Many people online have heard about and commented on this sad story. An assistant prof in molecular biology at Case Western published a paper in the "journal" Life that purported to explain essentially all of creation in terms of "gyres", some hand-wavy vortex-like entities. As the always provocative PZ Myers points out, the paper itself is basically word salad - it sounds disturbingly like the writings of someone having real mental health issues. The fact that it got published shows what a sham some journals are. I suspect that many of my academic peers have gotten email invitations to serve on the editorial boards of pay-to-publish journals. Several members of the board at Life have apparently resigned over this mess. However, this sad affair does raise some points worthy of consideration:
1) How did the media services office at CWRU actually end up putting out a big press release about this? Do they simply have no judgment whatsoever about content? I mean, could any professor ask them to put out a press release about anything, and it wouldn't be filtered at all before going out to the media?
2) Do aggregators like Eurekalert and Physorg serve as a positive influence overall? Yes, they help get science news stories out to the wider media, but don't they have some responsibility to make sure that they aren't just a conduit for junk? Surely they weren't originally intended just to be redistributors of unedited press releases.
3) What are the responsibilities of academic authors, department chairs, deans, etc. when it comes to press releases? Lord knows, I would not want to have to get permission from a higher-up at my university to speak my mind or point out a cool new result. However, it doesn't necessarily do anyone a lot of good if people put out press releases and have a media blitz for every little result, let alone the occasional whacko idea. While universities generally like media mentions of their researchers, CWRU can't be happy about this situation.