Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vanity Thy Name is Publication

There has always been a thriving industry of vanity publishing. Vantage Press was a well-known vanity publisher which even advertised in places like The New York Times Book Review. While you had to pay to be published  (instead of the reverse of normal commercial publishing where authors get paid for their work), you would be able to satisfy your ego and see your name in lights. Vanity publishing really was for the vain and particularly those who didn’t like to take no for an answer. Now the vanity idea has caught on in the rarefied world of academic and scholarly publishing. A recent article in the Times, “Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too), NYT, 4/7/13) is causing an uproar among academics and scientists who place great importance in peer reviewed journals. The Times quoted Steven Goodman, “a dean and professor of medicine at Stanford and the editor of the journal Clinical Trials,” as describing the phenomenon as “the dark side of open access.” Often times these open access journals or conferences are a con. “The scientists who were recruited to appear at a conference called Entomology-2013 thought they had been selected to make a presentation to the leading professional association who study insects, “ the Times reported, “But they found out the hard way they were wrong. The prestigious academically sanctioned conference they had in mind has a slightly different name: Entomology 2013 (without the hypen)." As may be obvious the possibilities are vast. Instead of The New England Journal of Medicine, you simply create The Southern New England Journal of Medicine. Instead of Nature you have NaTURE. Back in l996, there was a famous scandal in which a writer for a scholarly magazine called Lingua Franca perpetrated a hoax on the left leaning Social Text. The article, which parodied deconstructionist jargon laden prose, was a accepted by Social Text. The new value free form of vanity scholarly publishing is a deconstructionist utopia. In a universe where everything is relative, there is no right or wrong and all thinking is merely a product of its social context, there is no need for peer review. Let’s say you write a piece entitled “Adultery in the German Diet.” The auspicious and highly respected journal Foreign Affairs is mostly likely to turn it down, no matter how scholarly the research, but you’ll have no reason to despair that your hard work won’t be  rewarded. For a price you can simply have your article published in Foreign-Affairs.

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