When it comes to a study published in a "peer-reviewed" journal, certain things are usually taken as a given. For example, it wouldn't be a stretch to state that no one thinks of scientific journals as a profit-driven industry. Likewise with conferences; after all, how could a meeting of a handful of top insect scientists be a money-making venture?

It turns out that there is a dark side to the seemingly selfless pursuit of science and many people who are gaming the system to make a profit.

Gina Kolata reported yesterday in the New York Times that a handful of scientists were recently tricked into participating in the "Entomology-2013" conference—and not the "Entomology 2013" (without the hyphen) conference they thought they'd be a part of. Kolata went on to describe the strange world of "pseudo-academia," in which hard-working scientists are fooled into contributing to and participating in moneymaking shams such as phony journals and conferences.

This is how it works: journal and conferences with seemingly professional sounding titles contact researchers and ask them to be guest speakers or submit articles for publication. They do so, thinking they are contributing to the advancement of study in their field, only to get a bill later on, essentially extorting the scientist.

There has been a lot of press recently about falsification of data, but little publicized about the illicit publication of data in bogus journals and how even professional journals can be hoodwinked into accepting false research.

In March of 2013, Declan Butler, writing for Nature, reported a case where scientists were hoodwinked into paying fake journals thousands of dollars. These journals had names and websites similar to that of well respected and established journals. The fraudsters are good at what they do: "One of the impostors had even persuaded Thomson Reuters to include a link to the false journal in its list of indexed publications," wrote author Declan Butler. "The company moved swiftly to remove the link when the scam was uncovered."

Caleb MckInney, a doctoral student at the New York University School of Medicine is a publish reseacher who feels that the credability and integrity of scientific journals must ramain sacrocanct. "Open access journals provide jobs in the publishing industry which can certainly stimulate the economy. However, allowing them to replace peer review journals can be crippling to the scientific development process. Crude and insufficient work that skips the checks and balances of the peer review process will inevitably trend open access journals toward fiction."

In 2012, Science magazine discussed a case where scientists in South Korea, China, and Iran submitted papers to international journals and gave fictitious e-mail addresses for the potential reviewers they recommended to journal editors. The title tells it all: "Scientific Fraudsters Peer Review Their Own Journal Articles."

Another article that Science references was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and indicates that the majority of journal retractions happen because of misconduct and not due to honest honest mistakes. It also states that the most prevalent intentional wrongdoing is found in the most elite journals. "Right now we're incentivizing a lot of behavior that's not actually constructive to science," says Ferric Fang, one of the PNAS article's authors.

Up until recently there has been a glut of Chinese scientific journals that had dubious origins and uncertain ethical guidelines for publication. Because the Chinese government bases their funding scale for researchers heavily on publications, there is pressure to create false journals and even publish data that was copied from articles in other international journals just to show a large publication record on a grant application. Sadly this has led to much misdirected reserch money.

In order to put an end to this and bring Chinese science to a respectable level on the world stage the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), which oversees 1,050 journals, made statements that set forth harsh penalties for misconduct. Penalties range from written warnings to blacklisting or informing institutions and funding agencies about the misconduct. Reviewers who abuse their privilege by, for example, plagiarizing an article, could also face blacklisting and public disclosure.

In 2010 the Chinese government promised that they would get rid of the most serious of offenders which were publications that were the most problematic. Yet nothing has actually been done as of yet to eliminate dubious journals.

While many would think that the problem is only relegated to bogus journals of international origins, there are many in the United States as well.

For instance, there is a journal called "Science and Nature" published by "ZolCat," a company which calls itself "an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world." People who publish in this suspicious journal can then state on their resumes that they have published in Science and Nature (two of the most prestigious and highly respected journals in the scientific community). Their website indicates that they are "An Excellent Academic Publisher From New York." On their "About" page from their website they write "ZolCat + U= Change. Together we can make a difference."

The problem isn't solely limited to fringe journals that have no reputation or history, ethical concerns can rock even established professional publications.

Elsevier, a publishing group that manages thousands of journals and claims to be "a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services" has been accused of misconduct as well. Back in 2009, they were accused of publishing a fake journal with funding from the pharmaceutical giant Merck. Some of the articles published in the false journals were written on Vioxx, a drug taken off the market because it was unsafe for patients, and Fosamax, another drug that has come under recent scrutiny because there are doubts whether it actually prevents bone fractures or not.

Although this will continue to be a problem as long as there are unscrupulous people in the world, the Chinese government has the right idea, even though they have yet to follow through on eliminating bogus journals. Research granting agencies in the governments of the world such as the National Institutes of Health, the University Grants Commission in India, and others should have strict guidelines for where research money should be spent and have discretion in weeding out grant applicants that are known to publish in fake journals on purpose. Granting institutions and academic entities should aggressively push for these journals to be removed from the web, and compel academics associated as editors or contributors to sever their connections immediately and remove mention of such publications from their resume.

Until then, this poses a serious risk to the integrity of science's mission to understand nature and help to save lives. It can even put lives at risk.