Precision Scientific Editing
Seinfeld-themed case report on "uromycitisis" published by fake urology journal
By John H. McCool
April 6, 2017
In March 2017, I was invited to submit a paper to a dubious urology journal. I'm not a physician, much less a urologist, but I am a former scientific editor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and currently operate a scientific editing business. I also have a strong antipathy for fake, predatory journals and am a Seinfeld fanatic.
So, I decided to troll this journal—called the Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal—and see if they would agree to publish a Seinfeld-themed “case report” about a man who develops “uromycitisis poisoning.” This was inspired by the classic 1991 episode “The Parking Garage,” where the gang can't find their car in a mall parking garage. Eventually, Jerry has to urinate; he goes against a garage wall and gets busted by a security guard; and he tries to get out of it by claiming that he suffers from a disease called “uromycitisis” and could die if he doesn't relieve himself whenever and wherever he needs to.
I went all out. I wrote it as Dr. Martin van Nostrand, Kramer's physician alter ego, and coauthored by Jay Reimenschneider (Kramer's friend who eats horse meat) and Leonard “Len” Nicodemo (another of Kramer's friends, who once had gout). I included fake references to articles written by the likes of Costanza GL, Pennypacker HE, and Peterman J. I created a fake institution where the authors worked: the Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute. In the Acknowledgements section, I thanked people such as Tor Eckman, the bizarre holistic healer from “The Heart Attack” episode, giving him a “Doctor of Holistic Medicine (HMD)” degree. Basically, I wrote it in a style as close to a real case report as I could, the only difference being that it was totally fake.
Here’s the abstract:
Uromycitisis Poisoning Results in Lower Urinary Tract Infection and Acute Renal Failure:
Uromycitisis is a rare but serious condition that affects over 2,000 mostly adult men and women in the United States each year. Described simply, it is caused by prolonged failure to evacuate the contents of the bladder and can result in a serious infection of the lower urinary tract known as “uromycitisis poisoning,” which, if untreated, can cause acute renal failure and has an associated high mortality. Because people with uromycitisis often cannot hold in their urine and feel they must—and, at times, actually must—urinate in inappropriate places, sometimes running afoul of local public sanitation ordinances, they can feel great personal shame and place themselves in legal jeopardy, through no fault of their own. We report the case of a 37-year-old male who suffers from uromycitisis, was prevented from urinating in public, was admitted to the emergency room with uromycitisis poisoning, was misdiagnosed, and was referred to our institution for treatment.
Read the full case report here.
The journal was excited to receive this “quality” and “very interesting” case report. A mere 33 minutes after receiving it, a representative notified “Dr. van Nostrand” that it had been sent out for peer review (a process the journal’s website touts as “rigorous”). Three days later, reviewer comments were returned to me, and I was asked to make a few minor changes, including adding lab test results from when the patient was in the emergency room. I made these up, too, and promptly resubmitted the revised case report. Soon after, it was officially accepted for publication.
I was then asked to pay a “nominal fee” of $799 to cover the cost of publication, which was unsurprising but also strange because, within hours, the full case report was already featured on and downloadable from the journal’s website. I have no intention of paying anything.
I got this idea when, earlier this year, I was invited to submit a paper to the equally dubious Journal of Nanomedicine Research, published by the same (oddly named) MedCrave Group. I wrote an article on LinkedIn about this; it was not, however, widely viewed or effective at exposing this journal as fake. Perhaps, I thought, a more-extreme trolling operation was needed. Hence, the “uromycitisis” scam when a urology journal came calling.
I wrote this case report over a weekend, and it would have been so easy to identify it as fake. One simple Google search of “uromycitisis” or “Martin van Nostrand” would have returned thousands of references to Seinfeld. Checking just one cited article would have shown it to be bogus—example: Roydlick E, Chiles J, Bison D, Pennypacker HE, Corrochio E. “Don’t blame the victim”: uromycitisis in American life. Am J Ab Behav Psychol. 1996;45:434-442.
I have been on a personal mini-crusade against fake scientific journals, having written several articles on this topic. My short-term goal with this exposure of the Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal and the MedCrave Group is to subject them to merciless ridicule. My long-term goal—an ambitious one, I know—is to put an end to fake, predatory journals altogether.
John H. McCool is the founder and senior scientific editor of Precision Scientific Editing, based in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(A version of this article, titled “Opinion: Why I Published in a Predatory Journal,” originally appeared in The Scientist.)