Plenty of bad papers are accepted as true because the academic who wrote it is famous. On the flip side, many good papers are never written out of the fear that it could cost an academic his job. So, how about we just eliminate real names and publish papers under fake ones instead? That's the fundamental idea behind a new journal, not-so-subtly called The Journal of Controversial Ideas, set to launch next year. This idea is so good, I wish I'd thought of it first.
Some scientific journals are publishing articles by anti-technology activists without disclosing their blatant financial conflicts of interest. Despite all the pleas for transparency, the problem is getting worse.
Scientific journals discriminate against industry scientists, unless, that is, they happen to work for the environmental or organic industries. Those scientists don't have to follow the same rules governing the disclosure of conflicts of interest that everybody else does.
Scientists are not above hyping data to make themselves look good. Contrary to popular wisdom, studies funded by industry were no likelier to have "spin" than studies that were not funded by industry.
In a field like gender studies, what constitutes a respectable outlet? We can make progress toward answering that question by utilizing SCImago's ranking of academic journals.
NYU physicist Alan Sokal thought very little of the research performed by his colleagues in the social sciences. To prove his point, he wrote a paper that used plenty of trendy buzz words but made absolutely no sense. As he later explained, Dr. Sokal wanted to find out if a humanities journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." It would. His paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," was published in the journal Social Text in 1996, and his hoax has earned him a place in scientific history.
Science is one of the few institutions in America that has largely remained above the hyperpartisanship gripping our nation. However, there is a small but growing perception among Americans that scientists are becoming politically biased. Indeed, surveys have confirmed that Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in academia. And, over the last few months, the behavior of high-profile scientific journals has only served to reconfirm these perceptions of bias.
Perhaps the most problematic classification system in the scientific community is that of the impact factor, which attempts to rank journals by their relative importance. This factor for a particular journal is equal to the average number of times an article in the journal is cited in a given year. While this sounds useful, in practice, it has been a slow-motion train wreck.
Traditionally, science has been a refuge from this hyperbolic nonsense. But no longer. More and more scientific journals are wading into partisan politics. Current Biology, in its most recent issue, has published a feature article that is every bit as ghastly as it is incoherent.