We rely on the peer-review process to make sure that published studies have scientific merit. But this approach is not nearly as foolproof as it needs to be, as evidenced by the case of an Australian dog named Ollie. The Staffordshire terrier actually goes by Dr. Olivia Doll, when she’s not out chasing her own tail. That’s the name under which the dog sits on the board of seven international medical journals. And just recently, Dr. Doll, the dog, was asked to review a paper on how to manage tumors.
The dog’s academic career was created by Professor Mike Daube from Curtin University, a public health expert in Perth. He wanted to expose the predatory practices of some scientific magazines, which charge fees and do not go through a rigorous vetting process, looking to take advantage of researchers.
Indeed, it’s hard to believe that Ollie’s fake credentials, like past work at the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refugee Studies, passed muster. Another tip-off could have been such resume stuffers as Ollie’s claim to be specializing in research on “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” or “the role of domestic canines in promoting optimal mental health in ageing males”. Ollie’s dissertation was, of course, on “Canine Responses to Avian Proximity.”
The credentials submitted by the five-year-old dog were not only acceptable at various publications, but it was offered editorial positions at magazines like the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine.
“While this started as something lighthearted, I think it is important to expose shams of this kind which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries,” said Professor Daube to Perth Now, adding - “It gives all researchers paws for thought.”
Daube’s experiment draws further attention to the necessity of making the process of scientific review more rigorous, with recent statistics showing that a majority of published studies are unreproducible. One estimate puts the number of predatory journals like the ones Ollie was designed to expose at about 10,000, publishing over half a million papers.
This is where Ollie, the dog, sits on the board, in case you want to avoid such esteemed publications:
EC Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
Journal of Community Medicine & Public Health Care
Journal of Tobacco Stimulated Diseases
Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse/Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism: Research and Therapy
Journal of Psychiatry and Mental Disorders
Associate Editor and Editorial Board member, Global Journal of Addiction & Rehabilitation Medicine
Austin Addiction Sciences