Pharyngula

Sasquatch is ill-served

Melba Ketchum issued a press release announcing that she had sequenced Sasquatch DNA. That was back in November.

It stalled out at that point. It turns out the paper couldn’t get past peer review, and no one was going to publish it. We’re all heartbroken, I know.

But now she has overcome all the obstacles, and it’s finally in print! You can read the abstract.

One hundred eleven samples of blood, tissue, hair, and other types of specimens were studied, characterized and hypothesized to be obtained from elusive hominins in North America commonly referred to as Sasquatch. DNA was extracted and purified from a subset of these samples that survived rigorous screening for wildlife species identification. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing, specific genetic loci sequencing, forensic short tandem repeat (STR) testing, whole genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) bead array analysis, and next generation whole genome sequencing were conducted on purported Sasquatch DNA samples gathered from various locations in North America. Additionally, histopathologic and electron microscopic examination were performed on a large tissue sample. vel non-human DNA.

Umm, yeah, I know, it kind of falls apart in the last sentence, but that’s what it says.

How did she get it published?

Well, she says she bought an existing journal and renamed it (the Journal of Cosmology was on the market, and I hoped most fervently that that was it…but no, JoC is still online). So she owns the journal. It’s now called De Novo.

Then she came out with a special edition. It’s Volume 1, Issue 1. It contains precisely one paper, hers.

You should be laughing by this point.

The online journal is a mess. The layout is funky-ugly, it’s difficult to figure out how to actually get to the paper, and when you navigate to it, it’s got a wretched little “Buy Now” button imbedded in a couple of intersecting blocks of color in a hideous table-like layout. It reminds be of the esthetics of JoC.

Anyway, it’s $30 to buy a paper so bad they had to build a custom journal around it to get it published. Not interested.

Comments

  1. #1 guest
    February 14, 2013

    I heard from one guy who was asked to review the paper. His response was “Is this a joke?”. That’s how far good peer review went.

  2. #2 crd2
    February 14, 2013

    This is laughable. What I find even more ridiculous is that some guys got funding to make a TV show in which they search for bigfoot. Maybe I can pitch some Hollywood exec.s to give me 10′s of thousands of dollars to do a show of me searching for unicorns. Both are equally ridiculous so I think I’ve got a pretty good shot. Maybe we can film it in a pawn shop on the bering sea while logging on an icy road from a truck. We could call it Bering Sea Unicorn Ice Road Pawn Gold Truck Logger Hunters.

  3. #3 RMK
    Ontario
    February 14, 2013

    HAHAHA, I would watch that! Just make sure every episode has you running in the forest at night tracking a little heat blob on the your heat synch machine and you being convinced it is a unicorn…

  4. #4 MarrsAttax
    February 14, 2013

    Since when did website look and feel become a test of scientific validity? By this logic everything posted on youtube is true because they have a good gui.

  5. #5 Wheellug
    Texas
    February 14, 2013

    If most views were similar to the first and the paper was never reviewed but only scoffed at and pushed aside. How can they call themselves a reviewer or scientist? Failed to even review the documentation? That’s a failure for science to view and question.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    February 14, 2013

    @MarrsAttax: Legitimate publishers generally hire professional web designers for their web pages. The publishers want people to be able to find papers published in their journals, so one of the specifications is that it has to be easy to find a particular paper.

    Whoever designed the De Novo Journal website was partying like it’s 1999. The abstract is in black text on a purple background, and it’s next to a garish graphic of what I presume is the cover of the issue in question. I’m no graphics expert, but I know enough to say this is a really bad idea. Personal web pages from the late 1990s often ended up looking like this. At least the designer refrained from using animated GIFs.

    @Wheellug: Note the following line in the abstract: “hypothesized to be obtained from … Sasquatch”. IOW, the authors themselves do not attempt to prove this is Sasquatch DNA. If I saw something like that in an abstract, I would wonder whether the authors had accidentally submitted a manuscript that was intended for the Annals of Improbable Research.

  7. #7 Neil J
    February 14, 2013

    @MarrsAttax

    I agree, the visual appeal of a journal’s website doesn’t necessarily correlate with that journal’s legitimacy. But the sheer slapdashery of this website leads me to believe that the journal was created for the sole purpose of publishing this dubious article, and that’s just bad science. If the process of peer review precludes your paper from being published, maybe you should rethink your hypothesis rather than scream “conspiracy” and shovel your research on to the internet.

    Also, I like this bit on the contact page:
    ©DeVono Scientific Publishing

    If you can’t get your own journal’s name right, obviously you haven’t put enough thought into the endeavour.

    @Wheellug

    I’m sure some of the reviewers read completely through the paper, if only for a laugh. To a reviewer, recognizing junk science can sometimes be as easy as reading an abstract, if the author misinterprets past studies, ignores well-established hypotheses or uses inappropriate data collection or analysis techniques. While I haven’t been asked to review any papers yet, some of my fellow Physics PhD students have had to reject some absolute stinkers even from the lowest impact journals, because it was abundantly clear the author was talking from their ass. It’s not like they ignored a new way of thinking because they’re too invested in the current science, they just didn’t have the time to deal with a clearly implausible, contradictory, confused and poorly-written paper.

  8. [...] The icons are mis-matched, the colour is horrid and the overall design is completely unprofessional. PZ Myers in is blog Pharyngula has it [...]

  9. #9 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 16, 2013

    Another fun fact: they ask for manuscript submissions, but there are no instructions to authors (just a list of publishing options) and no place to actually submit a manuscript. That’s not a scientific journal, it’s a cargo cult.

  10. [...] Moving on, the long-awaited “Bigfoot DNA” research was finally … published.  Well, sort of: [...]

  11. #11 Jeff Williams
    Australia
    February 19, 2013

    Well, the latest update is that Dr Bryan Sykes has made arrangements to visit Ketchum and talk to her about her work.

    By the way, you all do know that Sykes launched his own hominid/yeti project last year, yes?? Do you all think he’s moron too do you?

    https://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/content/916-wolfson-fellow-launches-project-examine-yeti-dna

  12. #12 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 21, 2013

    Whether he’s a moron is the wrong question. The question will be whether his results will stand up to scrutiny. There aren’t any results yet; wake me up when there are any.

  13. #13 Jeff Williams
    February 24, 2013

    “Peer review” is a good system – just so long as what the author presents doesn’t contravene currently accepted dogma.

    Then, it becomes subjected to scientific scruting, the likes of what I see in most of the posts above.

  14. #14 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 25, 2013

    – just so long as what the author presents doesn’t contravene currently accepted dogma.

    You don’t get it, do you? The only way to get tenure (let alone beyond) for a professional scientist is to show in every publication that someone, somewhere, has at some point in some way been wrong. The more people you prove wrong at once, the better; if you prove enough people wrong enough at once, you’re eligible for a Nobel Prize. It’s not a problem if you yourself are among the people you show to have been wrong; if anything, that’s an advantage.

    If your manuscript just repeats what everyone already thinks they know, very few journals would even send it out for peer review in the first place! Most would reject it the same day and tell you “submit something newsworthy next time”. The more prestigious a journal, the more submissions it gets – and the more it rejects.

    Peer review asks “do the conclusions follow from the data?” – the authors might have overlooked another logical possibility, or may be unaware of a recent publication that is relevant to the topic and finds different results, so the authors need to explain the discrepancy. That’s it.

    Editors aren’t somehow required to follow the reviewers’ recommendations either. If they get 3 reviews, 2 largely positive and 1 just angry, they’ll conclude that the angry reviewer has an ax to grind, so they’ll ignore that review and ask someone else for a fourth review.

    I’ll review a manuscript today.

  15. #15 Jeff Williams
    February 27, 2013

    I get it perfectly thanks! I spent 15 years in the peer review system. My issue is with the attitude of these so called professionals that conduct the peer review system.

    The creator of this thread claims to be a teacher of biology yet his attitude to this is child-like as you can see from the content of his post. If he is on the peer review panel then there will clearly be no peer review and the same goes for the person called Neil. He claims to be a physics PhD candidate yet his attitude is oh I’m sure someone looked at it – even if for just a laugh!. Well, if that is the attitude taken to new data, ie, reject it out of hand before you even look at it then I’m glad those two will not be involved in the peer review of Ketchum’s work.

    My comment regarding protecting accepted dogma stands!

  16. #16 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 27, 2013

    will not be involved in the peer review of Ketchum’s work

    What do you mean by “will not be”? It was already peer-reviewed – and then rejected by a journal. That’s why Ketchum et al. founded their own journal instead.

    The simplest explanation remains that the DNA is part human, part raccoon and/or opossum and/or whatever – “part” as in “contamination”.

  17. #17 Maria Teodósio
    Portugal
    February 27, 2013

    This looks like something a creationist would do (and they have done it). Is she a creationist? (If she’s not, she behaves like one)