Dishonest academic journals and the Elsevier scandal

Nick Nicholas’ blog also drew my attention to a scandal; a major academic publisher, Elsevier, running “fake” academic journals, which were in fact funded by a pharmaceutical company.  How bad this may be, well, I can’t tell.

Librarians — who pay for journal access, remember — are reacting strongly to this threat to the integrity of the journal system, and quite rightly too.  After all, if you can’t trust the publishers to act as gatekeepers — to keep out the rubbish and the advertising-pretending-to-be-research, your scientific research is screwed.  Terms like “corruption” have been used, and quite properly.

Such scandals undermine the reputation of the journal system.  In truth I think this is a minor hiccup.  Too many people have too much invested in the existing system for it all to go to hell very easily.

But Nick looks at the long-term trend, and how this incident may influence it (paragraphing mine).

The world is upside down, and will only get more so. If it’s not googleable, it doesn’t exist.

That’s calling much of the scholarly publishing market into question, and the medical payola scandal at Elsevier calls into question the remainder. Just found out about this today, and I’m still in shock.

Journal publishers don’t disseminate as broadly as a PDF on a website + google, and no-one cares about long-term availability anymore (not even the publishers, shirking away from paper).

Scholarly publishers’ key selling point now is their imprimatur, and once you piss that away through payola, you don’t recoup the loss of authority by blaming a rogue Australian subbranch, with staff who’ve since left your employ.

The future is… what?  Well, we don’t know.  But it won’t be paper-based journals, that’s for sure.

2 thoughts on “Dishonest academic journals and the Elsevier scandal

  1. “The future is… what? Well, we don’t know. But it won’t be paper-based journals, that’s for sure.”

    Good point; the Internet may blur the distinction between academic and non-academic material, nobody is sure what to trust, since paying for information, behind the Accademic firewall, is presumed to ensure its quality and reliability.
    Luckily, art and humanities, do not have the same life or death potentiality as pharmaceuticals, and mostly does not work with a heavily regulated and policed market, notwithstanding concerns about censorship.
    Working with internet puts the emphasis onto the reader to make their own decision, and learnt to think more critically about the material they read, they might even start to see writing in journals in a new light.

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