Sequence of Events to the Grievance Studies Affair

On May 19, 2017, peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences published "The conceptual penis as a social construct," which argued that penises are not "male" and are better analyzed as social constructs. The same day, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian revealed it to be a hoax aimed at discrediting gender studies, although Cogent Social Sciences is not exclusively a gender studies journal. While the journal did conduct a postmortem, both authors concluded the "impact of the hoax was very limited, and much criticism of it was legitimate."

The authors claimed to have started their second attempt on August 16, 2017, with Helen Pluckrose joining them in September. The new methodology called for the submission of multiple papers. Each paper would be submitted to "higher-ranked journals;" if it were rejected, feedback from the peer-review process was used to revise the paper before it was submitted to a lower-ranked journal. This process was repeated until the paper was accepted, or the three authors gave up on that paper. The authorship of each paper was either fictional, such as "Helen Wilson" of "Portland Ungendering Research Initiative," or real people willing to lend their name, such as Dr. Richard Baldwin, professor emeritus of history at Gulf Coast State College.

Over the course of the project, twenty papers were submitted and forty-eight "new submissions" of those papers were made. The first acceptance, "Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at the Dog Park", was achieved five months after the project started. During the initial peer review for its second and ultimately successful attempt at publication in Gender, Place, and Culture, what the hoaxers called the "Dog Park" paper was praised as "incredibly innovative, rich in analysis, and extremely well-written and organized" by the first reviewer. Similar respectful feedback was given for other accepted papers.

Discovery of hoax
The project was intended to run until January 31, 2019, but came to a premature end. On June 7, 2018, the Twitter account New Real Peer Review discovered one of their papers. This brought it to the attention of reporters at The College Fix, Reason, and other news outlets who began trying to contact the fictional author and journal it was published in. The journal Gender, Place, and Culture published a note on August 6, 2018, stating that they suspected "Helen Wilson" had breached their contract to "not fabricate or misappropriate anyone's identity, including their own", adding "the author has not responded to our request to provide appropriate documentation confirming their identity." According to the trio, another journal and a reporter at The Wall Street Journal were also asking for proof of identity at this point, and that it was the right time to go public; they admitted the hoax to the journalist in early August.

When The Wall Street Journal report went public on October 2, the trio released an essay describing their project, as well as a Google Drive archive of most of their papers and email correspondence which included reviewer comments. Simultaneously, documentary filmmaker Mike Nayna released a YouTube video that revealed the back-story behind the project; Nayna and producer Mark Conway are working on a documentary film about the project.