German journalists have trapped a scientific journal by publishing a fake cancer study. Their purpose, to demonstrate the ease with which one can pass false science for real.
The study was published in the journal Journal of Integrative Oncology. The results of the study asserted that “propolis extract was more effective on colorectal cancer than conventional chemotherapy”. Problem? The study in question was completely fictitious.
At the origin of this publication, journalists from two German media, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and the public radio NDR. Their goal: to prove that anyone, on condition of paying, could publish a study in a scientific journal. This initiative is part of a vast investigation called “Fake News” on unscrupulous publications.
The German journalists reported their results to the magazine. “The study was fictional, manufactured data and the authors, affiliated with an imaginary research institute, did not exist either,” report German media. Yet the publication was accepted in less than ten days and published on April 24th.
Anja Karliczek, the German research ministry, said she was in favor of opening an investigation to understand how such a publication could be successful. “It’s in the interest of science itself,” she told the German news agency DPA.
The magazine in question is published by an Indian publisher, Omics. But according to the media, “dozens of unscrupulous publishers have created hundreds of open-access journals with the name snoring, having all the finery of real scholarly journals.” Many scientific disciplines are concerned but no check is made on the quality of the work presented, the only criterion, the payment of a few hundred euros per article.