Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Real newspaper explores fake academic ecosystem

At the New York Times, (and no, it is not fake, unless by 'fake' you mean 'high quality') Gina Kolata explores the rapidly expanding world of fake academic publishing and conferring.
As it turns out, many of their articles are appearing in “journals” that will publish almost anything, for fees that can range into the hundreds of dollars per paper. These publications often are called predatory journals, on the assumption that well-meaning academics are duped into working with them — tricked by flattering emails from the journals inviting them to submit a paper or fooled by a name that sounded like a journal they knew.
But it’s increasingly clear that many academics know exactly what they’re getting into, which explains why these journals have proliferated despite wide criticism. The relationship is less predator and prey, some experts say, than a new and ugly symbiosis.
Many faculty members — especially at schools where the teaching load is heavy and resources few — have become eager participants in what experts call academic fraud that wastes taxpayer money, chips away at scientific credibility, and muddies important research.

“When hundreds of thousands of publications appear in predatory journals, it stretches credulity to believe all the authors and universities they work for are victims,” Derek Pyne, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, wrote in a op-ed published in the Ottawa Citizen, a Canadian newspaper.
The number of such journals has exploded to more than 10,000 in recent years, with nearly as many predatory as legitimate ones. “Predatory publishing is becoming an organized industry,” wrote one group of critics in a paper in Nature.
Many of these journals have names that closely resemble those of established publications, making them easily mistakable. There is the Journal of Economics and Finance, published by Springer, but now also the Journal of Finance and Economics. There is the Journal of Engineering Technology, put out by the American Society for Engineering Education, but now another called the GSTF Journal of Engineering Technology.
Predatory journals have few expenses, since they do not seriously review papers that are submitted and they publish only online. They blast emails to academics, inviting them to publish. And the journals often advertise on their websites that they are indexed by Google Scholar. Often that is correct — but Google Scholar does not vet the journals it indexes.
Kolata turns to fake conferences. My only surprise about the one she looks into is that it is New York, rather than a sunnier or more exotic locale.
The journals are giving rise to a wider ecosystem of pseudo science. For the academic who wants to add credentials to a résumé, for instance, publishers also hold meetings where, for a hefty fee, you can be listed as a presenter — whether you actually attend the meeting or not.
One of those meetings, held in New York in June by a group called the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, seemed more like a Potemkin village. On the publisher’s website, the convention promised to be large and lavish.
As if.
But when I visited, the only venue was a small windowless room on the sixth floor of a hotel undergoing renovation. A handful of people sat in the room, diligently listening to a talk. Most who were listed on the program were not in attendance.
To be fair, I have attended sessions at a fair number of official and perfectly legitimate philosophy conferences (and yes, I am looking at you, Eastern Division APA) where the number of panelists exceeded the number of people in the audience, and that might include a janitor on a coffee break.

What spurs this fake academic ecosystem? Kolata justifiably pins it on the way academic institutions evaluate their faculty for employment and promotion---by lines on the CV. Present at a fake conference, you get another line. Publish in a fake journal. Another line. Edit a fake journal. Yet another.

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