Coconut headphones in science publishing


After WWII, Pacific islands occupied by the US military were regularly receiving goods via air. Once the military evacuated , the goods stopped arriving. Some inhabitants of those islands mistakenly thought that receiving the cargo was due to some divine intervention that required rituals they saw American servicemen performing. This eventually led them to performing activities like making their own airfields, waving in non-existent planes while wearing coconut headphones, etc, all in the hopes that material would magically come from the sky. These attempts were called cargo cults. Since then, “cargo cult” has been used metaphorically to describe an attempt to recreate successful outcomes by replicating conditions associated with those outcomes, even though those conditions are either effects and not causes of those outcomes.[Wikipedia]

Science culture is not void of its own cargo-cult, despite the fact that science is supposed to be the ultimate cargo-cult dispeller.  I have written before about solicitations for author-pays publications whose quality, shall we say, is less than assured. Actually, it seems like some of these publications will print anything as long as you pay them.  Here is what my inbox brought in today, all bold-faced typing is mine:


____ is a peer-reviewed journal that includes an international board of accomplished editors and researchers in their fields. There will be submissions on subjects such as cheminformatics, computational drug discovery, experimental medicine and analysis tools, personalized medicines, cancer informatics, hematology, diagnostic imaging, medical imaging and methods and gene therapy, among other latest breathtaking topics.

Indeed, breathtaking. This journal seems to have a strong focus on, um, whatever. But what really takes your breath away is that you really have to work hard to  qualify for publication. Specifically, self-plagiarism is rigorously weeded out:

If you (sic) paper has been published in any other platform, a new version of your paper for ___ (Vol 1 No 1) must reflect at least 25% difference in content from the one published in any conference proceeding or any other journal.

So I have to justify a “25% difference” between my submission to this journal and my previous manuscript? Do I change every fourth word from a previously published paper? And how do I measure this “25% difference”? Use the cosine measure for similarity of text?  Extended Jaccard similarity? Something else?

Each published paper in the ___ is subject to a publication fee of USD 300 for a maximum of 6 pages. A complimentary copy (print version) of the ___ (Vol 1 No 1) issue that carries your reviewed paper will be mailed to your mailing address.

I guess we all saw that coming.


These actually work. Click for description


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2 Responses to “Coconut headphones in science publishing”

  1. According to
    that picture is of real, functional headphones made as an art object by Iwan Roberts. If you are going to use images off the web, you should at least know what they really are.

    Perhaps the journal is a real one also (though I’m dubious of the huge flood of author-pays journals also).

  2. Iddo says:

    Thanks for the comment, Kevin, I linked the picture to the source now. As for the journal, it is very real, but given the solicitation email I received I have serious doubts regarding its quality.