How to get your dog on a journal review board

June 14, 2017

A lot of people think their pets are pretty darn smart. But are they as smart as Dr. Olivia Doll, former researcher at the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies, and holder of a degree in canine abdominal massage from Subiaco College of Veterinary Science?

Dr. Doll, who is an expert in the role of “domestic canines promoting optimal mental health in aging males,” is actually Ollie, a Staffordshire terrier from Australia. Her resume may seem impressive, but it is fictitious.

Her owner, Mike Daube, a public health expert at Australia’s Curtin University, created fake credentials for his furry friend and used them to apply for review boards of multiple medical journals. As a result, little Ollie became an official peer reviewer for 7 international publications, reports Perth Now.

Daube’s intention was to test how thoroughly journals screened their reviewers. The ones who accepted Dr. Doll represent a problem that Daube finds concerning.

“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 naïve academics and those from developing countries,” he said.

Dr. Doll enjoyed some success as a peer reviewer, making it to the position of associate editor of the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine. Her photo — actually a picture of singer Kylie Minogue wearing glasses — was published on several websites.

The saga of F.D.C. Willard

Ollie isn’t the first pet to excel in academia. Perhaps most famously, cryogenics expert F.D.C. Willard — real name: Chester the Siamese cat — authored and co-authored articles in scientific journals during the 1970s.

In 1975, Michigan State University mathematician and physicist (and currently, digital artist) Jack Hetherington was told by a colleague that his paper would probably not be accepted by a journal, because it used first person plural grammatical tense despite having a single author. Rather than take the time to change every instance of “we,” Hetherington simply added a co-author: his cat.

F.D.C. Willard gets his name from three sources: his father, a tomcat named Willard; the scientific name for the housecat, Felis domesticus; and from his own real name, Chester.

Hetherington revealed his joke at a conference a few years later, when he gave out signed copies of one of his papers. Next to his own signature was a paw print.

Think these are the only two cases? Wikipedia has an entire references-cited page entitled, “List of animals with fraudulent diplomas.” Now if only this blog-post-writer’s dog would learn to stay out of the garbage bin.