Zille tweets abstract of hoax paper, warns about ‘identity politics’

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has tweeted a warning to South Africans about the dangers of just how ridiculous American identity politics can be – with an abstract from a piece about rape culture in dogs.

If this looks totally ridiculous to you, that’s because it was supposed to be.

So, this article was submitted with the intention of being nuts in order to basically discredit the fields whose journals accepted it.

The journal that accepted this article was Gender, Place and Culture. I tried looking for it on Scimago. 55 H factor isn’t bad for gender studies – it is within the top 10, and it has had 504 citations, which puts it as the third most cited journal.

So it is a real journal – published by Taylor and Francis. Taylor and Francis have been publishing academic work since the 1800s, so you’d think they’d have great standards.

Except, the same group of hoaxers got another article published last year that was all about the “conceptual penis” driving climate change – which got published in the journal Cogent Social Sciences – which is published by Taylor and Francis.

But wait, there’s more, according to the Washington Post they got another nonsense paper published about how body building is fat exclusionary in the journal Fat Studies.

Who publishes Fat Studies? Taylor and Francis. Another study was published in the Journal of Poetry Therapy – no prizes for guessing who publishes that journal.

Now two of the journals that accepted their work, Affilia which accepted an article that included a retyped section of Mein Kampf, and Hypatia which accepted an article advocating putting children in chains, aren’t Taylor and Francis journals. They’re Sage and Wiley Blackwell respectively, but it is strange how often the same publisher keeps coming up.

My Take

I am not fan of the identity politics, but hoax papers being published, while embarrassing for the journal are, well, embarrassing for the journal.

Alan Sokal, the man behind the Sokal hoax, pointed out in the Chronicle of Higher Education last year when the conceptual penis article was published, that it doesn’t really show anything about the field as a whole, it just shows crummy standards at the individual journals.

Which is to say Taylor and Francis, the publisher a lot of these journals have in common, needs to do some basic housekeeping because I don’t think I’m the only one whose noticed their name keeps coming up.

And this doesn’t mean that we’ve got a particular worry about our students or our academic work being influenced like this.

If anything it proves there is a gap for smart South African academics to raise the bar in these fields, with our own properly peer reviewed journals that don’t publish nonsense. There is an opening here for us to lead.

  • Picture courtesy of the Democratic Alliance via Flickr.
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