Scientific Journal Sting Treats Predatory Journals to The Clone Wars

Now THIS is podracing.

Recently a number of scientific journals were subject to a sting. One of Galactic proportions, as a matter of fact. One brave hero of the rebellion (that being Neuroskeptic) sent out a paper to several scientific peer review journals. His subject: the Midi-chlorians of Star Wars.

As Dr, Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin, Neuroskeptic hit several journals with his (deliberately) poorly written paper about midi-chloria, presumably about them being the Force powerhouse of the cell. And that’s mostly because he deliberately plagiarized the wikipedia article for mitochondria as a base. Of the nine journals hit, four of them published the paper. He even managed to work in a number of delightful bits, aside:

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

  • “Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”
  • “Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”
  • “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.”
  • “midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper

The problem is that more than a few peer review journals do not have the utmost academic rigor in mind. It’s how a number of studies with poor or nonexistant usage of the scientific method, or ridiculously low test subjects & etc. manage to get published. Whether it’s greed, ideological approval, or what have you, there are no small number of unscrupulous journals willing to give that peer review sticker of approval for a comparatively low price.

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The journals hit with this Star Wars scheme weren’t random, however. They were chosen because of their predatory nature; they actively seek to convince academics of the value of their peer review credentials. Neuroskeptic comes to the conclusion that peer review itself isn’t a broken system. That said, there are obviously those, even among reputable journals, that will take junk papers and pass them. And exposing such journals is, ultimately, the point.

B. Simmons

Based out of Glendale California, Bryan is a GAMbIT's resident gaming contributor. Specializing in PC and portable gaming, you can find Bryan on his 3DS playing Monster Hunter or at one of the various conventions throughout the state.