James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian wrote 20 fake scholarly papers and had several accepted and published in journals. Credit Mike Nayna
Oct. 4, 2018
One paper, published in a journal called Sex Roles, said that the author had conducted a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters.
Another, from a journal of feminist geography, parsed “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland, Ore., while a third paper, published in a journal of feminist social work and titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” simply scattered some up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
Such offerings may or may not have raised eyebrows among the journals’ limited readerships. But this week, they unleashed a cascade of mockery — along with a torrent of debate about ethics of hoaxes, the state of peer review and the excesses of academia — when they were revealed to be part of an elaborate prank aimed squarely at what the authors labeled “grievance studies.”
“Something has gone wrong in the university — especially in certain fields within the humanities,” the three authors of the fake papers wrote in an article in the online journal Areo explaining what they had done. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields.”