Defending Science

by Dr Nick

The Fake Science Factory

Inside the Fake Science Factory

In hindsight, the Waset publishing organization (I’m not linking to it so as not to help their SEO – waset DOT org) should have refunded Chris (Suggy) Sumner’s money when he asked for it, but the rest of Science thanks them for not doing that. So launched a year-long deep dive into the underbelly of predatory publishing partnered with Svea Eckert (@sveckert) (who blew away any sense of privacy with the outstanding “Dark Data” presentation last year at DefCon25 – take a look at the presentation here) alongside Till Krause (@TillKrause)

Suggy’s trip to present his paper in October 2017 in Copenhagen proved to be a big disappointment with a room filled with a small cadre of presenters and no conference attendees to speak of. He teamed up with Svea and Till who set about a project to investigate this organization and others in the space of predatory publishing (something Jeffrey Beal has long campaigning against who was besieged by legal threats he could not fight as an individual – his list lives on here).

The Science Paper Sting

They Used the SCIgen auto paper generator to create a paper and submitted it for one of the conferences on the Waset site. The paper was accepted and they arrived ready to present the nonsense paper, word for word to a similar audience seen by Suggy. Their biggest challenge holding a straight face and not bursting out laughing as they read the paper. They received an award and certificate for “Best Presentation”

Science
Best Paper Award

They had another junk paper accepted promoting Bees as a cure to Cancer – one they tried to withdraw explaining it was junk and not wanting to add to the morass of fake claims but were told this would cost an additional fee to remove!

The Data

In a combined effort the team reviewed and downloaded the publicly available data from the websites of the offending publications and organizations they had identified a whopping list of 44,476 conferences!

Data Aggregated from Target Organizations

They created a database to analyze the results with total numbers of abstracts for each of the organizations (Omics and Waset – leading the way in papers both more than double the next nearest at 60,000+ abstracts). The grand total:

179,239 Abstracts and 400,000 authors

(As they pointed out this is 5% of the total of published papers but the trend in the last 10 years is troubling seeing a huge increase) and impacting our academic institutions as seen in their data

Elite Universities Publishing Stats
Top US Institutions Publishing Stats

 

The Impact

The harm from these publications extends far beyond the individual papers and authors financial loss for the cost of publishing and attendance. As they highlighted the “validation” these papers give to false claims have allowed snake oil predators to justify their claims as seen with GcMAF “treatment” for Cancer. These claims are amplified by media personalities – with a well-known media personality from Germany Miriam Pielhau (Dr Hope) who was featured in their short film you can watch with English subtitles here

She like many others reached for any last hope as she battled cancer leaving a legacy behind that promoted this remedy – which is set to go to trial in the UK this November which alleges it is being sold using fake studies. And manufacturers have been using these resources to justify marketing for their products (Philip Morris and their smokeless tobacco, Bayer promoting Aspirin and Vitamin C for example) and well beyond healthcare into other science domains and used by lobbying groups as justification for their positions. But this just scapes the surface and the group highlighted several other targets:

  • Autism
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Cancers
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • And there are many who combat the pseudo-science on a daily basis – some facing extreme assaults on their lives, families, and reputations – these people are my heroes.

What do we Do

We need to be part of the solution – identifying these organizations and calling out predatory publishers and conferences. The presenters have joined forces with other media organizations around the world who are also researching these groups and publishing – this recent piece in the Guardian – Predatory Publishers who Churn Out Fake Science

More than 175,000 scientific articles have been produced by five of the largest “predatory open-access publishers”, including India-based Omics publishing group and the Turkish World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, or Waset

And continue to seek partners and participants to help remove these groups and paper. This attacks the very foundation of our decisions and actions – especially true in medicine. Take a look at their work, reach out and follow up with them as you identify other potential organizations, conferences, and publishers and participate everywhere you can in addressing claims that are not substantiated by peer review articles backed up by real science

The full presentation – Updated (13Aug2018) Presentation – Inside the Fake Science Factory

My thanks to Suggy, Svea, and Till for an outstanding piece of work and presentation – all credit to them for everything above


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