Thursday, 27 November 2014

Vanity press, academic style

Hans Memling ca. 1433-1494
Pay for publishing vanity presses have been around for a long time, but when I saw that some journals had started charging their authors several hundred dollars just to see their paper published, I started to wonder about the quality of their publications. Perhaps a better paper on some subject might have written by someone who did not want to pay any such fees. Now it seems that some published papers are not even read and the "peer-review process" consists, at the most, of a machine reading to see if the paper just looks like a real paper in its format.

Nearly twenty years ago, a machine generated academic paper was published as a hoax. You can read all about it here, and find an unending supply of other such fantasy papers here.

Fortunately for the public, a safeguard is in place so that no one will unwittingly find such faked papers. While the title will be advertised, there will be a fee (usually around $40) to actually read it. Of course, being slightly curious about something rarely justifies spending $40 so no great harm is done to the public at all.

News writers discovered long ago that all that the public really requires is something like "experts say that..." without having to give any explanation for their opinion. Of course, no income is generated by this process, and "publish or perish" still exists so vanity publishers need not worry too much.

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