As if we haven’t got enough fake news around on social media, now comes word that some of Canada’s most prominent medical journals may also be publishing nonsense.
The new owner of two of Canada’s most prominent medical journal publishers has been caught in the act of publishing fake science.
As an experiment, Ottawa Citizen reporter Tom Spears submitted “an unintelligible and heavily plagiarized piece of writing” to the Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics, run by OMICS International.
A screencap of Ottawa Citizen reporter Tom Spears' fake science article at OMICS' Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics. Even Spears' fabrication of a fake university didn't stop the publication from running it.
Spears’ gibberish research report is now live at the journal’s website.
“And it’s awful,” Spears said in a column Wednesday. “OMICS claims this paper passed peer review, and presents useful insights in philosophy, when clearly it is entirely fake.”
This journal is not one of the Canadian ones under the OMICS umbrella, but is now part of the same organization.
A joint investigation by CTV News and The Toronto Star this fall uncovered that two of Canada’s largest medical science publishers — Andrew John Publishing and Pulsus Group — had been bought by OMICS, an India-based company with a reputation for publishing junk science.
News of the purchase sent “shock waves” through Canada’s medical research community, and put a dozen Canadian publications at risk of being delisted from PubMed, an authoritative database of medical research, The Toronto Star reported.
U.S. sues OMICS
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against OMICS in August of this year. It alleged that, since 2009, OMICS has run publications “styled as academic journals” that claim to be serious, peer-reviewed journals, but actually publish un-reviewed articles solicited for cash.
The suit also alleges that OMICS gets attendees to its conferences by pretending that prominent researchers will be there.
The Federal Trade Commission building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: AP/Alex Brandon)
“Consumers spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on registration fees and travel costs to attend these scientific conferences,” the FTC said in its complaint.
This dubious business model has brought OMICS considerable success, at least according to OMICS itself. The company says it has expanded from a roster of 10 journals in 2009 to more than 700 today.
Suzanne Kettley, director of the indie publisher Canadian Science Publishing, likened the situation to the social media fake news controversy that has been brewing since Donald Trump’s upset electoral victory.
“It’s a bloody mess,” the Citizen quoted her as saying.
“Predatory publishers are appropriating journal names and editorial boards from reputable publishers, they are purchasing publishing houses, which leaves unsuspecting medical societies to then find legitimate publishing partners, and they continue to publish fake science authored by fake researchers that has undergone absolutely no review.”
This is a problem “for absolutely everyone involved in scholarly publishing,” she said.
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