What the “Hydroxychloroquine” hoax reveals – {Sciences²}

To laugh, of course, but also to act. This is the lesson to be learned of the formidable whistleblower hoax operated by a bunch of young scientists with ferocious humor, to the detriment of the journal Asian Journal of Medicine and Health. A review targeted for having published a mock study promoting hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.

This study (Violaine Guérin et al.) Had been rejected by all the serious journals to which it had been sent. And so finally published in Asian Journal of Medicine and Health, Predatory journal one of those totally bogus journals, without real peer review and where, for payment, it is possible to publish … really anything. However, immediately after this publication, many articles in the written press and radio came to misinform their readers by relying on this publication to assert that it was normal science.

Didier Lembrouille and Nemo Macron

Therefore, a fine team wondered how to demonstrate that we can really publish anything in this journal that claims to be ” international “, and even publish articles ” High quality “. They then concocted a really crazy article. Not by slipping in some inconsistencies. No. Every sentence is a roaring wake-up call: “This is a hoax, this is not science!” “. The names and institutions of the authors are all inventions announcing the hoax: Didier Lembrouille, Nemo Macron (the name of the president’s dog, whose lab is housed “Palais de l’Elysée”, an Otter F. Hantome in other words a ghost author , Manis Javanica (Pangolin in scholarly language) or Sylvano Trottinetta…

Everything is really crazy in the article. I’ll let you savor the division of work between the authors:

The rest is to match. With a description full of vitriolic humor, stuffed with transparent allusions to studies favorable to hydroxychloroquine and to the thunderous declarations of Didier Raoult predicting that the Covid-19 would kill fewer people than scooter accidents.

It is impossible to read more than one sentence of this article without realizing that this is a pure hoax. It is impossible not to understand that the laboratories where the authors are supposed to work do not exist (well, yes, the Elysée Palace does exist, but it is not a scientific laboratory…). It is impossible to take this article for anything other than what it is. So why was it published? Simply to earn the required 85 dollars (and presented as an 89% discount on an official cost of 500 dollars). It is the business model of the magazine. This is why it is called a “predator”. This is why any article published there must raise suspicion as a priority.

So let’s stop laughing for five minutes and get to the serious side of the matter.

► This journal is known to be predatory. So all the journalists who gave the floor to the authors of the study favorable to hydroxychloroquine should have had as a first reflex to consider that the risk that it is bad science is close to 100%. And therefore, either not to speak about it (best solution), or to say the greatest evil about it.

► Why do these journals exist? Because governments have believed that the “number of articles” metric is an excellent way to judge research activity, both individual and collective. This method gives birth to a disaster. In the laboratories, everyone knows it. Adopted by most governments, it results in massive fraud, in science without interest, and is turned against the general interest (in this note, I relate a Chinese affair where hundreds of doctors, pushed to sign whatever to get advancement, are ultimately sentenced to prison terms).

► What to do? Ban the quantitative method to evaluate researchers and laboratories. But this is already what is recommended… even if, from recommendation to implementation, there is still a long way to go (it would be the job of the High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education, HCERES, to contribute, but if it is led by thehe official candidate of the Elysée – Thierry Coulhon – to finally put an end to the vacancy of his presidency since last autumn, one can doubt that this work is done). So we have to act faster and stronger.

I suggest that universities, CNRS, Inserm, CEA, INRAE ​​… in short, all the employers of researchers and academics do a radical cleaning: any researcher publishing in one of these predatory journals (at the expense of his laboratory…) will have to undergo an investigation into the reasons for which it resorted to it, as well as a sanction, if this would show that it was a question of bypassing a negative peer review in normal reviews. An instruction in this direction could be given by the ministry of research and higher education… if its concern displayed in favor of scientific integrity is sincere.

Sylvestre Huet

PS: of course, after the international hustle and bustle sparked by the hoax, the magazine removed it from its website... a retraction for “fraud” has been announced, whereas it is rather a relentless demonstration of the predatory nature of the journal.

English and French versions of the hoax article are downloadable here, where one of the authors tells in detail this whole story.

► Open letter to the Minister of Research on scientific integrity.

► Retracting a scientific article is good. Vade-mecum for scientific integrity.

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