Boy’s paper on ‘really cool’ bats accepted by journal

‘Unexpected’ twist occurred after a seven-year-old’s manuscript on bats was accepted by a pay-to-publish journal

October 13, 2016
Three bats hanging upside down
Source: istock
Upside-down world: the boy’s accepted paper said ‘bats are really cool’

A seven-year-old’s thoughts on why “bats are really cool animals” were accepted for publication by an academic journal as part of an investigation into predatory publishers.

In the latest exposé of pay-to-publish journals, a 153-word manuscript written by Tristan Martin on the living habits of bats was provisionally accepted for publication by the International Journal of Comprehensive Research in Biological Sciences, which enclosed an invoice for $60 (£46).

Containing a series of basic facts about bats, such as they are the “only mammals that can fly” and “they sleep by day and fly by night”, the paper concludes that bats are “truly amazing”.

After the paper was reformatted by Tristan’s father, Alexandre Martin, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering, it was then accepted by IJCRBS, one of nearly 1,000 titles listed as a “potential, possible or probable” predatory journal by experts at the University of Colorado.

Dr Martin’s study, titled “A not-so-harmless experiment in predatory open-access publishing”, was published in the journal Learned Publishing in September.

It was inspired by an experiment by the Australian computer scientist Peter Vamplew, who managed in 2014 to get a paper consisting solely of the words “Get me off your fucking mailing list” accepted for publication by a bogus journal.

Dr Vamplew never paid the $150 fee requested by the journal, but Dr Martin hoped to go one step further and pay the fee to see if the journal would actually publish the material.

He eventually decided not to proceed with publication, but the situation took an unexpected turn when the final proofs of the paper were sent to him, along with a repeated request to pay the $60 fee.

“The text of the manuscript had been completely – and unexpectedly – changed, and only the title, the author, and the figures were kept as originally submitted,” explains Dr Martin.

An online search revealed that the new version of the full-length manuscript had been plagiarised verbatim from two published papers, which led Dr Martin to retract the article.

He was then informed that his original version could be published and that the changes were “only a suggestion put forth by the editorial review committee”.

Dr Martin says that he then ended the experiment and stopped communicating with the journal, which has since ceased operations.

He believes that the editor recognised the poor quality of the manuscript but, “motivated by the desire to publish an article for his newly founded journal, or perhaps to simply collect the publication fee, he chose to replace the content to make the article look serious”.

Such an approach, however, risked bringing scholars into more disrepute than merely having their work appear in unsound journals, he says.

While “probably not widespread”, the insertion of plagiarised material is “one more reason to expose them and discourage researchers to publish” in predatory journals, he concludes.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study