"Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs?" Accepted By 17 Medical Journals
It is not a Saturday Night Live skit. It is not an article by the satirical website The Onion. It is not a trick or a mistake. An article titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals.” has been accepted by not one, not two, but 17 medical journals. The article was authored by Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. And still it was accepted.
Harvard medical researcher Mark Shrime is the actual “brain” behind the article. Because he is inundated on a daily basis with solicitations by medical journals of all sorts, which invite him to submit an article for publication in their journal (for a nominal fee of around $500), Shrime decided to test out the validity and credibility of these journals. So he made up a ridiculous article and submitted it to 37 different journals over the course of 2 weeks. So far, 17 of the journals have accepted the article and are willing to publish it if he pays the $500 fee per journal.
As reported by Fastcompany.com one of the major problems with this entire industry of medical publication is that while some of the journals might sound like credible outlets, they actually fall way short of any sort of reasonable quality standards:
Many of these publications sound legitimate. To someone who is not well-versed in a particular subfield of medicine—a journalist, for instance—it would be easy to mistake them for valid sources. “As scientists, we’re aware of the top-tier journals in our specific sub-field, but even we cannot always pinpoint if a journal in another field is real or not,” Shrime says. “For instance, the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is the very first journal I was ever published in and it’s legitimate. But the Global Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology is fake. Only someone in my field would know that.”
This is not only a disservice to the public, but it is an outright deception because it deliberately muddies the waters and makes it extremely difficult for a person to determine which journals are reputable and which ones are worthless. Not to mention that pseudoscientists, alternative medical proponents, and other unscrupulous individuals will point to articles published in worthless journals as evidence to support their ideas and positions.
We should be thankful there are people like Mark Shrime who bring attention to this problem in the vast ocean of medical journalism.