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June 12, 2009
Another Sack of Raving Nonsense Is Slated For Publication
I spoke here about Scigen, the program that'll concoct a load of total nonsense for you and make it look - from a distance - like a journal paper. It's a surprisingly valuable tool, since the scientific publishing world apparently has a bigger demand for total nonsense than you might think, especially after the checks clear.
The latest example of this comes from The Scholarly Kitchen, where Philip Davis generated "Deconstructing Access Points", a paper that's nothing but a string of gibberish and non sequitars from first to last. It's here (in PDF form) if you want to try reading it. You won't get far; no human could.
Ah, but what if no human bothered to? That's what happened when Davis submitted this compost pile to the Open Information Science Journal, which is one of the new Bentham "open access" journals. You see, Bentham (like some other publishing houses) has heard that this open access stuff is like, the new trend, so they've started a line of their own journals. Once your paper's accepted, anyone can access it. Of course, there is a fee up front - to be fair, there pretty much has to be, if someone is actually going to do the back-end reviewing and editing work of a real journal. But what if you don't do any of that, and just charge the fee anyway?
Yes, the paper was accepted - of course it was accepted. It was accepted despite it being an unreadable mass of pseudo-English, and despite the fact that it was sent in under the banner of the Center for Research in Applied Phrenology. (Nice touch!) Here's the acceptance letter from an assistant manager at Bentham. All Davis had to do was send $800 to a tax-free zone in the United Arab Emirates and this manuscript would be inflicted on the world.
He pulled back at this juncture, but the point had been made. As he puts it, in milder tones than I would have: ". . .it does raise the question of whether, at least in some cases, the producer-pays-to-publish model may unduly influence editorial decision-making." Indeed it does, especially with a lower-tier publisher. Too much of the scholarly publishing world is involved in this sort of thing (and too much of the conference-organizing world, too, for that matter). I know that it's hard for many people to realize this, but it really is better not to publish at all than to abet this sort of thing.
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