In this day and age of instant information, journalists, bloggers, researchers as well as the casual web surfer have at their disposal a plethora of information resources. For those who are interested in medical research and the latest in medical technologies, there are a multitude of prestigious medical journals offering the latest in advanced methodologies and treatments.
Except it turns out some of them aren’t that prestigious.
A Harvard medical researcher wanted to see how easy it would be to get an article published in one of the many medical journals available. He created a bogus article, titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The Surgical and Neoplastic Role of Cacao Extract in Breakfast Cereals”. The authors were listed as Pinkerton Lebrain and Orson G. Welles. The article abstract reads, “The purpose of this study is to examine the role that cacao extract plays in breakfast cereals. We examine cacao extract in breakfast cereals. Rigorous statistical analysis was performed. We find that cacao extract has a significant role in breakfast cereals.” He then used a text randomizer to create the article itself. A text randomizer creates properly formatted “stories” stringing together completely randomized and unrelated words, forming sentences and paragraphs of pure gibberish.
It is not dissimilar to the process I use in writing my blog, actually. I'm thinking of making that my tagline; “Forming sentences and paragraphs of pure gibberish since 2011”.
The researcher submitted his “article” to 37 journals. It was accepted for publication in 17 of them. All he needed to do to complete the process for those that accepted was to pay a processing fee, usually around $500. In researching further he even found one of these journals was run out of a strip club.
(You can read the Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs article here in its entirety. It is a brilliant piece of work)
The researchers concern was that, while medical professionals and really smart people know the difference between credible journals and those that are the product of slimy reprobates, dumbass bloggers and moron journalists don’t. For the average idiot researching a story on, say medical marijuana, it is difficult to tell the difference between the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology and the Global Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology (the former is cited in the source article as the credible journal). In that example it probably doesn't matter, as Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors are most likely not prescribing a ton of medical marijuana. They might be smoking it, but not sharing with their little patients.
I don’t know about you, but this changes everything for me. It certainly brings into question my recent nomination for a Pullet Surprise Award. The $400 process fee they requested of me probably should have been a clue. Also, I am beginning to think the No-Bell Prize I won last year might be a sham. I paid $1,000 for “Shipping & Handling” to get my trophy. Now I just feel silly.
What this means, for those in the workers' compensation industry who write about medical issues and new medical trends affecting our little universe, that they must be careful to verify not just the data in the background sources they use, but also the quality of the service presenting that information. It could be very easy for medical quackery and misinformation to be cited as credible concepts by those who are not experts in the field.
Frankly, that just sounds like real work, and who wants to do that? Personally I'll stick with Wikipedia. It sets the standard for reliable information.
So, there we have it. Medical content you read might be coming from an unseemly room in the back of a strip club somewhere. Bottom line; don't believe anything you read online.
As for me, I am thinking of returning my MacArthur Park Foundation Grant Certificate. I'm beginning to think that's not Donna Summer's signature at all…..