We recently read a fascinating article in the Walrus about “The Rise of Junk Science”. The article describes an ironic consequence of the economics of the publishing industry. In the late 1990s and early 2000s ownership of academic journals had consolidated into a cozy oligopoly that had begun raising prices very aggressively. In response to high prices and enabled by the internet, a new model of “open access” journals were created. The open-access model, “democratized and globalized a process that had been considered elitist and exploitative by many researchers.
However, the open-access model was distorted by an abundance of “junk” publications that that accept almost all submissions with little editing or peer review. The article warns that, “Fake and flawed studies are so pervasive that the presumed authority of an expert or researcher in a scholarly journal is no longer what it used to be.” The article goes on to say that, “If a critical mass of scientists become untrustworthy a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost.”
If you are involved with a university or rely on academic journals in your decision making, this article is worth a read.