I wrote a post a while ago on what made for a ‘good’ (as in reliable) journal, in terms of the nature & quality of the research reported in it. Now it seems that there’s a new low on the scale – in 2003 a pharmacological company paid a publishing house to produce a ‘fake’ medical journal: much advertising, & reprints of papers that had appeared in other journals in the publisher’s stable. Orac provides a very thorough commentary on this – valuable reading if you’re interested in how publication works & what makes for a good place to publish. As he points out, the quality of the reprinted articles isn’t in question – but the fact that they were in a ‘pseudojournal’ stuffed with the drug company’s advertising, is just downright wrong. As one of Orac’s commenters notes:
A fake academic journal creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. It is designed to look like legitimate peer reviewed research published by a nominally independent publisher (Elsevier) who in fact is being paid to publish research in this journal which supports the products of the particular medical products company that is paying Elsevier to do it. Thus there is a conflict between Elsevier’s ostensible role as a leading publisher of peer-reviewed scientific research and their actual role of being paid to produce advertisements for a particular company. And it was ethically wrong for Merck to suborn Elsevier’s conflict of interest.
It’s one thing to create a throwaway journal that is clearly identified as such and kept at arm’s length from any academic journals published by the same company. It’s another thing to create a throwaway journal that is specifically designed to look like another of the many academic journals published by the same company. The arm’s length relationship between marketing and scientific publishing is key: without it, we scientists cannot trust the scientific publishing.
5 thoughts on “when a journal is not really a journal”
I think the bigger problem is public relations, the average person is already being told science is biased and corrupt. This doesn’t help.
Actually I wanted to also ask a favour, I’m currently having a discussion on my blog about the Gardasil vaccine and I was hoping when you had a free moment you might peruse my comments and ensure I’m not falling into any logic traps.
The two posts the discussion has spread out onto are here and here. (Hope those links work ok.)
Very much appreciated, keep up the good blogging work.
Alison Campbell says:
Yes, that PR problem is a big issue. And we’re not particularly good at pointing out that science is self-policing – it was scientists that lifted the lid on Merck’s pseudojournal, & it’s scientists who are now dealing with the dirty washing in public.
Happy to pop over to your place & join in – possibly not today, but some time soon!
Reminds my of the “Science has been wrong before” argument, yes and we know it was wrong thanks to science.
The other link should be:
Not that you asked me (!), but I might pop over later in the week. If I find time…