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April 11th, 2013
Pseudoacademia, Open-Access Journals, and Parsing Good Information From Bad

Though our age of instant information and viral communication has brought us a wondrous and infinite supply of cat-based media, the availability of quality, accurate information can be unfortunately rendered uncertain.  In fields such as science and medicine the accuracy of information is of vital importance, and unfortunately, as Dr. Steven Novella of Yale University discusses in his article “Pseudoacademia”, a recent phenomenon on the web, open-access journals, provides a new venue for scammers and profiteers to promote false information and exploit authors with surprise fees.

Taken as a whole, open-access journals are yet another advancement in the realm of public knowledge and transparency.  However, as with any new source of information exchange, con-artists eventually invent a new way of deceiving the general public and extorting money from the unlucky few.  In the case of open-access journals, one such method that is employed is to create a professional appearing mimic of a more well-established journal. Through spamming, professors and researchers are solicited as authors of content, often aggressively, and then hit with author’s fees after publication.  Since open-access journals do not charge subscription fees, the standard is to charge the authors, often in the thousands of dollars.

Dr. Novella goes on to observe that open-access journals have poor or no systems of peer review.  As long as an author pays the fee, what they write will be published.  One needs only the ambition and rhetorical skill, not necessarily the information, to be published in many open-access journals.  When searching the web for medical or science based information, “you will likely get poor-quality results mixed in with the legitimate articles, and they will be difficult to recognize because they are convincing mimics”, asserts Novella.

With no prepublication editorial process, Dr. Novella ends by suggesting a postpublication means of verifying quality.  Open-access journals provide a potentially excellent way for more people to engage in cooperative dialogue and research, generating more ideas and expanding our knowledge in given fields, but we must be ever vigilant of the accuracy of what we read.

Here at YouMeThink, we want the information and ideas exchanged to be as truthful and transparent as possible.  For YMT users who regularly consult open-access journals, do you find difficulty in separating the valuable information from the chaff of pseudoscience and clever marketing?  There are some who do not know of the risk, and absorbing truth and nonsense alike.

Luckily, one of the many things you can do here at YMT is form communities around shared interests.  If you utilize open-access journals, why not form a community of colleagues in a related field that could help you analyze the quality of information in the articles you read, even evaluating the entire journal itself to ensure it is not a con-site.  The potential of free content exchange coupled with social transparency is infinite!


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