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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