networks: May 2009 Archives

An interesting piece of news floated across Twitterspace, and across some blogs this week: the revelation that the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was, in fact, a fake journal sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Even more dismaying was a followup story about how Elsevier, publisher of AJBJM, has an entire division devoted to such fraudulence, the so-called strategic medical communications agency, Excerpta Medica. Over at the ACRLog, Barbara Fister has a nice post with the link to the original Scientist article that outed the journal, as well as some discussion of the information literacy implications. Long story short, Elsevier's track record with respect to integrity is not particularly sparkling.

While it's hard to imagine something similar happening in the humanities, recent discussions of a particular anti-plagiarism vendor should probably give us rhetoric and technology folk pause, particularly when you recall that the most likely outlet for scholarship related to said vendor happens to be an Elsevier journal. But I digress.

It's tempting, I think, to see this and other events as further indictments of the academy's fetishization of peer review, but I'm not sure I would agree. And I say that as someone who would really like to see other models available to us for the circulation and distribution of our work. But the fact of the matter is that problems like these have more to do with the oligopolists than with peer review per se.

I review for several journals now, and honestly, I see maybe 1-2 submissions per journal a year. I have some quality control as a result, but the real responsibility for quality lies with the editorial staff of each, the folk who aggregate the results. I've thought a bit about what it must be like for those who were hoodwinked by the press into sitting on the board or reviewing for these journals, because my gut reaction to this story was to blame the reviewers. But that's assuming that submissions actually made it to reviewers, and there's no real guarantee that this is the case. Writers and reviewers alike operate on good faith, the assumption that there's some integrity at the editorial stage. Beyond a certain size, the editorial staff cease to function as part of peer review--their function is more aggregation and facilitation. And given the kind of money involved with the oligopoly journals, I guess I'm not totally surprised at something like this.

It's shameful, but not as shameful as it would be if the reviewers for a "real" journal had been found to be accepting money from Merck (or whomever) for certain outcomes.

Hmm. I feel like I have more to say, but I'm not sure what. Maybe I'll revisit this post after I think about it. For now, though, that's all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the networks category from May 2009.

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