Hoax article published in predatory journal - “What’s the deal with birds?”

Updated: May 19



The culture of publishing articles without proper peer-review, and merely for the submission fee money has a long and glorious history; but so do sting operations by scientists submitting fake papers to expose predatory journals. The first ever hoax article was published in Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies in 1996. The article by Alan Sokal titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” proposed that quantum gravity was a social construct. After revealing that the paper was a hoax, post publication, he opined the editors of the journal published his article mainly because they liked its conclusion.


“The results of my little experiment demonstrate, at the very least, that some fashionable sectors of the American academic Left have been getting intellectually lazy…….. They apparently felt no need to analyze the quality of the evidence, the cogency of the arguments, or even the relevance of the arguments to the purported conclusion.”
- Alan Sokal, Revalation: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies (quoted in wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair)

The ‘Sokal affair’ brought editorial bias and the need for quality control in peer-review to the limelight. Between 2017 and 2019, 20 hoax papers were submitted by James A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose to some "grievance studies" journals. By the time the articles were discovered to be bogus, 4 of them had been published and 3 accepted for publication. The first article that was published, titled "The conceptual penis as a social construct", argued, among other things, that the penis was a social construct and an indirect cause of climate change.


A joke article by ornithologist Dan Baldassarre recently found its way into a predatory journal owned by Iris Publishers. The author chronicled the events which led to the publication of “What’s the deal with birds?” on twitter. The paper initially poses the question “Birds are very strange. What’s the deal with that?”” and concludes “the results were ambiguous”, although “Bayesian approaches may prove useful in the future”.


Read the paper here.



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