16 September 2020

The Worst Thing To Happen To Science Since Trump: Behold My Surprise Promotion

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Not A Doctor (I Don’t Even Play One On TV); mad scientist image from the 1940 movie Dr. Cyclops (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)…

Sorry, real scientists, I understand these times have been brutal for you, given the willfully ignorant troll in the White House, plus the hyperventilating hordes of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and global-warming deniers. No wonder Scientific American endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in its 175-year history. (Hint: it’s not Trump.)

Well, I hate to do this to you, but here’s more bad news: I was just named a scientist. And, yeah, it surprised me, too.

I got an email today from something called the “Journal of Novel Physiotherapies” (I won’t link to it, and I caution you against visiting the website). I don’t even know what traditional physiotherapies are, least of all novel ones, but the email enthusiastically states, “We are aware of your reputation for quality of research and trustworthiness in the field of Physiotherapies and that is why you have been chosen as an Editorial Board Member…”

Cool. I haven’t conducted any scientific research since my undergrad astronomy class in 1988, but I guess my reputation excludes me.

In case you’re curious, here’s a screen grab of the entire email:

Journal Of Modern Physiotherapies email

Now, while I know nothing about physiotherapies, I do know a bit about email marketing. Let’s dissect this misfired missive, shall we?

  1. The return email address, e-openaccess.info, just screams “SPAM.”
  2. I’m not a Dr., just a lowly MBA. Apparently, this research journal doesn’t excel at research.
  3. I understand wanting to sound conversational in stressful times, but “Greetings!!” doesn’t sound quite appropriate… unless it’s followed by the word “Earthlings.”
  4. My name in a different color also screams “SPAM.”
  5. I wouldn’t be much of a scientist — or any kind of critical thinker — if I responded to spam by submitting my personal background info and a passport-sized photo. While many institutions have asked for my photo, none except the State Department has ever requested that it be passport size. Gee, I wonder what the spammers would use that for?
  6. Bizarre capitalization throughout the email suggests that the “journal” needs an editor.
  7. Just to be clear, being an Editorial Board Member means that I submit articles in exchange for a… certificate? Do I get a participation trophy, too?
  8. It’s nice to see a scientific journal state, “We are ready to serve you.” I didn’t realize journals were in the service industry. In which case, I’d like my certificate accompanied by a venti cappuccino extra hot with a shot of Irish whiskey on the side.
  9. “We look forward for…” is just one of many awkward phrasings in this email. Maybe the journal-publishing business isn’t for them.
  10. Isabella was apparently born without a last name, but these novel physiotherapies might help her/them/it grow one.
  11. Isabella also doesn’t have a title, but she/they/it made sure to end the entire email with “USA.” I’ve never thought of ending my messages with my country — how novel.

I doubt any respectable scientist would fall for this. More likely, this kind of offer attracts hustlers, con artists, and desperate PhD’s looking to embellish their Twitter bios. Given that embellished social media profiles can help fake people get published by right wing media, a contrived “journal” could be a feasible ruse.

So I’m thinking of starting the Atomic Tango Journal Of Novel Martini-Therapies, and you’re all invited to become Editorial Bartenders. No need to send a photo of any size — a splash of olive juice will do. We have to make it dirty, right?


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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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