The state of science publishing: neuroscientist tricks journals into accepting fake paper


Senior Member
South East, England
This one is a bit more serious, as it highlights a specific flaw in a technique - but it still gave me a good laugh:

It’s about fMRI scanning on a dead fish, specifically a salmon. They put the salmon in an MRI scanner and “the salmon was shown a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations. The salmon was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing.”
I think it's important to note that they were targeting predatory journals.
These are the ones that will simply take almost anything, and often, researchers pay to publish in them.
Unfortunately, to be a good consumer of scientific research, you need to have an understanding of the (1) quality of the journal and (2) quality of the researchers on a paper.

These predatory journals are creating a lot of garbage in the scientific literature I think someone needs to come up with a list of all journals and rates them on some scale: 1- 7, etc. It wouldn't be perfect. Sometimes, someone publishes mediocre research in an ok journal. The journal doesn't catch all the flaws because while the research is somewhat peripherally related to the focus of the journal (and perhaps in an interesting, valid way), the journal's reviewers don't have the expertise needed to deeply assess the quality.​

Keep in mind that a single study is merely suggestive, even if published. If you keep this in mind, you won't be swayed strongly by any single study (including fake or dishonest ones that make it into the literature). You need a large body of literature, involving large-scale studies that are extremely well-done, using different methodologies, that provide converging evidence for certain conclusions. Unfortunately, this is expensive, and requires focus from agencies that can fund it. The smaller-scale studies can be suggestive and lead to funding being directed for larger studies, so well-done smaller studies, coming from respected researchers are important, but need to be interpreted cautiously. (ME/CFS researchers say this all the time in talks that you can view online..)

"To test just how low the quality bar is for exploitative predatory journals, a prominent neuroscientist has tricked four publications into accepting a totally fake paper about midi-chlorians – the entirely fictional life forms in Star Wars that make ‘the force’ possible."