeds off of news sources who feed off of the journal du jour, caveat emptor.

From the news story:

“Roger Pierson, a medical professor at the University of Saskatchewan: “This seems like a good way to make an income without doing anything, and defraud the academic/scientific/medical community all at the same time.

“The sad part is that we have to wade through this crapola (i.e. when looking for recent research) to get the good papers … It’s an enormous time waster and that time is funded, in essence, by the taxpayers of the world.”

A tip of the hat to Larry Husten of Cardiobrief.org, whose Tweets tipped me off to the story.

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