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Journal Publishes Seinfeld-themed Fake Article

If you do a Google search for "uromycitisis," the results make it clear that this "disease" only happens on TV, specifically on the sitcom Seinfeld. Soon, those search results will include a scientific paper written by John McCool. McCool is not a medical doctor. He owns a freelance scientific editing company, and is very concerned about "predatory scientific journals," the kind that will publish your paper if you pay them. Since published papers are the real currency of one's reputation as a scientist, these journals are flourishing. So McCool wrote a paper about uromycitisis for The Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal.

This was inspired by the classic 1991 episode, “The Parking Garage,” in which Jerry Seinfeld can’t find his car in a mall lot, has to urinate, does so against a garage wall, is caught by a security guard, and tries to get out of a citation by claiming that he suffers from a condition called uromycitisis. Seinfeld argued that, due to his illness, he could die if he doesn’t relieve himself whenever he needs to.

I went all out. I wrote my report as “Dr. Martin van Nostrand,” the physician-alter ego of another Seinfeld character, and listed more show-inspired names as bogus coauthors. I made an email account for “Dr. van Nostrand” and created a fake institution where the authors worked: the Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute. In the acknowledgements section of my report, I thanked phony physicians including Tor Eckman, the bizarre holistic healer from “The Heart Attack,” giving him a “Doctor of Holistic Medicine (HMD)” degree. Basically, I wrote the manuscript in a style as close to a real case report as I could, except that it was 100 percent fake.

The journal accepted his article, then asked for $799. McCool didn't pay, but they published the article, which you can read here. Get more details about predatory journals at Retraction Watch. -via Metafilter


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I think that's common in the physical sciences - in my field of biochemistry, the norm was actually to pay for publication (the two journals that I got published in, Nature and Cell, require payments). Even open-access ones like PLoS charges publication fee (albeit only a fraction of the other journals). This is about ten years ago, so I don't know if it's still true.
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I (or the projects I work for) haven't paid a cent for any of the papers I've published. The only way you can be charged money, at least for the journals I've worked with, is if you go over the page limit (and the editor doesn't reject the paper for length), you insist on color figures being printed in color instead of being color online only, or you pay for open access (which is unnecessary usually for fields that can use Arxiv).
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When I published my papers for my graduate degree ages ago, I was surprised when my professor showed me the bill. The journal (a reputable one) charged him thousands of dollars, which the university duly paid. It was standard practice and he didn't bat an eye.
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