The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 4, 2013

The Wild West world of open-access journals

LOS ANGELES — A hoax science paper written to expose lazy or unscrupulous academic publishers was accepted for publication by a shocking 157 open-access science journals recently.

In a sting operation conducted by the journal Science, contributing correspondent John Bohannon uncovered a “Wild West” landscape among fee-seeking publishers — a part of which use false addresses, false names, overseas bank accounts and superficial “peer reviews” on a routine basis.

“From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees rather than traditional subscriptions,” wrote Bohannon, a molecular biologist and science reporter.

“Most of the players are murky,” he wrote. “The identity and location of the journals’ editors, as well as the financial workings of their publishers, are often purposefully obscured.”

Hoping to test the academic rigor of these journals, Bohannon concocted a false and fatally flawed study on a wonder cure for cancer. Variations of the paper, which were sent to 304 journals, contained experimental blunders that should have been detected during a proper review.

For instance, while the author of the fake paper argued that a specific molecule from a species of lichen inhibited the growth of certain cancer cells, the experiments lacked proper control groups. Also, the author described using excessive amounts of alcohol in experimental solutions — amounts that would have poisoned the cells being studied.

Despite these and other problems, a whopping 157 journals accepted it; only 98 rejected it. (The remaining 49 did not get back to the author with a final answer.) The journals that did accept the error-riddled paper demanded fees of as much as several thousand dollars for publication.

Among the accepting journals was the American Journal of Polymer Science, which is owned by Scientific & Academic Publishing. The company, SAP, lists its address as being in Rosemead, Calif., but that address, the Science article points out, appears to be a mere intersection. There are no phone numbers listed for the publication or its officers.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Injured snowy owl ready to be released ST. PAUL (AP) — A rare snowy owl that gained national attention when it was apparently hit by a bus in the nation's capital is scheduled to be released into the wild after a rehab stint in Minnesota. The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • Court case to test 'Buy the Farm' law NEW PRAGUE (AP) — A case set for trial next week is expected to test Minnesota's "Buy the Farm" law, which is meant to require utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms in the way if affected landowners demand it. The case pits th

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge strikes down part of state energy law MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders — and she barred Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • White House updating online privacy policy A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tribut

    April 18, 2014

  • Horse virus cases showing up in Upper Midwest BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — State officials in the Upper Midwest are cautioning horse owners about a virus that spreads easily among the animals and can lead to breathing problems, abortions and nervous system disorders. Three cases of equine herpesvirus

    April 18, 2014

  • Bear attacks spark debate: Kill them, or leave them alone? ORLANDO, Fla.—Dallas Smith thinks he has the answer to Central Florida’s black-bear threat, and he’s ready to lock and load it. “I think the fear of God needs to be put back into them,” said Smith, 47, who wants state authorities to lift restriction

    April 18, 2014

  • Tourism push plays up 'Only in Minnesota' ST. PAUL — (AP) — Say goodbye to "More to Explore." Minnesota tourism promoters ushered in a new slogan Thursday that focuses on "Only in Minnesota" experiences as part of their largest-ever advertising campaign. The revamped message kicks off a maj

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp ap pipeline photo Minnesota Pipe Line seeks to expand capacity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Pipe Line Co. announced plans Thursday to nearly double the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Canada and North Dakota to the two refineries in the Twin Cities that produce most of Minnesota's and much

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holder asserts his commitment to fighting heroin WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been crusading for more lenient treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, making it a top priority before he is expected to leave office this year. Recently, however, he has been forced to confront

    April 17, 2014

  • Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds ATLANTA — Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her speech, but she

    April 17, 2014