Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Hello…Newman: Yet another sting pranks a predatory journal, Seinfeld-style

with 10 comments

John McCool

Starting to get bored of stings designed to expose the well-documented flaws in scientific publishing? Yeah, sometimes we are too. But another one just came across our desks, and we couldn’t help ourselves.

John McCool is neither a researcher nor a urologist. When received an unsolicited invitation to submit a paper to an open-access urology journal, however, he just couldn’t resist: He is the owner of a freelance scientific editing company, and has long been concerned about so-called predatory journals, which often publish sub-par papers as long as authors pay. And he loves the TV show “Seinfeld.”

Like many others before him, McCool decided to punk the journal by submitting a fake paper. He told us:

So, I decided to troll this journal–called the Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal–and see if they would agree to publish a Seinfeld-themed “case report” that I would write about a man who develops “uromycitisis” poisoning.

The disease was inspired by an episode of Seinfeld when Jerry had to pee urgently and went against the wall of a parking garage. When a security guard busted him, Jerry claimed he suffered from a condition called “uromycitisis,” and could die if he didn’t pee whenever he needed to. (Hint: It’s not a real disease.) McCool — who also has an opinion article out today about the experience in The Scientist — added:

I wrote [the paper] as “Dr. Martin van Nostrand,” Kramer’s physician alter ego, and coauthored by Jay Reimenschneider (Kramer’s friend who eats horse meat) and Leonard Nicodemo (another of Kramer’s friends, who once had gout)…

McCool — founder of Precision Scientific Editing — included fake references to papers written by “Costanza GL,” created a fake affiliation (of course, the Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute).

Amazingly, less than one hour after McCool submitted the paper, he received this message from the journal:

We are glad to inform you that, your manuscript is accepted for further Peer Review process and will let you know the article updates timely.

Three days after that, the reviews came back. Aside for some minor suggestions (shortening the abstract, editing the text, including the patient’s lab values when he arrived in the emergency room), the reviewers were happy to publish. After making those revisions, the journal formally accepted the paper — and asked for $799, plus tax. Although McCool never had any intention of paying that, the paper has been published.

Here’s the abstract of “Uromycitisis Poisoning Results in Lower Urinary Tract Infection and Acute Renal Failure: Case Report:”

Uromycitisis is a rare but serious condition that affects over 2,000 mostly adult men and women in the United States each year. Described simply, it is caused by prolonged failure to evacuate the contents of the bladder and can result in a serious infection of the lower urinary tract known as “uromycitisis poisoning,” which, if untreated, can cause acute renal failure and has an associated high mortality. Moreover, the psychological component of this condition cannot be discounted, as sufferers often feel shame due to their medical need to urinate whenever and wherever they feel the urge, lest they risk developing uromycitisis poisoning. There is, however, a strong societal bias against such acts that must be balanced against the health and well-being of people with this condition. In fact, some more progressive localities have become aware of and sensitive to this condition and have attempted to accommodate people with medically diagnosed uromycitisis by issuing public urination licenses or passes, which shield from legal prosecution under public sanitation laws people who, by absolute medical necessity, urinate in public. We report the case of a 37-year-old man who suffers from uromycitisis, was prevented from urinating in public, was admitted to the hospital with uromycitisis poisoning, was wrongly diagnosed, and was ultimately referred to our institution for treatment.

The journal is published by MedCrave, included on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s now-defunct list of possible predatory publishers. The publisher appears to take issue with that designation, according to this blog post titled “MedCrave is not predatory publisher.” (See more posts here.)

We contacted the journal to see if it had any response to McCool’s sting, and will update if anyone responds.

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Written by Alison McCook

April 6th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Comments
  • R. Grant Steen April 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Enough already! This point was made decades ago….

    This is not as clever as the original Sokal hoax. Given the fraudulent claims to authority and the “near-miss” nature of the fabricated illness, this should be retracted right away, before it gains a life of its own in the literature.

  • John Wick April 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I really feel the need to urinate on this journal now — cross referencing: Reimenschneider J, van Nostrand M, Costanza GL, et al.
    I can’t wait to see the Publisher’s response on this. Please, pretty please, do keep us posted. And all best wishes for your venture.

  • Gary Allan April 7, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I think that if one has the time and skill to carry out a hoax like this, it must be helpful, in exposing predatory journals and keeping the fact of their existence in the forefront. Good work.

  • J. Steinfeld April 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Wow, how ridiculous.

  • Larry David April 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Jerry:
    I’ve had this condition since I was eleven! I’ve been in and out of hospitals my whole life. I have no control over it. Doctors have told me that when I feel it, the best thing to do is just release it. Otherwise, I could die.

    Security Guard:
    Well you’re still not allowed.

    Jerry:
    Do you hear what I’m saying to you?! I’m telling you that if I don’t go, I could die. Die. Is it worth dying for?

    Security Guard:
    That’s up to you.

    Jerry:
    So you don’t care if I die.

    Security Guard:
    What I care about is the sanitary condition of the parking facility.

    Jerry:
    It was life and death.

    Security Guard:
    Uh huh.

    Jerry:
    Oh I’m lying. Why would I do it unless I was in mortal danger? I know it’s against the law.

    Security Guard:
    I don’t know.

    Jerry:
    Because I could get Uromysitisis poisoning and die. That’s why!…Do you think I enjoy living like this?…the shame, the humiliation…You know I have been issued a public urination pass by the city because of my condition. Unfortunately my little brother ran out of the house with it this morning. Him and his friends are probably peeing all over the place.

  • Allencic April 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Years ago I was chairman of a search committee for a new academic department head. One candidate who was a real jerk nearly got the job because of his extensive publication list. When I asked the assembled committee members what I though was an innocent question, “which of the papers did you find most interesting and impressive?” It turned out that not a single member (of 12) had read a single paper or even skimmed the abstracts. I blew up and raised holy hell. We didn’t, thank God, hire him.

  • BR April 19, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    It seems the pdf has been taken down from the site. The publisher must have realized they were trolled. Probably a lot more traffic than they were used to going to one article 🙂

  • John McCool April 21, 2017 at 6:06 am

    Here is the link to my original article on the “uromycitisis” trolling scam. It also has a downloadable copy of the full PDF case report, which has since been removed from the journal’s website:

    http://www.precisionscientificediting.com/-uromycitisis-.html

  • Mike April 27, 2017 at 12:17 am

    FYI
    Many of the restrooms on BART in SanFrancisco are closed because of fear of terrorists putting a bomb there. Not many old guys ride BART.
    Thanks San Francisco,
    I won’t be back.

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