Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Peer Review, Open Access, and Other Publishing Scams

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Peer Review, Open Access, and Other Publishing Scams

Article excerpt

Peer review is a controlling system that has been operative in the hard sciences for a very long time. Scholars in other disciplines in both the social sciences (psychology and everything else) and the humanities (art history and everything else as well) decided that what is good enough for physicists is good enough for them too. So now every journal editor must send submitted manuscripts out to reviewers (who may or may not be legitimate peers). These busy, hard-pressed academics (and unaffiliated scholars as well as corporate researchers) set to work reading, analyzing, evaluating (and sometimes stealing) the structure, content, and ideas put forth in the papers. Many, many months may pass before their assessment returns to the journal's editor who then must decide what to do based on the often contravening remarks. It is not impossible that so much time has passed that the paper demands revision regardless of the reviewers' comments.

When I founded JIE, I never considered using a peer review system because it is superfluous, inefficient, and wasteful. In most, though not all, cases, a competent editor can make a judicious decision without recourse to peers who have better things to do than to inefficiently and ineffectively read yet another paper. Perhaps if they were rewarded with monetary compensation or tenure or promotion they would do a better, swifter job. But it really matters very little, since they do not catch error or misconduct (fabrication, falsification, plagiary) and they do not fairly evaluate the paper's contribution (since the reviewers often hold contrary perspectives); what peer reviewers do do is to stifle innovation and creativity. The process is so riddled with problems that in most instances we would be better off without it.

Open access is an excellent analogue to peer review. Here we have the promise of inexpensive or free access to codified data, information, and even knowledge without a $20,000 yearly subscription burden for a single publication. And in some cases this probably works out well for everyone: author, publisher, and subscriber. But too often when one party benefits, another suffers, sometimes dramatically. In the distant past, a subscription to an excellent if expensive journal (especially in the hard sciences) cost a "reasonable" amount of money: libraries could purchase important, even crucial, publications for a few hundred dollars. …

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