More evidence that being published in a journal sometimes doesn’t mean much

On this site, we constantly admonish against treating journal articles as if they are the stone tablets brought down from Mount Horeb.

And now science journalist John Bohannon drives that point home with an elaborate spoof.

He sent out a research paper he dreamed up and got at least 157 journals to accept it.

It’s a wonderful tale, well-documented on the Science website.

It appears in Science’s Special Issue on Communication in Science: Pressures and Predators – “on the lack of scrutiny at open-access journals, the rarity of published negative studies, and publishing sensitive data.”

But the Retraction Watch blog noted an important caveat about the story’s emphasis on open access journals.

“…it’s important to note, given the heated and endless debates between open access advocates and traditional publishers, that there was no control group. Bohannon agreed that was a limitation when we asked whether he had considered, as one of his sources suggested, the same spoof with traditional publishers:

“I did consider it. That was part of my original (very over-ambitious) plan. But the turnaround time for traditional journals is usually months and sometimes more than a year. How could I ever pull off a representative sample? Instead, this just focused on open access journals and makes no claim about the comparative quality of open access vs. traditional subscription journals.”

Addendum on October 5: The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association has posted its response.  You might find the reader comments interesting as well.

Another addendum on October 7:  Gunther Eysenbach wrote, “Unscientific spoof paper accepted by 157 “black sheep” open access journals – but the Bohannon study has severe flaws itself.

Another addendum on October 8:  The Neurobonkers blog wrote, “Science’s Straw Man Sting.”


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