More Confusing Science of the Embassy “Sonic Attack”

By Neuroskeptic | November 3, 2018 1:26 pm

Earlier this year, I posted on how Sergio Della Salla, the editor of Cortex, criticized a headline-grabbing JAMA paper that had reported neuropsychological abnormalities in US embassy staff exposed to the mysterious Havana ‘sonic attack’. According to Della Salla, the evidence presented didn’t suggest enduring cognitive deficits in the victims.

dreams

Now, Della Salla is back (along with co-authors) for round two with a new paper, called Cognitive symptoms in US government personnel in Cuba: The mending is worse than the hole. He argues that a new clarification of the JAMA paper’s methodology makes even less sense than the original.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, placebo, select, Top Posts

The Case of the Magic Wine

By Neuroskeptic | October 20, 2018 11:58 am

I just came across a strange but quite charming scientific study claiming that human thought alone can make wine taste better.

winemagic

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts, woo

RIP OAPL: An Academic Publisher Vanishes (UPDATED)

By Neuroskeptic | October 15, 2018 2:08 pm

A dubious predatory academic publisher called Open Access Publishing London (OAPL) seems to have died. Their website has gone down, taking some 1,500 scientific papers with it. What can we learn from this? (UPDATED: The site is now back online, and no longer gives a ‘domain expired’ notice. It was down for about two weeks by my count.)

rip_oapl

Long-time readers will remember my series of posts on OAPL back from when I first investigated it in 2013. As far as I can tell, it was a one-man operation. The man turned out to be a Dr. Waseem Jerjes. Jerjes is a dental surgeon with many legitimate research papers to his name, and he was formerly editor of a journal for well-known publishers BioMed Central (BMC).

OAPL published dozens of journals on their now-defunct website, from OA Anaesthetics to OA Women’s Health. These journals claimed to be peer-reviewed and some boasted well-known researchers on their editorial boards.

Eventually, the OAPL story went cold. By early 2015, the OAPL site was no longer being updated. Some researchers who’d had papers accepted by OAPL journals in the final few months were left in the lurch by this, their manuscripts lost in limbo. At that point, however, papers that had been published were still accessible.

Now, the OAPL website hosts nothing more than a ‘domain name expired’ message and a series of links to things like “Bass Fishing Trips Near Me”. All those papers – over 1,500 if I recall correctly – have just been un-published. Vanished. The journals that published these papers no longer exist.

Fortunately, many of the lost papers are still available elsewhere online, e.g. on the author’s own webpage, or on mirroring services such as SemanticScholar.org. However, some papers seem to have fallen through the cracks and, with no mirrors, they really have vanished. For example, a Google Scholar citation is all that remains of this one:

deadpaper

It would be wrong to think that none of this matters because OAPL were never a serious publisher. Although OAPL did publish some dreadful papers, most of their output seemed to be serious work from legitimate researchers. These innocent researchers are the victims here. They paid money for OAPL to publish their work, and now it’s gone.

This case also raises interesting questions about the nature of academic publication. Can the former OAPL papers still be considered “published work”, if they are nowhere to found in any publication? Will anyone really miss the lost papers – or have they already become ‘too old’ to bother reading in today’s fast-paced science world? Does anyone read papers, anyway?

As for OAPL, I’m sure they’re not the first publisher to vanish and they surely won’t be the last, but it doesn’t seem right to allow papers, trusted into your care by the authors, to just disappear. Then again, what do I know? I’m no expert on ethics – unlike, say, Waseem Jerjes, who recently edited a book about “Research Integrity and Publication Ethics.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, law, PIE, select, Top Posts

The Fidgeting Brain

By Neuroskeptic | October 14, 2018 7:52 am

A new review paper in The Neuroscientist highlights the problem of body movements for neuroscience, from blinks to fidgeting.

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“Can I Have My Amygdala Removed?”

By Neuroskeptic | October 7, 2018 6:45 am

Brain surgery is not usually something that people actively seek out. However, there may be an exception: the idea of the removal of the amygdala seems to hold a fascination for many people.

Questions about the desirability of an amygdala-free life can be found in many places online. On Quora, there have been many queries about what amygdala removal would entail, and at least one brave user outright asked Can I have my amygdala removed? I came across the question on two other sites within the past week.

amygdala21

So what’s going on? Those curious about amygdala removal seem to see it as the embodiment of fear, anxiety and stress. Would its removal really render you fearless? What would the side effects be?

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“Rick and Morty” Sting Predatory Journals

By Neuroskeptic | September 29, 2018 7:48 am

Last year I wrote and published a fake ‘scientific paper’ to highlight the problem of predatory scientific journals. My article, following in the tradition of earlier fake journal ‘stings’, was complete nonsense, full of Star Wars references and quotes, but it was published by a number of dodgy journals.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: FixingScience, funny, papers, select, Top Posts

A Chink in the Brain Armor: the NFL, Concussion and Omega-3s

By Neuroskeptic | September 17, 2018 5:03 pm

On Twitter, I was pointed to the strange story of Brain Armor®, a nutritional supplement which is supposed to promote brain health.

While there are many supplements that are sold for the same purpose, Brain Armor has a unique claim to fame: it is the official brain health supplement of Pro Football Legends (PFL), the “commercial marketing arm of the NFL Alumni.”

brain_armor

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, law, papers, select, Top Posts

The Evolution of Neuroimaging

By Neuroskeptic | September 15, 2018 8:28 am

A fun new paper looks at the changing landscape of neuroimaging research through an analysis of the journals Neuroimage and PNAS. The article comes from UPenn researchers Jordan D. Dworkin, Russell T. Shinohara and Danielle S. Bassett.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: EEG, fMRI, papers, select, Top Posts

Bad Mobs of Good People: The Paradox of Viral Outrage

By Neuroskeptic | September 2, 2018 2:45 pm

People become less approving of social media outrage the more people join in with it. One person rebuking another is fine, but ten people doing it looks like a mob.

This is the key finding of an interesting new paper called The Paradox of Viral Outrage, from Takuya Sawaoka and Benoît Monin of Stanford. Read More

White Matter Worries: A Problem for DTI?

By Neuroskeptic | September 1, 2018 12:43 pm

A new preprint called “A systematic bias in DTI findings” could prove worrying for many neuroscientists. In the article, authors Farshid Sepehrband and colleagues of the University of Southern California argue that commonly-used measures of the brain’s white matter integrity may be flawed.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: methods, papers, select, Top Posts
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