Stephen E. Arnold: Failure of Academic Publishing

IO Impotency
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

Failure of Academic Publishing

The current academic publishing model has been failing for some time, but it seems things are worse than previously thought. The model is broken: professors have to publish to be tenured, but they have to pay to be published. But the main market for academic publishing is academia, the very employers of these same professors. So the world of education is paying for academic publishing both coming and going. Furthermore, the pressure to publish and achieve tenure can be so overwhelming that everyone starts looking for some relief, or even a shortcut. The National Post has exposed a deeper problem in their article, “It’s the ‘Worst’ Science Paper Ever — Filled with Plagiarism and Garble — and Journals are Clamouring to Publish It.”

The article begins:

“I have just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble. Now science publishers around the world are clamouring to publish it. They will distribute it globally and pretend it is real research, for a fee. Welcome to the world of science scams, a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.”

For a long time, academic publishing was protected through the stopgap of the peer review process. But information flows faster now, due to the Internet, and publishers have gotten greedy. In the opinion of this librarian, the importance of evaluating information is now greater than ever. It is no longer enough to trust a certain database, or even a certain journal title, each reader much be a careful critic of the information before them.

Emily Rae Aldridge, May 26, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Phi Beta Iota: The post by Brother Stephen is only addressing a long-standing scam in which alleged scholarly journals publish anything at all provided the author pays a fee in the low hundreds. The fact that many authors are witless and unable to determine that this is a scam should by itself be of concern. Many broader problems exist with academic publishing from citation incest to ignorance of citation analytics to a lack of multidisciplinary discovery, discrimination, distilation, and decision-support to archaic and outrageously expensive print and electronic pricing. Amazon is mistreating publishers, but the publishers have brought it on themselves and the readers are failing to hold Amazon to a high standard — Kindle, for example, should not cost more than 20% of the print product price. We are a long way from individuals having personal reputations and inter-linked publishing networks, in part because the information technology industry continues to be dominated by the software and the hardware, rather than the content. IT exists to make sense of content.  Most IT people have not figured that out yet, and most end-users are too ignorant and complacent about the gap between what is and what could be. Our challenge in the near term is not fixing IT — it lies in the minds of our young future leaders.