The Scholarly Publishing Process Plays a Critical Role in Combating Fake News

Time Reveals Truth by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini

Time Reveals Truth by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini

"Time reveals truth."

As 2017 quickly approaches, we're sure to read, learn, and understand more about the role scholarly publishing will play in our post-truth world. Content validation, peer review, image forensics, traditional citation databases---these are long-established and critical components of the scholarly publishing process. While the demand for increased speed to publication became a critical measurement of a journal publisher's success, editorial integrity and quality remain the gold standard by which publications are judged.

Kalev Leetaru, a contributer to Forbes, recently wrote "How Academia, Google Scholar And Predatory Publishers Help Feed Academic Fake News." In this article he shares a number of his experiences and conversations that illustrate how content validation is not at the forefront or even a consideration in some people's minds:

 
  • "Not a day goes by that an academic paper doesn’t pass through my inbox that contains at least one claim that the authors attribute to a source it did not come from."
  • "I constantly see my own academic papers cited as a source of wildly inaccurate numbers about social or mainstream media where the number cited does not even appear anywhere in my paper."
  • "...many [graduate students] I’ve spoken with have never even heard of more traditional bibliographic search engines and prefer the ease-of-use and instant access of Google Scholar for quick citation searches."
  • "The Editor-in-Chief of one of the world’s most prestigious and storied scientific journals recently casually informed me that his journal now astoundingly accepts citations to non-peer-reviewed personal web pages and blog posts as primary citations supporting key arguments in papers published in that journal."
 

Within scholarly publishing the conversation around "Open" echoes louder all the time. The first SSP Focus Group meeting on January 31, 2017 is on the topic of "Open Data, Science, and Digital Scholarship." PSP's Annual Conference (February 1 to 3) will discuss "Adding Value in the Age of Open."

The concept of "open" is not a new one. Though the term Open Access publishing started to proliferate in the early 2000s, the idea has been around for some time. Computer scientists had been self-archiving in anonymous ftp archives since the 1970s and physicists had been self-archiving in arxiv since the 1990s.  In 1994, Stevan Harnad proposed "The Subversive Proposal," calling on all authors of "esoteric" research writings to archive their articles for free for everyone online.

Leetaru's article suggests that the combination of academia, Google Scholar, and predatory publishing practices play a role in the proliferation of fake news. One could also maintain that the scholarly publishing process plays a pivotal role in combating fake news.

How is your publishing organization navigating the challenges of open in our internet-connected world? What are the consequences of our movement into a more open ecosystem in the scholarly publishing community? Can quality and peer-reviewed content override non-peer-reviewed personal web pages and blog posts?

Time will tell.

 

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