Is the academic system eating itself?

What is the real purpose of publishing?

An answer can be provided by this article published recently in the New York Times on the subject of ‘predatory’ journals:

“Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals”

‘Predatory’ journals refer to those publishing outlets where academics pay a fee to get published. The article avoids mentioning specific amounts. It only states that the fees range into hundreds of US dollars per paper. In return, these journals offer a very expedite peer-review process and open-access to the publications.

Given the ruthless competition, academics increasingly use them to get hired or promoted at education institutions. The article argues that using these journals to get published has become so widespread that, rather than being a predator-prey relationship, it has turned into an “ugly symbiosis.”

The symbiosis has become so successful that, nowadays, there are more than 10,000 ‘predatory’ journals offering their services (which is almost the same number of legitimate ones).  As with the legitimate journals, the ‘predators’ represent now an organized industry. It is important to note that legitimate journals also charge a fee if academics desire to grant their article open-access.

It seems that the academic system is rewarding those who will destroy it in the long-term. By destroying, I mean turning science into pseudo-science. This trend fits with the so-called “post-truth” era that arrived after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as president of the US.

The article says that this is a classic example of “supply meeting demand”. In other words, education institutions have just adopted the logic of the market. But this view misses the moral and ethical dimensions of the problem, which gain particular relevance as universities constantly promote research integrity practices in their research programs.

The value of the article is that it puts into debate an issue that should not be overlooked or disregarded by arguing that it is a matter of individual judgment.