In 2014, Culumber et al. published an article in the international behavioural biology journal Ethology entitled ‘Variation in melanism and female preference in proximate but ecologically distinct environments’ (Retraction Watch 2014). This article would have passed unnoticed (at least by us) if it had not been for a peculiar anomaly. In place of a citation to a paper by a fellow biologist, the authors had forgotten to delete a question they had inserted for themselves: ‘Should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?’ This slip (subsequently corrected by the journal) is revealing for the way it lifts the lid on processes of academic knowledge production that normally remain hidden from view. It shows that scholars are sometimes willing – or feel compelled – to cite academic articles that they evidently do not hold in high regard. It is unsurprising that the Culumber et al. paper went viral after being featured on the website Retraction Watch; scholars recognize in it the temptation to play the publication game even when it goes against their better knowledge.