If there was an efficient way to attain internet infamy and to lose all professional credibility, it would definitely be fabricating evidence, staging online publicity stunts and perpetrating academic trickery.
Most would aptly recognise the above as a recipe for disaster, but one, it seems, sees these methods as par for the paranormal course. I am of course referring to Dr. Melba S. Ketchum. The (Texas A&M) doctor of veterinary medicine who, in 1985, established DNA Diagnostics; a self-proclaimed leader in all types of DNA testing, including: human and animal forensics, human and animal paternity and parentage testing, disease diagnostics, trait tests, animal and human identity testing, species identification and sex determination. If you believe the bio listed on the DNA Diagnostics website, Ketchum is a pillar of the DNA world, yet her recent behaviour paints a very different picture.
As I reported to you in my previous article titled Bigfoot Is Real!, Ketchum, through DNA Diagnostics presented a press release touting some rather amazing findings. The original press release can be found here. In it you will see that Ketchum has “successfully sequenced Bigfoot DNA”. The paranormal blogosphere went crazy over this news, myself included. Though there were some who kept their cool and warned of Ketchum’s past involvement in some funny business regarding “angel DNA”, wherein Ketchum is said to have referred to the DNA of angels (yes, heavenly beings) in a research paper. Ketchum supporters cited supposedly common usage of the term “angel DNA” in reference to unknown DNA material in genetic research circles. This is yet to be confirmed.
In her new study, Ketchum claims to have sequenced four samples of material thought to be hair and skin specimens of the famed North American cryptid known as Sasquatch. Early on, Ketchum was criticised for releasing her conclusions via a press release (on the internet no less) prior to publishing her study for peer review, which is the normal procedure for such findings. It was said by some that Ketchum was, understandably, excited about her conclusions and wanted to share the information in the quickest fashion, not worrying about issues of credibility. Later Ketchum cited academic prejudice as the cause of her unorthodox methods, stating that respected science journals refused to publish or even review her work because of the controversial nature of the subject, and she was thus forced to take matters into her own hands.
And take them into her own hands she did indeed. The long awaited, peer reviewed publication of her research came in time, from science journal DeNovo. The world, again, was atwitter, paranormal pundits the internet over were scrambling to get a peek at the publication, though they were about to be disappointed, again. Visitors to the DeNovo Journal website (www.denovojournal.com) were presented with a humdrum page that was difficult to navigate and which offered no real substance, and to top it all off the journal was charging $30 a pop to view the paper. (Which I’m told isn’t all that unusual as science journals go.) Faced with that initial let down, some rather industrious internet sleuths delved a little deeper into the DeNovo website, finding that the web page was only weeks old and (initially) hosted on a free service.
In the weeks that followed much speculation permeated twitter and the larger paranormal blogs, and it eventually came out that Ketchum’s Bigfoot DNA paper was the only one posted on the DeNovo website. To top it off, it became known that Ketchum had actually acquired the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology or JAMEZ and renamed it DeNovo Journal. It seemed that Ketchum had circumvented the peer review process and self-published her results, essentially faking scientific credibility for her “ground breaking research”.
At this point, the validity of her conclusions is largely irrelevant. For all the paranormal public cares, she could parade Bigfoot through CNN’s anchor room and have him dance a funny jig with Anderson Cooper and we still wouldn’t believe her. Ketchum has made public statements denying that she self-published her work and is now something of an internet celebrity, weighing in on bigfoot discussions on the likes of the internet radio show Coast-to-Coast AM, among others. She has, since the start of this mess, advocated for legal protection for Sasquatch, calling for the government to assign legal status to the creature, making it illegal to hunt, shoot or trap the animal (whether or not it exists).
In case you couldn’t tell, my patience with this situation has reached its limit, and I personally call for the greater paranormal public to leave Ketchum and her “research” behind. We deserve better and we can provide the scientific community with better opportunities for advancement. As has been said, by the publishers of other, well respected scientific journals, competent and well executed studies of DNA, whether of Sasquatch or whatever, will be greeted with professional scepticism, peer review, confirmation and will be published without bias for all the world to see and enjoy. These kind of hijinks are unnecessary, and are ultimately harmful to a greater understanding of the scientific method.