Hey! My paper got accepted by the Jour--D'oh!
December 8, 2014 5:10 PM   Subscribe

ABSTRACT: The Ethernet must work. In this paper, we confirm the improvement of e-commerce. WEKAU, our new methodology for forward-error correction, is the solution to all of these challenges.

A scientific paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel was accepted by two scientific journals. Of course, none of these fictional characters actually wrote the paper, titled "Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations" [PDF], Rather, it's a nonsensical text, submitted by engineer Alex Smolyanitsky in an effort to expose a pair of scientific journals — the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the comic sans-loving Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology.
posted by Room 641-A (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Another bogus "peer reviewed" journal story.

Sure. Terrible situation, this. Publish or parish or something. Or is that for ecumenical studies? But is anyone surprised at this inevitable conclusion to pay to publish?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2014


I'm probably enjoying the title "Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations" more than I have any right to. Genius!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 5:20 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The Trouble with Tribbles: Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations" by J. T. Kirk
posted by tjenks at 5:22 PM on December 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


WEKAU does not run on a commodity operating system but instead requires an independently reprogrammed version of Microsoft Windows 1969 Version 7.1.0. all software was linked using GCC 8.2.1, Service Pack 9 built on M. U. Gupta’s toolkit for computationally improving active networks.
posted by standardasparagus at 5:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


"The Effect of Consuming Boys' Summer Apparel on the Digestive System" by B. Simpson
posted by pyramid termite at 5:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [15 favorites]


Please, let us not forget the third author whose name was unfortunately left out of the FPP. Kim Jong Fun.
posted by standardasparagus at 5:36 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Years ago when I was probably about 18 years old, my brother (16) and sister (14) and I were joking around on our family computer, and wrote a fake scientific paper about boogers. (What can I say, we were weirdos. Still are.) Never realized we should have actually submitted it somewhere.
posted by misskaz at 5:38 PM on December 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Such an oversight is understandable, however, given the vigorous debate on authorship and attribution between Simpson and Krabappel. "My only regret is that the second author isn't Ralph Wiggum."
posted by standardasparagus at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2014


Some day I'm going to write a fake news story and get it published on The Onion, in order to prove it's not a real news site. I don't really see the point of these exercises- no one with any understanding of their field pays any attention to these journals.
posted by simra at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


So what relationship is Edna to Molly?
posted by localroger at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is especially disappointing because nanoscience technology is the best kind of science technology.
posted by The Tensor at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2014


Eh, I've heard it's no big thing.
posted by ODiV at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


Some day I'm going to write a fake news story and get it published on The Onion, in order to prove it's not a real news site. I don't really see the point of these exercises- no one with any understanding of their field pays any attention to these journals.

Mostly I just think the paper itself was funny, but I do think it's helpful for laypeople like myself. (Especially here. I really try not to talk out of my ass, and I've learned that simply being able to cite a source isn't enough.) I don't the author was suggesting someone like yourself wouldn't know about this sort of thing.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2014


Part of the problem is that the fashion -- and it is a fashion, an entirely unnecessary affectation -- in peer-reviewed literature is to tart it up with a bunch of fifty cent words and other unnecessary jargon that make it incomprehensible even to people skilled in the art. And I think that's entirely to keep the riffraff out. If you're not a member of the club you can't understand its newsletter.

But it's become a real problem that even most members of the club have trouble understanding the newsletter, and pranks like this are the inevitable result. It really isn't necessary to write impenetrable jargonese to be precise. In the first college course I ever took, on the first day, my Technical Writing instructor said "You are not writing to impress your readers. You are writing to convey information that they need." The journal industry needs that pounded into their skulls with sledgehammers.
posted by localroger at 6:27 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


tart it up with a bunch of fifty cent words

♫ When I pull up out front, you see the Benz on dubs / When I roll 20 deep, it's 20 knives in the club ♫
posted by standardasparagus at 6:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a story about journal scams, not the allegedly low standards of academic publishing?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:36 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


simra wins the thread IMHO. I am a librarian. Third-rate nonsense journals like these are not indexed in databases except Google Scholar (so are rarely found), don't have Impact Factors or are counted in good citation tracing materials (so don't count towards tenure at reputable schools), and are barely peer-reviewed (even Ulrich's, a database of information about journals, doesn't list these 2 titles as peer-reviewed although the journal homepages state they are). OF COURSE it is easy to get it published here. But it doesn't follow that all journals are bullshit. That is why people have built lists of predatory publishers. I and hundreds of information professionals could have told you these journals sucked and were useless in about 30 minutes, without this guy going through the machinations of precisely formatting a whole Word file of nonsense and wasting everyone's time.

I just don't understand the point of these stunts. Yes, capitalism encourages people to try to go where the money is, and people who are under the gun to publish articles will turn to them. To describe another industry where similar moneygrab happened years ago, it's also easy to get a worthless degree from a for-profit college. But noone seems to be getting a BS in Information Security from ITT Tech simply to try to make the point that a BS in the same area from Harvard/UCLA/Michigan/etc. HAS to also be be bullshit fakery and worthless.

BTW, this link mentions Impact Factors as if they are absolute (NEJM has a 50! Nature only has a 30!). I would like to tell you ONE thing about IFs: They are calculated based on categories and can only be compared within a category. A journal in Natural Products category may have an IF of 10 and be #1 in its field. A journal in the Medicine might have an IF of 40 and be ranked #15 in its field. As the number of journals included in a category rises, the overall IF number rises (because of how it is calculated). A category with more journals (e.g. General Medicine, where this NEJM number comes from) will always have a higher absolute possible IF number than a category with fewer journals (e.g. General Science, which is where the Nature number comes from).
posted by holyrood at 6:39 PM on December 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but
Indeed. Hence "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List" and "Bohannon discovered that the journals that accepted his paper were disproportionately located in India and Nigeria." It is curious that on an article about not reading an article people are … not reading the article
posted by standardasparagus at 6:40 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rather, it's a nonsensical text

Perhaps its a nanosensical text. That is, the amount of sense it makes is so tiny that it is imperceptible to all but the most powerful of microscopes.
posted by drlith at 6:40 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Part of the problem is that the fashion -- and it is a fashion, an entirely unnecessary affectation -- in peer-reviewed literature is to tart it up with a bunch of fifty cent words and other unnecessary jargon that make it incomprehensible even to people skilled in the art.

In my field, jargon is necessary in order to be precise. Jargon is for concepts that you can't simply refer to using "plain language" -- because "plain language" is ambiguous. What it means in common usage might not be precisely what you mean! In my experience, papers can err by using too much jargon or too little.

When I use obscure jargon, it is definitely not to keep the riffraff out, and that's a very uncharitable reading. It's obscure because I'm writing about a specialist subject that requires conceptual background to understand.

To give you an example, yesterday I was reading a paper in mathematics, a subject in which I have some background knowledge but no real expertise. I highlighted every term in the introductory paragraph that I didn't understand, and then looked up the definitions. None of these jargon terms were unnecessary; the problem wasn't that the paper used jargon, it was that I didn't know the concepts. I would not complain that the authors of this paper were trying to "keep me out" by using important concepts in their field!

But it's become a real problem that even most members of the club have trouble understanding the newsletter, and pranks like this are the inevitable result.

The real problem isn't jargon, but specialization, and I am not sure what the solution to that would be. In any case, you have misunderstood the situation. This is not a case of specialist reviewers for a reputable journal being snowed by a bunch of unfamiliar jargon. These journals are scams, preying on academics who are desperate to publish. They would likely publish anything, including the Chicken Chicken paper or "Get Me Off Of Your Fucking Mailing List" (both seen previously).
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:02 PM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


no one with any understanding of their field pays any attention to these journals.

I also thought this, until the day my advisor 100% earnestly forwarded me a CFP from one of the more notorious predatory publishers (not realizing that's what it was) because the topic looked relevant to my PhD work. That was an awkward suggestion to respond to.
posted by dorque at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


imperceptible to all but the most powerful of microscopes.

You almost certainly need an Election Microscope in order to expose the process by which these worthless papers are voted as worthy by the peers.
posted by localroger at 7:04 PM on December 8, 2014


You almost certainly need an Election Microscope in order to expose the process by which these worthless papers are voted as worthy by the peers.

Again, that is not what is happening here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:04 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


As the number of journals included in a category rises, the overall IF number rises (because of how it is calculated). A category with more journals (e.g. General Medicine, where this NEJM number comes from) will always have a higher absolute possible IF number than a category with fewer journals (e.g. General Science, which is where the Nature number comes from).

I agree that different disciplines are hard to compare because they cite differently, but impact factor is just citations per article in the past two years, yes?
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 7:04 PM on December 8, 2014


yesterday I was reading a paper in mathematics

I will admit mathematics is kind of an exception. Physics is kind of in a middle ground, and medical UGH. Think of the way the sentence "We picked forty people with pre-diabetic tendencies and screened them for the genetic factors we're interested in" would appear in any journal. That's not a sentence that needs to be tarted up; it is just as precise as it needs to be, but nobody would write it like that in a journal because it's too plainspoken.
posted by localroger at 7:07 PM on December 8, 2014


You almost certainly need an Election Microscope in order to expose the process by which these worthless papers are voted as worthy by the peers.

Again, that is not what is happening here.


E L E C T I O N
E L E C T R O N

Actually, this is exactly why journals should be written in plain English when possible. You are not writing to impress your readers, you are writing to convey information. Convey it precisely, yes, but also intelligibly.
posted by localroger at 7:10 PM on December 8, 2014


Seems like a perfectly cromulent article to me.
posted by 445supermag at 7:15 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh hey, I just had a paper rejected by a fourth journal today!

*flings self out window*
posted by no regrets, coyote at 7:19 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


localroger, do you now understand that these papers were submitted to predatory journals, that there were no experts reviewing them, and that these journals accept anything -- no obfuscatory jargon required? I can't tell from your latest comments; a clear yes or no would help.

Your comments in this thread try to fit this incident into a narrative about how jargon is harming academic writing, but it's just not what is going on here. I don't understand what you mean by pointing out how you spelled "election" -- my point is that these papers were never voted on as being worthy by any peers.

Think of the way the sentence "We picked forty people with pre-diabetic tendencies and screened them for the genetic factors we're interested in" would appear in any journal.

It's true that I wouldn't expect "we screened them for the genetic factors we're interested in" to appear in a journal, because it's much less informative and precise than a sentence that specifies the genetic factors being investigated. That would probably require some jargon unfamiliar to people without background in the relevant field. (And what about sampling procedure?)

After that change, I can easily imagine a sentence like that in a medical journal.

Convey it precisely, yes, but also intelligibly.

Jargon is often necessary for both of these. It serves a useful purpose. It may narrow the audience but this is a side-effect, not the goal.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's obviously fake because Edna Krabappel is dead.
posted by BentFranklin at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


You are not writing to impress your readers, you are writing to convey information.

FFS do you really think academics working in the social sciences or the sciences are trying to impress readers with language?

Seriously, go read an article in the American Political Science Review and tell me its full of inscrutable jargon.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


localroger: I don't think this paper, which got published by some of the same sort of predatory publishers as the FPP, needs much in the way of linguistic simplification. Can we agree on that?
posted by scalefree at 7:51 PM on December 8, 2014


Kutsuwamush you missed a very obvious joke because jargon makes such things invisible.

PainForest I don't know about the social sciences, but I was taught this by an academic in 1981. And yes, I think he was right to teach me that, and it's an ongoing problem.

scalefree LOL. Yeah that reveals a much different problem.
posted by localroger at 7:55 PM on December 8, 2014


but I was taught this by an academic in 1981.

Is this a joke? You're going to dismiss everyones actual experience here with something you learned 30 years ago?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:00 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Painforest I am not in academia but I follow it and I have seen a steady stream of articles and outside channel complaints about this. Call it a derail if you want and we'll drop it because it's not what the OP is about. But yes, it is a problem and a big one in some disciplines. But hey I'm just some guy on the internet so whatever.
posted by localroger at 8:04 PM on December 8, 2014


scalefree: "localroger: I don't think this paper, which got published by some of the same sort of predatory publishers as the FPP, needs much in the way of linguistic simplification. Can we agree on that?"

AFAIK, the chicken paper was published in the Annals of Improbable Research, whos byline is "the magazine about research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK." Same folks behind the Ig Nobels. As such, I don't consider them to be part of the same category of predatory publishers.
posted by pwnguin at 8:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kutsuwamush you missed a very obvious joke because jargon makes such things invisible.

What? This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Your comment had no jargon. There was no jargon to make anything invisible. And I didn't miss the joke; I responded because you were still commenting as though this was a case of reviewers approving unworthy papers.

You still have not answered my question about that, by the way. I can only assume that means your answer is no.

but I was taught this by an academic in 1981.

Uh, there are multiple academics in 2014 in this thread. I'm not sure you realize how ridiculous this sounds...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:23 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


That jargon is keeping me out of the chicken club. :(
posted by mazola at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2014


You can be part of the chicken club just as soon as I repair my slicer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:36 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now if only one could publish this thread
posted by standardasparagus at 8:46 PM on December 8, 2014


The last three paragraphs of TFA are the argument for why it matters, if anyone's interested.
posted by No-sword at 8:49 PM on December 8, 2014


So... my father, a real-life rocket scientist, was in editorial at the Journal Of Irreproducible Results. He taught me peer-review and science (and science-y) writing skills, which I have to admit became my main paid career. My invisible backpack was stuffed with blue and red pencils, who knew?

But those lessons also let me pass several quite difficult classes, writing utter nonsense papers on analytic philosophy, and the works of particular 20th century philosophers. The power of my gibberish and extensive (real) references were enough to enable my honors project (software that compiled and cross-checked for results, fortunately); get me quoted by mentors in their own papers and elsewhere with good IF#s; and launch my PhD attempt (at an Ivy!). So at least some backwaters of philosophy/theory of mathematics in the 1980s could be flim-flammed with jargon, because I strongly doubt I'm so smart I wrote sense when I intended BS.
posted by Dreidl at 9:21 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


As such, I don't consider them to be part of the same category of predatory publishers.

Definitely. That said, the "get me off your fucking mailing list" paper (PDF) is a close kindred spirit to the chicken paper and that one was actually published by a predatory publisher.

I have to disagree with earlier commenters and the article itself, though, that this trend really has much to do with the idea of open-access (OA) or paying for publication. Legitimate OA journals do typically ask authors to cover costs, since they're not making money off selling access to libraries and/or advertising; even non-OA journals, though, often have page and color-figure fees (and at many OA journals fees can also be waived if you really can't cover them). The real issue is the existence of scammy vanity presses, which are basically as old as publishing itself. And it's worth noting that traditional, closed-access journals also publish complete nonsense.

One of the links in the Vox article (it was broken but I think I found it) actually gives the advice to just "stick with the established publishers such as Science, Nature, and Cell, even though their costs are high." That is totally paranoid at best, and at worst, a drive-by character assassination on reputable OA journals like eLife or Genome Biology. (The earlier part of the article even endorses the PLoS journals - which makes this advice even less understandable.)

I also have to co-sign holyrood's take on the Impact Factor. IFs in medicine are just not comparable to IFs in say, geology, because the total number of citations scales with the size of the literature. Also, to its credit, the Vox article does mention that the use of IFs as a ranking tool for journals and/or articles is controversial, but it doesn't go into much detail about why; Jonathan Eisen has a list of articles discussing the IF here.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


at least some backwaters of philosophy/theory of mathematics in the 1980s could be flim-flammed with jargon

It's not exactly rocket science.
posted by flabdablet at 12:13 AM on December 9, 2014


♫ When I pull up out front, you see the Benz on dubs / When I roll 20 deep, it's 20 knives in the club ♫


As an academic, I actually include the above in each paper I publish. Often, I will work to get it into the abstract, for maximum views. Clearly, you've read my work!
posted by still bill at 4:01 AM on December 9, 2014


To be fair, though, the Ethernet must work.
posted by gene_machine at 5:21 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Someone above suggested that physics was a field in which jargon is justified. I'm a physicist and I work very hard in my writing to minimize the use of jargon whenever possible, and appreciate it when my colleagues do the same.

In some cases it's a choice between using a jargony term or writing out a page long explanation of a concept everyone in the field already understands. I will go ahead and say "shot-noise limited" without explaining what "shot noise" is, most of the time. But when it's a choice between a jargony term and a sentence of explanation, I'll go for the extra sentence. Rather than "bifilar coil" I'll say "pairs of wires were twisted together, with the currents in each flowing opposite directions, so that the magnetic fields cancel."

Jargon is shorthand. Sometimes you have no choice but to use it because of page limits (which is pretty ridiculous in this age of electronic journal publishing.) Sometimes it increases readability by saving the reader a long tangent on a subject they already understand, which would distract from the point the paper is trying to make. I don't think it's pretentiousness, for the most part. But often it's just laziness, a shortcut for writers who don't like writing longer explanations. Really good writers can find ways to explain their meaning briefly but clearly with a minimum of jargon.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:35 AM on December 9, 2014


I work in scientific publishing, and there is bleedthrough from these garbage journals even here. A lot of international writers seem to use them (because their universities don't always know the difference between a real journal and a pay journal), but the result is that when some of these authors then submit to an actual peer reviewed journal, they don't understand that rejection is a possibility. One author responded to our decision not to publish with the promise that he was willing to pay.

Uh, no.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:02 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fuzzy Homogeneous Combinations: When I first listened to this, I thought, "Oh great, another Animal Collective side project!" but gradually I found that it's fusion of dubstep, Krautrock, and 1960's psych era Brian Wilson to be undeniably intriguing.

Grade: 7.3
posted by jonp72 at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2014


Engineer here, so not quite academia, but still relevant, I believe.

I do a lot of reviewing of papers for journals and conferences (just finished a marathon 31 papers!) and I have to agree with the need for jargon in some instances. The use of language that is specific to a technical topic does not automatically necessitate a mishmash of prose that cannot be understood by a reasonably technical reader. Jargon is a shortcut, as OnceUponATime has said, but it can be used in a manner which moves the paper forward or a manner which obfuscates. It is pretty easy to figure out which method is being employed when reading a paper. I have no problem looking up terms when I am not familiar enough with the topic to know all the shorthand, but I can tell when I'm reviewing a bunch of chicken chicken.

That being said, I didn't realize predatory publishers were indexed in Google Scholar. Thanks for the warning.
posted by blurker at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Google Scholar doesn't index anything like normal databases. Most databases (your PubMeds, your Web of Sciences, your PsycINFOs) select specific journals, conference proceedings, book series, and dissertations abstracts to include, and have some type of verification process to only include higher-quality materials. Google Scholar spiders the web for journal articles on scholarly sites and has no quality filters. Every time you find an article on Google Scholar, you should investigate the journal to learn more about it. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between a good journal and a bad journal by looking at their websites' author instructions (for NEJM and JCI). Note how one discusses the ethical aims of authorship and describes how the paper will be reviewed, and mentions that your paper may not be accepted; the second discusses manuscript processing fees and never mentions the possibility of a rejection.

Herr Zabruka, yes IFs are calculated the same for all categories, but no, I don't think their entire system is set up to appropriately make that claim. The IF is calculated by looking at the number of citations within a certain timeframe. However, there are discipline-specific conventions, publishing conventions, and Thomson-Reuter's choices (the company that makes IFs) that affect IFs and make them not comparable.

For discipline-specific conventions: papers in medicine usually have 40-60 references. Papers in mathematics usually have 20-30 references. It's just because research in these areas is different. So this affects the raw numbers: if in 2013, 100 papers are published in both medicine and math, there are 6000 citations in the papers in the medicine category and only 3000 in math. In a 10,000 foot view of the IF formula, each of those cites "counts" equally as 1/9000 of a point; but medicine journals have the chance to have 6000/9000 points and math journals only have a possible 3000/9000.

The frequency of journal publishing is also a factor here-- journals that publish 4 or 12 issues a year have less impact than journals that publish 52 times a year, and medicine and general science have several journals where weekly publishing happens (Science, Nature, NEJM, JAMA). This pushes up the total number of "available" citations in articles and the number of articles available from that journal to cite.

For choices: The citation counts used to calculate IF only include the other journals being tracked for IFs. This is a limited number (in the thousands; there are 100,000+ academic journals currently published) and there is not equal representation across disciplines; they also do not always include each journal that members of the field consider high-quality, reliable, and reputable. So, they might include 120 medical journals, but only 30 math journals; and these may be middling math journals. There are 100 other math journals that are not tracked. You publish in Journal A. I cite your work in my paper and publish it in Journal B. Journal B is not tracked, so Journal A doesn't get "credit" for having a citation.
posted by holyrood at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


« Older One flushes and bucks   |   "The contrast between the treatment of produce and... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments