Saturday, 31 December 2022

New Year's Eve Quiz 2022

Dodgy journals special

With so much happening in the world this year, it’s easy to miss some recent developments in the world of academic publishing.  Test your knowledge here, to see how alert you are to news from the dark underbelly of research communication.


1. Which of these is part of a paper mill1?



2. How many of these tortured phrases2 can you decode?


a) In context of chemistry experiment: “watery arrangements”

b) in context of pharmaceuticals: “medication conveyance”

c) in context of statistics: “irregular esteem”

d) in context of medicine: “bosom peril”

e) in context of optical sensors: “wellspring of blunder”



3. Which journal published a paper beginning with the sentence:

Persistent harassment is a major source of inefficiency and your growth will likely increase over the next several years.


and ending with:

The method outlined here can be used to easily illuminate clinical beginnings about confinement in appropriate treatment, sensitivity and the number of treatment sessions, and provides an incentive to investigate the brain regions of two mice and humans


a)    a) Proceedings of the National Academy of Science

b)    b) Acta Scientifica

c)    c) Neurosciences and Brain Imaging

d)    d) Serbian Journal of Management



4. What have these authors got in common?  


Georges Chastellain, Jean Bodel, Suzanne Lilar, Henri Michaux, and Pierre Mertens


a)    a) They are all eminent French literary figures

b)    b) They all had a cat called Fifi

c)     c) They are authors of papers in the Research Journal of Oncology, vol 6, issue 5

d)    d) They were born in November 


5. What kind of statistical test would be appropriate for these data? 

a) t-test

b) no-way analysis of variance

c) subterranean insect optimisation

d) flag to commotion ratio


6. Many eminent authors have published in one of these Prime Scholars journals:

i)               Polymer Sciences

ii)              Journal of Autacoids

iii)            Journal of HIV and Retrovirus

iv)            British Journal of Research


Can you match the author to the journal?

a)    Jane Austen

b)    Kurt Vonnegut

c)     Walt Whitman

d)    Herman Hesse

e)    Tennessee Williams

f)      Ayn Rand



7. Some poor authors have their names badly mangled by those who use their name while attempting to avoid plagiarism checks.  Can you reconstruct the correct versions of these two names (and affiliation for author 1)?





Final thoughts


While the absurdity of dodgy journals can make us laugh, there is, of course, a dark side to all of this that cannot be ignored. The huge demand for places to publish has not only led to obviously predatory publishers, who will publish anything for money, but also has infiltrated supposedly reputable publishers.  Papermills are seen as a growing problem, and all kinds of fraud abound, even among some of the upper echelons of academia. As I argued in my last blogpost, it’s far too easy to get away with academic misconduct, and the incentives on researchers to fake data and publications are growing all the time. My New Year’s wish is that funders, academic societies and universities start to grapple with this problem more urgently, so that there won’t be material for such a quiz in 2023.





1 COPE & STM. (2022). Paper mills: Research report from COPE & STM. Committee on Publication Ethics and STM.


2 Cabanac, G., Labbé, C., & Magazinov, A. (2021). Tortured phrases: A dubious writing style emerging in science. Evidence of critical issues affecting established journals (arXiv:2107.06751). arXiv.





1. B is a solicitation for an academic paper mill. A is a flour mill and C is a paper mill of the more regular kind. B was discussed here.


2. Who knows? Best guesses are:

a) aqueous solutions

b) drug delivery

c) random value

d) breast cancer

e) source of error


If you enjoy this sort of word game, you can help by typing "tortured phrases" into PubPeer and checking out the papers that have been detected by the Problematic Paper Screener.  


3. c) 


4. c) see 

If you answered (a) you are misled by the Poirot fallacy – all of them except Bodel are Belgian. 


5. Fortunately the paper has been retracted and so no answer is required. For further details see here

c) is a reference to tortured phrase version of “ant colony optimisation” (which is a real thing!) and d) is reference to “signal-to-noise” ratio.




Jane Austen  (ii) and (iv)

Kurt Vonnegut (ii) and (iii)

Walt Whitman (i) (ii) and (iv)

Herman Hesse (iv)

Tennessee Williams (ii)

Ayn Rand (iii)





This article is available here:  A genuine email has been added to the paper and is the clue to the person whose identity was used for this paper: Williams, GM with address at New York Medical College, Valhalla campus. Given the mangling of his name, I suspect he is no more aware of his involvement in the paper than Jane Austen or Kurt Vonnegut.

For 2nd e.g. see 

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