In what might be the most hilarious story you’ll read all week, a Discover Magazine blogger who goes by the screen name Neuroskeptic just gave a black eye to the very peer-review process so frequently hyped by liberals as ending debate on scientific controversies such as global warming, and he did it with style.
At Discover, he explains that he wanted to “test the quality” of nine journals “known to send spam to academics, urging them to submit papers to their journals.” So he conjured up an intentionally bogus paper, an “absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes.”
Using the Wikipedia entry on mitochondria as his foundation, Neuroskeptic reworded the text so it wouldn’t set off plagiarism-detection software (because he wanted to test human review of the content), and further altered it to give it a ridiculous new subject matter: midi-chlorians, the 100% fictional organisms that reside in people’s bloodstream and connect them to the power of the Force in the Star Wars movies.
He filled the paper with even more clues that the subject matter was space fantasy rather than biological reality, such as submitting it under fake author names Dr. Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin, bogus scientific terms based on the names of characters (“Kyloren cycle,” “mtDNRey”), admitting he lifted most of the text from Wikipedia in the paper, and my favorite — passages that mix in direct dialogue from the movies, which even if one hasn’t seen, presumably would still be recognizable as being anything but scientific:
Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism […]
As more fatty acids are delivered to the heart, and into cardiomyocytes, the oxidation of fatty acids in these cells increases. Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? I thought not. It is not a story the Jedi would tell you. It was a Sith legend.
Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.
The links that originally appeared in this paragraph are of course dead since the reveal of the stunt. Neuroskeptic also notes that one journal even invited “Dr. Lucas McGeorge” to join its editorial board!
Credit where credit’s due, a number of journals rejected the paper: Journal of Translational Science (OAText); Advances in Medicine (Hindawi); Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access (OMICS).
Two journals requested me to revise and resubmit the manuscript. At JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (JSciMedCentral) both of the two peer reviewers spotted and seemingly enjoyed the Star Wars spoof, with one commenting that “The authors have neglected to add the following references: Lucas et al., 1977, Palpatine et al., 1980, and Calrissian et al., 1983.” Despite this, the journal asked me to revise and resubmit.
At the Journal of Molecular Biology and Techniques (Elyns Group), the two peer reviewers didn’t seem to get the joke, but recommended some changes such as reverting “midichlorians” back to “mitochondria.”
Neuroskeptic’s takeaway from the endeavor is “a reminder that at some ‘peer reviewed’ journals, there really is no meaningful peer review at all,” despite the fact that peer review the very thing that supposedly makes these publishers’ output authoritative.
Keep this in mind the next time a liberal tries to tell you the science is settled on man-made global warming. The only difference between this paper and that consensus is that this author is honest about the fact that his evidence originated in a galaxy far, far away.