Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1537–1549 | Cite as

The Ethics of Ironic Science in Its Search for Spoof

  • Maryam Ronagh
  • Lawrence SouderEmail author
Original Paper


The goal of most scientific research published in peer-review journals is to discover and report the truth. However, the research record includes tongue-in-cheek papers written in the conventional form and style of a research paper. Although these papers were intended to be taken ironically, bibliographic database searches show that many have been subsequently cited as valid research, some in prestigious journals. We attempt to understand why so many readers cited such ironic science seriously. We draw from the literature on error propagation in research publication for ways categorize citations. We adopt the concept of irony from the fields of literary and rhetorical criticism to detect, characterize, and analyze the interpretations in the more than 60 published research papers that cite an instance of ironic science. We find a variety of interpretations: some citing authors interpret the research as valid and accept it, some contradict or reject it, and some acknowledge its ironic nature. We conclude that publishing ironic science in a research journal can lead to the same troubles posed by retracted research, and we recommend relevant changes to publication guidelines.


Irony Retraction Research publication Transparency Error propagation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Culture and CommunicationDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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