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Br J Gen Pract. 2007 May 1; 57(538): 411–412.
PMCID: PMC2047025

Handshakes and spoof publications

Gary Parkes, GP, Researcher

The Letter ‘The meaning of the handshake towards the end of the consultation’1 from the April edition of the BJGP brought much amusement whether this is an ‘April fool’ or a piece of ‘off the wall’ research. I have to assume it is a joke for several reasons:

  • If it was real, only 1.2% of his patients are pleased with his consultation style (ergo-98.8% may have some significant reservations about him and therefore he would be unwise to let his appraiser know.
  • If it was real why didn't he get it published in the normal way ? Easy to answer that one; no sane ethics committee would let this one past. And how could you justify spending time getting consent from the participants for such nonsense?
  • If it was real he should have looked more broadly at the topic. Why do others not shake hands? What difference does cultural background of patient or doctor make? What about class, socioeconomics or education?

Anyway, what difference does it make except that you would have to wash your hands again.

Anyway, nice one. You nearly had me fooled into thinking both the Editor or the doctor had been daft publishing this when I realised it was April.

A more important debate is whether any journal be permitted to publish spoof material in Medline searchable format. I have long been of the opinion that for internationally-read journals the practice should be banned and that any breach should be regarded as research fraud. You may feel this is an overreaction but unfortunately I have seen spoof articles referenced in serious papers. The distinction is not always clear even to those whose first language is English and I believe it is insulting and arrogant to deceive other professionals who have to waste time trying to work out what is real.

At least the BJGP have not fallen into the practice of publishing pretend original research (or have they?)


1. Jenkins M. The meaning of that handshake towards the end of the consultation. Br J Gen Pract. 2007;57(537):324. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners