‘Dr. Fraud’ gets a lot of job offers, and songs to save a life to

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This week a medical sting operation unmasks predatory scientific journals and the problem of scientific bias is put under the microscope.

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‘Dr. Fraud’ gets a lot of job offers

“It’s our pleasure to add your name as our editor in chief for this journal with no responsibilities.”

That was just one of the wild responses a researcher received after applying to be an editor with several academic journals. Wild, because the researcher wasn’t a real person. Her name was Anna O. Szust and she was invented by a group of academics from Poland — oszust meaning “a fraud,” in Polish.

The academics were tired of being approached by so-called predatory journals, known for publishing nearly anything for a fee. So they designed a sting operation, detailed in this week’s Nature, to find out how many would accept a fictional researcher as an editor, even with a subpar CV.

“The fact that she had absolutely no editorial experience and hadn’t even written a research paper just made her essentially the worst candidate that you can imagine as an editor,” Kasia Pisanski, one of the academics behind the experiment, told us.

They sent the fake CV to 360 publications, a mix of legitimate titles as well as 120 suspected predatory journals.

The responses began coming back within hours. And in the end, the fictional academic had been accepted as editor by 48 titles, 40 from suspected predatory journals. Many of them wanted Szust to help them make money by recruiting others to pay for submissions, or to even just directly pay them a fee.

The authors said they hoped the findings will prevent unwitting academics from falling victim to these journals, and lead to greater scrutiny of publications during consideration of promotions and tenure.

“The idea is to get people talking about it. It really is a call to action,” Pisanski told us.

You can listen to our full interview with Pisanski about predatory journals and the sting operation here:

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‘Dr. Fraud’ gets a lot of job offers, and songs to save a life to

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