Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Fake Academy: Scholarly Open Access

Like many scholars I get a fair number of solicitations from dodgy-sounding journals and conferences. The New York Times has an article about the phenomenon, A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia by Kevin Cary. Cary mentions a list of dodgy journals and publishers by Jeffrey Beall: Scholarly Open Access.

Cary looked into the World Conference on Special Needs Education (W.C.S.N.E) and found "the story was more complex than I expected." The paper submission guidelines seemed tailored to jamming a large number of papers into a single publication and, when contacted, many “Program Committee members” and “Keynote Speakers” where unaware of the affiliation with W.C.S.N.E. So:
Richard Cooper, the director of disability services at Harcum College, a private two-year institution in Philadelphia, helped create W.C.S.N.E. along with Mr. Shoniregun. He says he has no involvement with the paper selection process or financial aspects of the conference, simply serving as an organizer, presenter and master of ceremonies. He described it as a worthwhile gathering of scholars, many of whom live in Africa and India and pay hundreds of dollars in conference fees to attend.

The papers presented at previous W.C.S.N.E. conferences don’t appear to have been composed using the autocomplete function on an iPhone. They mostly describe small qualitative studies and surveys that examine well-established ideas, break little new ground and use statistical jargon to make their findings seem more complicated than they really are. They very likely would be rejected by the American Educational Research Association. But they are also well within the bounds of what gets published in many scholarly journals that, while not prestigious, have never been called a fraud.
Cary concludes:
There are real, prestigious journals and conferences in higher education that enforce and defend the highest standards of scholarship. But there are also many more Ph.D.-holders than there is space in those publications, and those people are all in different ways subject to the “publish or perish” system of professional advancement. The academic journal-and-conference system is subject to no real outside oversight. Standards are whatever the scholars involved say they are.

So it’s not surprising that some academics have chosen to give one another permission to accumulate publication credits on their C.V.’s and spend some of the departmental travel budget on short holidays. Nor is it surprising that some canny operators have now realized that when standards are loose to begin with, there are healthy profits to be made in the gray areas of academe.

1 comment:

  1. You certainly highlight a real problem. The Academy needs a better system for evaluating promotion and tenure.