Energy

40 Scientific Journals Hire Fictional Scientist Named ‘Fraud’

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Dozens of scientific journals hired a fake scientist to editorial positions, and some even took cash payments in exchange for publishing scientific papers, according to an experiment conducted by researchers.

Forty of the the 48 journals examined by researchers offered an editorial position to the fake scientist whose last name actually translated from Polish to mean “Fraud.” Even after journals were told the fake scientist didn’t exist, her name continued to appear on the editorial board of 11 journals.

The researchers were attempting to measure the shoddy standards of many scientific journals, which they believe often engage in fraud by allowing academics to simply purchase publication.

“Many predatory journals hoping to cash in seem to aggressively and indiscriminately recruit academics to build legitimate-looking editorial boards,” Dr. Katarzyna Pisanski, a social scientist at the University of Wroclaw, said in Nature. “Although pranksters have successfully placed fictional characters on editorial boards, no one has examined the issue systematically. We did.”

Pisanski and other researchers created an application and cover letter for a fake scientist, complete with a resume full of phony degrees non-existent book chapters. Many of the journals Pisanski and his colleagues examined accept cash in return for publishing scientific research.

Scientists are under huge financial pressure to publish research as their career evaluations look at how frequently they get work published in a journal.

Scientists also have a huge incentive to tweak, or outright fake, statistical analyses to make results appear to significantly validate their political goals. A growing number of scientists have noticed the wave of retractions, especially among social scientists.

One study found that 34 percent of researchers self-report they have engaged in “questionable research practices,” including “dropping data points on a gut feeling” and “changing the design, methodology, and results of a study in response to pressures from a funding source.” Seventy-two percent of those surveyed knew of colleagues who had done so.

The National Science Foundation estimates such misconduct costs more than $110 million every year.

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