Time and again I tell my students about how science works. This is a twofold task, since in order to cover all the aspects of modern science we need to detail both the fuctions and the malfunctions of science. I am a fan of science and economics, thus I want to make young scholars and professionals of the future more cognizant of the dark side of science. Doing so, I may help them to avoid serious mistakes and the best way of raising the standards is to show negative examples. I believe in a realiable science. What is more, as part of the International Peer Review Week every year I do my best to shed some light on the vital role peer reviewers play in modern science. One of my favourite examples is the famous ‘Get me off your f***ing mailing list‘ paper by David Mazières and Eddie Kohler, but the other day I realized I cannot tell the whole story. There are some details that may be interesting of which I know almost nothing. In this short blog post I will try to fill some lacunas of my knowledge about this funny example of modern science.
The paper is from 2005. This is the year when two scholars decided to write a paper to emphasize the negative aspects of science. There is a problematic model in international scientific publication in which publishers of dubious value make efforts to produce journal articles and books with no scholarly value. Whilst such publising houses try to appear to be reliable, internationally acknowledged institutions with well-founded reputation, they are only realizers of an unfortunatly wide circle of predatory publishing policy. In this policy, scientific value is not a concern. Here everything is about money: any paper can be published if the author is willing to pay for it. Such publishers promise researchers an exceptionally quick review phase and after publication an extraordinary wide range of future readers and a large number of citations. However, the published papers are rarely worth attention, so actually these papers are not likely to have any readers at all. Predatory journals follow a rather annoying editorial policy. I remember, some days after the EIPE 20 conference this year I was also contacted by a journal only to be asked to become a member of the editorial board. To my surprise, the editorial board was full of real people, real scientist who were not careful enough to keep away from a predatory journal. They are used by the predatory publishers to hide the true nature of their policy. These publishers tend to send spam e-mails to their targets, this is the reason why Mazières and Kohler were upset enough to write the paper that consists of the repeated sentence ‘Get me off your f***ing mailing list’.
Actually, Mazières and Kohler’s paper was prepared for the 9th World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics to protest against the low stadards of acceptance expressed by the organizers of the conference. In fact Mazières and Kohler are excellent scientists. David Mazières is a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. He received a BS in Computer Science from Harvard in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000. Eddie Kohler is the Microsoft Professor of Computer Science at Harvard at the moment. He received a BS (1995) and then a MS (1997) and a Ph.D. (2001) in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT.
In 2014, the story of the paper continued. That year Peter Vamplew (Federation University, Australia) after receiving some spams from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology submitted the paper to the editors. He must have been surprised by the fact that the paper was sent to reviewers and rated as an excellent paper worth publishing. Moreover, the journal was really ready to publish the paper in exchange for a 150 USD fee. Of course, Vamplew refused to pay.