• The Works

Publish or Perish: a gravy train

The world of medical science is awash with predatory journals, and they seem especially prevalent in the USA. You may have seen my previous interactions with Global Advances in Health and Medicine, a journal which publishes any kind of quackery you care to invent. Then last week, I received this puzzling email from The Gazette of Medical Sciences:

I am reaching out to inform that we have recently published a research investigating the recent claims of magnetism post Covid-19 vaccination.

This interesting research is authored by Dr. James A. Thorp. Please read the full article here,

Unexpected magnetic attraction: Evidence for an organized energy field in the human body

Please also check the video on page 13 of the article.

This research paper addresses the prevalent myths post Covid-19 vaccination.

If you have any additional question, the authors will be happy to follow up with an email.
I look forward to your feedback on the article.

Kind regards,
Christina Park
Associate Editor
The Gazette of Medical Sciences; https://www.thegms.co

This was totally out of the blue, but piqued my curiosity so I read the paper. Spoiler alert – it’s crap. Hence my reply:

Thanks for sending me this interesting article – it made my day! I have to say I laughed out loud at the phrase “Nor have scientists considered what happens to the electrical currents seen on ECG after they ostensibly induce ventricular contraction”. They must just as well wonder where the photons go when the lights go off. There is much more hilarity in the paper, but perhaps the loudest gasp was triggered by the paragraph on the study’s limitations. Did the authors not wonder what would happen with non-ferrous or non-metallic test articles? Do they not know the difference between static and dynamic magnetic fields?

There is clearly something odd going on when the discussion uses twice as many words as the methods and results combined, and has so few references. The authors’ sentiments are betrayed by their condemnation of “dyed-in-the-wool science-based skeptics”, and that they designed the study to “substantiate our field hypothesis and to falsify putative links to COVID-19 vaccination”. No, you don’t do a study in order to prove your beliefs, you do it to test a hypothesis. Clinical research 101.

This was obviously sent to the authors, and here is what I then received:

So happy it made your day. The fact remains that you have no explanation for what happens to the currents that pass through the cardiac conduction system after they supposedly induce ventricular contraction. And the reason is that you probably never even considered the question. We provide numerous references (which you obviously didn’t read) in support of our claims. Your feigned incredulity simply masks the fact that you have likely spent the bulk of your career completely oblivious to the fact that there is an organized energy system in the body or that such knowledge may be necessary to cure disease.

Instead of casting aspersions and ridicule the onus is on you to refute the results of our study as well as our conclusions. And if you can’t, keep your snarky comments to yourself and go home and watch the telly. The reasons a science fails is that its practitioners latch onto fixed ideas and fail to keep abreast with ongoing developments. New discoveries should encourage practitioners to continually reassess their ideas and to reevaluate their opinions. Why don’t you begin by examining recent evidence regarding cardiac physiology or the nature of electromagnetism? As the old saying goes, science advances slowly, funeral by funeral. Have a good day les.

K. E. Thorp, MD
James A Thorp, MD

Well I accept that my initial response was hardly scholarly, and I clearly stimulated Thorp’s own energy network. Is someone who says “the onus is on you to refute the results of our study” in any way a scientist? I replied to say that I was bringing the email exchange to an end, and if I responded further it would be via the pages of the journal. I thought about it for a bit, and then submitted a letter to the editor. Having been berated by Thorp for not reading his references, I looked them up, and found them to be mostly irrelevant. My submission was quickly acknowledged by the journal:

Thank you for submitting a critique (Strange Title for a Flawed Study) related to the article, “Unexpected magnetic attraction: Evidence for an organized energy field in the human body”.

Do you want to publish this analysis under the category- “Article Critique”.

The actual processing charges (575 USD) will be applicable, if you want to publish this stuff.

Please give your consent. We wait for your reply,

Best regards,

Jessica

Associate editor

The Gazette of Medical Sciences

You can see why they were so quick – ker-ching! They actually want to charge me for normal scientific debate. I replied thus:

Is this a joke? You actually want to charge me a ludicrous amount of money for sending a letter to the editor?

Jessica’s reply:

The stuff you have sent will be considered as Critique rather than letter to editor.
Further, the publication process and costs incurred is the same for any paper category.
However, discounts are applicable on the author’s request.
Please suggest that I proceed accordingly.

My reply:

So let me get this straight. You decide this is a critique and not a letter to the editor. That then entitles you to charge me a very large fee. This presumably is how you discourage criticism of the material you publish. I’ve heard of publication bias, but this takes the biscuit.

Oh, and calling my scholarly submission “stuff” betrays your attitude to criticism. I will require a 100% discount in order to proceed please. Otherwise I hereby submit the manuscript as a letter to the editor.

Jessica again:

Our publication process is not biased. If we will publish your critique, the authors will be requested to publish an addendum clarifying the issues raised.

However, total free publication is not feasible. We can provide discounts on processing charges.

We reply to several queries everyday and use the words stuff/paper/article/manuscript interchangeably. Please don’t take it in a different way. We will be glad to publish your analysis if you pay the publication fee. I wait for your response.

…and my final word on the matter:

I now realise why you sent me the paper at issue. It was simply to drum up business. You hope that a controversy develops, with protagonists paying every time they want to say something. Sorry, but I am not playing that game.

Thanks and goodbye.

Update 5th August 2021:

Well it turned out not to be the end of the matter. The journal has now agreed to publish my piece as a letter, free of charge. I don’t know if they read this blog, but they just said that the letter addresses important points.

I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s published. Make sure you subscribe.

Further updates:

My letter is here. The authors responded, at over three times the length of my letter. Methinks they doth protest too much. Yet they managed to avoid entirely the central issues, which are:

  1. They did not test non-metallic articles, so there is no evidence that the effect is magnetic.
  2. Even if human magnetism exists, this does not imply an energy network.

This will probably rattle on a while…

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