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‘Scientific’ Journals Caught in ‘Star Wars’ Sting Operation

Dr. Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin are now published scientists.

George Lucas with Steven Spielberg, who did uncredited work on <i>Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith</i>.
George Lucas with Steven Spielberg, who did uncredited work on Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. raymond twist/CC BY 2.0

Neuroskeptic is pseudonymous blogger for Discover who is a neuroscientist in the United Kingdom. He or she resists being named because it might harm the ability to speak freely about issues within the neuroscience community, and also to protect personal relationships with other scientists.

The secret identity also helps Neuroskeptic pull off stunts like the one the blogger announced early Saturday morning, in which, according to the blog, three “so-called scientific journals” were persuaded to publish a “Star Wars–themed spoof paper” written by “Dr. Lucas McGeorge” and “Dr. Annette Kin.”

Neuroskeptic was attempting to expose—successfully, in most of the cases—the lack of rigor among what are known as “predatory journals,” the hundreds, if not thousands, of open-access journals that exist online primarily to inflate academic resumes, charge for the “privilege” of being published, or some weird combination of both.

The blogger-scientist submitted a paper that was “an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes,” to nine such journals. Five either rejected the piece or asked for revisions, four accepted the paper. Three of them actually published it. Wrote Neuroskeptic:

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about five minutes—or two minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity … ”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper.

As Neuroskeptic points out, the only value of academic publishing is in peer review, which, if this list is even a little accurate, is missing from a lot more than nine official-sounding journals.

“Ironically,” Neuroskeptic wrote Saturday, “I’m not even a big Star Wars fan.”