Pharyngula

The DI has long had this goal of getting their work published in mainstream science journals; unfortunately, they don’t want to bother with that unpleasant business of trying to do real research. Give Up Blog has examples of their prodigious output: 5 abstracts that have been published in science journals. That’s it.

They’ve managed this feat by exploiting a loophole. Here’s how to get published in a major journal: 1) Write an abstract about just about anything. 2) Send the abstract and your registration fee to a conference organized by the scientific society behind the journal. 3) Watch your abstract get accepted and published in an issue of the journal that lists presentations at the meeting.

That’s it. There’s no peer review involved, except that, ideally, people at the meeting will come by your poster or talk and critique it. Everything is open and not monitored for quality at all, which is exactly how the crap the DI does can get in.

I’m going to disagree with Give Up a bit here: I think this is a good thing, and I don’t want the journals to tighten up the standards. Meetings like that are very helpful, especially for students, because you can show preliminary results (stuff that would be very difficult to publish) and get immediate feedback from your peers, criticisms of what’s wrong in your work, and suggestions about new approaches to take. This is incredibly useful.

The real test is whether a presenter pays attention and uses that feedback to improve and polish the work to make it suitable for formal publication. The work by Nelson and Wells that I’ve seen at these meetings is terrible, so bad that most of the people attending might gawk incredulously at it, but don’t bother to make suggestions, or as I did with Nelson at the DB meetings, might just stop to tell the author that he is completely wrong.

Rather than changing the culture of these meetings, I think we just have to inform the public that the publications in a meeting list are meaningless and do not represent any kind of legitimization of their work…and that actually, their work gets razzed at these events.