The fight against fraud in peer review

We’ve all heard about fake news. Now we have deceptive scholarship. Derek Pyne, a Thompson Rivers University economist, is among the global academics determined to expose deceptive academic journals, sometimes at a risk to their careers.

A determined B.C. economics professor has journeyed into the heart of a dark world where academics seeking to advance their careers have had hundreds of thousands of their articles published for a fee in journals that either deserve suspicion or are outright phoney.

In academia, where the admonition to “publish or perish” is not an empty threat, it is often difficult for scholars to have their research published in legitimate journals, let alone top ones. But it’s becoming increasingly common for academics to get articles produced in questionable journals, just by forking over $100 to $2,500 Cdn.

Derek Pyne, a Thompson Rivers University economist who was granted tenure in 2015, is among the global academics who are exposing the deceptive journals, sometimes at a risk to their careers. Experts say these journals are chipping away at scientific, medical and educational credibility — and wasting the money of the taxpayers who largely finance public colleges and universities. 

Pyne’s pioneering research has been cited by The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. On June 23, The Economist, in a piece on blacklisted journals, praised the B.C. scholar, remarking: “This is an area in which data are hard to come by. But one academic has been prepared to stick his neck out and investigate his own institution.”

His dedication to truth, however, has not gone well for Pyne, who might be turning into one of the most noted professors at Thompson Rivers University. He has been at the public Kamloops institution since 2010, specializing in economic and mathematical theory related to education, religion, trade and crime.

On July 17, however, Pyne was suspended without pay. That’s after being banned on May 17 from the picturesque campus on a Kamloops hillside.

Full story here h/t to Dennis Wingo

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Capn Mike
August 12, 2018 9:18 am

Paging Dr. Peterson,…

Reply to  Capn Mike
August 12, 2018 10:00 am

Jordon Peterson?

Tom Halla
August 12, 2018 9:21 am

This should be a major scandal, with University administrators apparently covering for predatory journals, or researchers using pay-to-print journals and acting as if they were legitimate.

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 12, 2018 11:48 am

“Covering for predatory journals”? You mean pulling the blankets up over their bedmates don’t you?

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 12, 2018 4:37 pm

It is not as simple as that. How many times have people complained here about a paper being behind a paywall? WUWT?

Journals have to manage reviews. Paying to have a paper printed usually means it is not paywalled because the publication costs are covered. It does not mean ‘not peer reviewed’, it means freely available.

If there are journals with no peer review, that is the ‘vanity press’ which is something different altogether.

And if someone is getting on a high horse about ‘cursory peer review’ at some journal, who says it has something to do with being paid or not? Look at the crap that gets through ‘peer review’ these days. How is that different?

Foundational science gets replicated and cited. That’s all. Einstein’s special and general relativity papers weren’t peer reviewed.

August 12, 2018 9:29 am

Before the internet when most research was published on printed paper, there were “page charges” for authors in many journals. That legitimately helped cover costs when journal subscriptions were inadequate. It served also to limit frivolous and worthless publication. When publishing became so much cheaper, this natural barrier was demolished and nothing has arisen to replace it. There’s always a dark cloud to every silver lining.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Gary
August 12, 2018 11:04 am

Highly respected open journals like the PLoS series, which operates as a non-profit, no charge for access, must charge several thousand dollars to publish after acceptance to cover their costs of paying editors and staff, and keeping computer resources on-line.

PLoS is a legitimate business model that works well as long as the editors are honest.

The advocacy wing of politicized science has taken over many of the journals like Science, Nature, PNAS, AGU and their parent organizations.

Any system, no matter how good to start out, depends on the continued honesty and ethics of the insiders. Decades of built up trust are now being rapidly eroded by politicized science.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 12, 2018 11:16 am

There is insufficient competition to keep journals honest, so that bad papers drive out good, the scientific version of Gresham’s Law.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Theo
August 12, 2018 11:42 am

What you mean is that there is too much competition to keep journals honest. Everything in the end comes down to money and survival. If the dishonest journal can crowd out the honest one, then what you have left is junk science. That has happened in the climate field. I am afraid that the integrity of all of science is doomed, if as of 2015, the editor of Lancet said that 50% of all medical studies that he received ; wanting publication, were fraudulent. Now with the growth of thousands of fraudulent journals and tens of thousands of fraudulent papers and pal review, things look hopeless. This is so especially because no one has the time or money to try to replicate a study. In climate science it is even worse because the “climate scientists’ refuse to give up their data. Even the government agencies, many times refuse to publicize the data.

Reply to  Gary
August 12, 2018 11:41 am

Before the internet when most research…

Gary, fraud in peer review has been around since peer review was invented…
….sometimes I think peer review was invented just to cover the fraud

Science is built on science….a bad paper quoted enough becomes the truth…and all the science after it builds on it

Reply to  Latitude
August 12, 2018 1:02 pm

Let us be careful with our words…lies never become the truth.
They may become accepted, but that is a far different thing than the truth.

Reply to  Latitude
August 13, 2018 8:19 am

Most people – laymen – think peer review means actually reproducing the experimental results. When in actuality it is similar to giving your friend your essay to read over for typos. I think that is where a disconnect is. We hear – but it is been peer reviewed, and the public thinks the research is valid, because they misunderstand and think the research was actually reproduced

Ill Tempered Klavier
Reply to  marque2
August 13, 2018 5:07 pm

At best, peer review simply means that, in the opinion of the reviewer(s), the author(s)
(a) picked an interesting topic
(b) investigated it with reasonable methods
(c) avoided obvious blunders
(d) did not trash any opinion firmly held by the reviewer(s).

Reply to  marque2
August 14, 2018 2:22 pm

The important point to pick up on here is that it was the likes of Michael Mann and Phil Jones who loudly made the claim that ‘Its been peer-reviewed (therefore it MUST be OK)” precisely – presumably – in order to fool the general public, whereas pretty much everyone else anyone involved in academia either directly or tangentially (eg in publishing) knew perfectly well that, by and large, your point, that peer review was a brief read through looking for crass errors and bits of nonsense, plus a spot of grammar nit-picking, is about right. Some disciplines eg medicine, pharma, have tougher levels, funny how thye also have most of the non-reproducibles, plus the studies where the cohort is 15 people (not mentioned in the paper).

Reply to  Gary
August 13, 2018 3:55 am

bet the page charges meant it kept em focused precise and non frivolous too
when things are done with govt funding or charity grants then locked into the crazy charges pay to view using pixels! at wiley and elsevier
you know the systems rigged and stinks!

Reply to  Gary
August 18, 2018 9:12 pm

But arguably, one of the most important consequences of the Hockey Stick controversy and Climategate in 2009 has been the slow but increasing adoption of econometric standards of data disclosure in the major science journals.

Anthony – how about commissioning a report on how that’s going from a couple of frequent contributing posters here? I bet many would welcome some data and analysis?

In fact, a reserved thread labeled something like “Climateaudit Wins” is certainly justified – and reforming corrupt science practices is certainly winning at WUWT!

DJ Meredith
August 12, 2018 9:37 am

At the University of Nevada, Reno fraud exists not only in the peer review process and its research, it exists in the money side of the higher education equation. Some years ago a School of Medicine researcher was found to have committed fraudulent research (after receiving great public accolades), but the university’s management of its finances was fraudulent as well. Just like any bureaucracy, it’s got the potential for corruption…

Reply to  DJ Meredith
August 12, 2018 11:56 am

Thank you! I live in Reno, watch local TV news every evening, and never saw a single report about this. There’s still a good-ol’-boy network in NV, but the conflicts between Reno and Las Vegas factions come into play as well.

August 12, 2018 9:48 am

One option never offered solves both ends of the problem:
1. Pal-Review (which allows errors or “consensus science” of bad theories to be endlessly repeated among the “in-crowd” while discouraging publication/acceptance of opposing ideas) and
2. A lack of qualified people willing to lose their time and efforts doing the actual peer-review.

There are good reasons to keep the initial reviewers anonymous during the editing and review cycle, but NO acceptable reasons to keep the reviewers anonymous AFTER the article has been accepted.

Thus, the academic “culture” should reward those who do peer-review by publicisizing each reviewer with the article in the publication, and by honoring within the community the articles peer-reviewed as highly as those written.

“Honoring” means using for promotion, for pay raises, tenure applications, selection to the next college/next job, being listed in resumes, etc.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 12, 2018 10:41 am

In one sense, the reviewers act in a capacity of junior authors, along with the multiple actual authors. They should be honored to have their names listed along with the actual authors.

Old England
Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 12, 2018 10:41 am

I would go rather further than this given that errors and in some cases fraud are now being discovered in all areas of peer reviewed science.

A significant percentage of research is funded by governments and yet there is no real quality control of the outputs. A cursory look at climate science ‘research’ shows how lacking this is.

Governments should set aside a percentage of the funding they plough into research to create a solid review process.

Firstly any research that is directly or indirectly funded from the public purse must, on seeking publication, be subject to a verification process to ensure that it is able to be replicated elsewhere and independently. If it fails that then it cannot be published.

Secondly all data, software programs, assumptions used (with full justification) and methodology must be made available to be checked, tested and confirmed. Without that it is impossible to determine if the conclusions in the paper have any validity at all.

In establishing that government funded review process we could look at taking a further step.

Currently the licensing of medical, veterinary and chemical products generally is done after review of the manufacturers own research. It is slow, cumbersome and expensive and relies upon often very small scale studies to achieve approval.

Some 25 years or so ago I suggested an alternative approach in the UK because the approvals for those products was given by committees drawn heavily from people working for the companies that manufactured them. In essence they were being asked to approve and license each others products. I suggested we should perhaps apply a free market approach (I believe that a journalist that I explained this to wrote a book or pamphlet about this):

Allow companies to market any drug or chemical so long as they first provided a full Public and Personal Liability Insurance for an adequate aggregate amount for any injury or harm resulting from that product in use:

I suspect the insurers’ look at the background research would be considerably more questioning and stringent than the system in operation, after all it was their profits that would be on the line.

The manufacturer would also pay a percentage of the value of all sales into a public fund that would:
a. provide a full public (and animal and environmental) health monitoring of these products in use including long term blood testing and other relevant surveillance for any harmful effects;
b. provide the funds for all aspects of medical testing and any legal claims arising from claims of ill health or harm from use of the licensed products.

Too simplistic?

Martin Howard Keith Brumby
Reply to  Old England
August 12, 2018 1:05 pm

Not too simplistic, perhaps, but you make a big assumption that governments could care less whether the ‘research’ they fund with taxpayer’s money is competent and honest.
Providing the message is what they are looking for (to virtue signal and justify tax hikes), most politicos are quite content, however fraudulent the ‘research is.

Reply to  Old England
August 12, 2018 1:38 pm

The problem with managers & politicians is they think quality control procedures in research are a waste of money. They kind of have a point. Science sorts itself out over time. Problems come with science-based policy. One could argue against it, but the alternative seems to be NGO-, bureaucrat-, science activist-, capitalist enterprise-, … based policy. So I prefer science-based policy, to advocacy driven policy. We certainly need at least a third of research resources spent on QA when science dictates policy. The above utopia is too idealistic because in the real world, politicians, NGOs, etc. cherry pick science to support the policy they already decided on. We all cherry pick evidence to support our prejudices. See Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. It’s the human condition. So better QA for all published science please.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Mark Pawelek
August 12, 2018 10:13 pm

I don’t believe I cherry pick. Cherry picking is a deliberate dishonest act to deceive. No, I don’t do this. I can of course be mistaken in my thinking and I will correct it if pointed out to me. I certainly am aware that cherry picking is a major problem in scholarship, but it is a conscious decision to do so although a feeble mind might think it sees something convincing in it.

Reply to  Mark Pawelek
August 13, 2018 4:09 am

QC of anything you buy in, to value add etc is crucial
if it fails or is contaminated -think Melamine only tested for nitrogen/protien levels NOT what it actually was.
cheap seals on a spacecraft for another…

Reply to  Old England
August 13, 2018 4:06 am

the pharmas pay in to cover idea was run by the ones selling vaccines
they bellyached the prices would have to soar to do so(way in excess of credible costs per dose sold)
then said theyd cancel manufacture unless given indemnity for any damages…and the us gov caved in
the separate vaccine courts are there but unless YOU have the money to pay to prove , forget any help.
and oddly for such safe products?
that court has found liability and paid many millions in damages to plaintiffs.
when an alt med item has an issue they get sued, often shut down, fda is onto it like poop on a blanket and sos the msm presstitutes.
and thats without a death, or even lasting harm unlike pharmas offerings bextra vioxx thalidomide etc etc.
foods the same
peanutbutter with either e-coli or salmonella kept getting sold, even when reports were filed
yet let one person sell raw milk and have one person get the trots and they are shut down…while approved dairies sell milk with high cell counts(pus) and with bGh added, but thats ok cos they pay/bribe? the dept of ag n fda etc etc

Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 12, 2018 11:17 am

Review or perish?

Reply to  Theo
August 12, 2018 11:37 am

Rather, “Reviewed and Praised!”

By the way, who were the reviewers who approved those papers which changed the world and won the Nobel Prizes?

Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 12, 2018 11:42 am

For Einstein, just the editors of the journals.

How many reviews would equal one paper co-authorship?

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 12, 2018 5:03 pm

“…but NO acceptable reasons to keep the reviewers anonymous AFTER the article has been accepted.”

There are good reasons to keep it private. Very few reviewers would be willing to tackle things honestly if the reviewer was known. Sometimes we can guess who it is. If a review is harsh or invalid in criticisms like the silly reviews of Monckton’s paper, you can ask for different reviewers, even suggesting them. One of my grad students had great difficulty find reviewers who were able to tackle the difficult math in one paper. Another paper was approved containing serious errors, not caught by one reviewer, and approved by another so the latter could point to them later and say, “See? These guys don’t know what they are talking about.” I had never seen that before! Deliberate approval of errors by a reviewer to discredit the author’s work. It’s a jungle out there.

A paper is quite different from an external international review of a PhD thesis, where those involved know and often face each other.

The problem is pal review, not peer review. Poorly considered speculations are given credence by repetition, deliberately, and the journal editors should have a lot more spine than I have seen of late. The stuff (that is the right word) about ‘climate’ getting into Science these days is embarrassing. Editors used to be made of sterner stuff.

August 12, 2018 9:59 am

From a FB poster and worth a good read. Curry is always a good read,..

August 12, 2018 10:13 am

It is more expensive than that. For my paper I was quoted €2,000 for the paper and €500 for each color graph or image, and since I had many images this was going to be VERY expensive.

And when you get published, dozens of conference centers invite you to be the ‘star speaker’ at an exotic conference resort in Cancun. The only thing they neglect to say, is it will cost you $5,000 to speak, and $250 a night for the room. All of which normally gets paid for by the university. (And is really just a jollie, because the talks are dire and everyone is only there for the parties.).

Sorry, I forgot, this is all paid for by you, because the universities are simply using and wasting your money.


Reply to  ralfellis
August 12, 2018 10:22 am

Wow. Sobering news – But remember: “Only the greedy oil companies reward skeptics for publishing their views on CAGW!”

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  ralfellis
August 12, 2018 5:06 pm

I saw one paper published for US$1750, all in. As a result it is open source.

August 12, 2018 10:14 am

I got three things:
1 – This is a problem at small universities.
2 – The bogus journals make up citations.
3 – Derek Pyne was mentioned in an article in The Economist. link

Universities routinely use Impact Factor to judge a professor’s publications. It also matters a lot if the professor’s papers are cited. That’s why I wasn’t too concerned about bogus journals. They have zero impact factor.

Small schools may not have more than one physicist. They won’t have anyone who can judge the merit of a physics professor’s work. As the interview points out, bogus journals might mislead a small school. Add bogus citations there’s a real problem. IMHO, bogus citations are outright fraud.

Derek Pyne made a horrible mistake. He implicated people from his own school. If he hadn’t done that, his situation would be totally different. The school doesn’t need any external prodding to go after him. It has a dog in the fight because its reputation is at stake.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  commieBob
August 12, 2018 5:09 pm

Do you mean their reputation needs repairs? If the impact factor can be calculated automatically surely the exposure of junk citations can be too?

Reply to  commieBob
August 12, 2018 9:27 pm

It’s not a problem of small universities it has always been a problem you only have to look at the list of famous papers initially rejected in physics that later won nobel prizes.

The problem is that the assumption of peer review is that the reviewer actually knows the subject well enough to review the paper and that fails far to often.

August 12, 2018 10:17 am

The behavior of the researchers is only the outward sign of the real problem.
“Publish or Perish” is shorthand for a whole raft of policies put in place by the institutions management. As far as the university president, the board of directors, and the deans are concerned, everybody wants to be in charge of an institution where Top Notch researchers are doing Top Notch Research.
So the whole “Publish or Perish” system was born. The whole thing is nothing more than status seeking and social climbing by the university administrators within their own little cloistered world of university administrators.
In this environment, it is easier to understand why academics respond so poorly, considering the set of perverse incentives placed before them. What is more difficult to understand is why anybody would challenge the system at their own institution. It is bad enough that they challenge the status quo, but worse, they threaten the status and therefor the Egos of the administrators.
And this is something that bureaucrats everywhere respond to very poorly.
Suicide. Mindless suicide.

Reply to  TonyL
August 12, 2018 10:35 am

I am a peer reviewer for a government research and eduction body with very high standards. I was appointed by the Governor’s staff years ago. There is absolutely no communication between the Directors and the grant Authors. This cannot stop favoritism with friends of the Authors communicating with the reviewer (Are you reviewing my proposal/article?).
Regardless, the field I am in luckily has very high standards/ethics. That’s what it take.

Reply to  Enginer
August 12, 2018 10:39 am

—except the request/publication paperwork, of course….

Reply to  Enginer
August 12, 2018 2:18 pm

Do you really mean ‘research and eduction’ or ‘research and education’?
There is a difference. I know what it is. Do you?
And what do you engine? Buses? Or trams? Or space rockets?
The reason I ask is that, although anyone can make typos
(God knows, I make plenty myself),
you do boast of the ‘very high standards’ in your field – which you do not name.

August 12, 2018 10:59 am

Here are some great arguments to challenge the “Consensus.” Remember, the Hockeystick passed Peer Review. It is the greatest piece of scientific garbage ever produced. The IPCC models that fail miserably pass peer review. The research on which Al Gore and Jim Hansen make failed predictions are based on peer-reviewed research. Peer review doesn’t even demand reproducibility or the application of the scientific method.

Comprehensive Climate Change Debating Points and Graphics; Bring It Social Media Giants. This is Your Opportunity to Do Society Some Real Good

Reply to  CO2isLife
August 13, 2018 8:48 am

So that is a mistake in your thinking. Peer review, is not reproducing the work – it is merely that the facts are stated reasonably and the math is somewhat correct. It is much like asking a friend to read your essay before turning it in at school – that is a peer review in itself.

Even if you are super ethical, it would be very easy to pass through a document your peer review that doesn’t work well in the real world. You read the document, and see the assumptions, and then see the conclusion based on the assumptions, the math seems to be OK. So it turns out the assumptions are way off – which is why the prediction didn’t turn out, but based on those assumptions, you have determined the paper valid.

August 12, 2018 11:31 am

Back in the 1980s Senator Paula Hawkins, Florida, went after fraud in medical research and the poor oversight by the National Institute of Health. Two famous incidents was the researcher doing skin grafts in mice who wanted to demonstrate how great his research was. He claimed to have grafted black fur onto a white mouse. On the way to a presentation where the graft had turn white he used his magic marker to create a patch. He ultimately confessed as to what he had done. The other was the doctor doing cancer research on humans were none of his test patients had survived, many because of the treatment, but he had continued to received funding for years. When Senator Hawkins asked whether the doctor was still getting funded to do human research, she was told no, but she followed up with ‘well what is he doing now.’ He was working on monkeys and still being funded.

I know of researchers funded by the federal government for years that have never submitted a report or a paper for publication fraudulent or otherwise. When someone suggested that their research come up for closer review they found out that all of the researchers or their institutions were politically protected either by those in the bureaucracy or in Congress.

August 12, 2018 11:42 am

Just a thought: If your plan begins with “if only people would…”, then you have already failed. You need a plan that starts with “because people do…”

I’m not sure there is *an* answer to this problem, more like a number of answers – just that if the answers are “people will now stop acting like people” then they won’t work.

Some folk in the scientific community need to have an honest look at why they peer review system is failing so often and come up with some procedures that work with instead of against the psychological and social forces that lead to wide-scale failure.

Obviously that doesn’t mean “working with” corruption and bribery, just being honest about it when coming up with the procedures. We have a lot of systems based on trust that are hopelessly broken but barely addressed or unaddressed because we’re not honest about the problem (or wink and nod at it instead of confronting it, like sexual abuse in Hollywood was for decades).

We also need to be honest about cost, and be able to tell when something is just plain expensive vs when someone is gouging, and when something just practically can’t be replicated quickly, and when to say “we just won’t know this for a while.”

Reply to  Merovign
August 12, 2018 12:24 pm

… just that if the answers are “people will now stop acting like people” then they won’t work.

The problem is very simple: supply and demand. There’s a huge oversupply of PhDs. link If you want a job in academia, you have to publish. To get published in a reasonable journal, you have to show new, novel, interesting work (and yet you better not rock any boats). There’s no penalty for being wrong. At best, the result is that most published research findings are wrong. Past that is all kinds of corruption.

One solution is to fund all the people who want to be researchers and can get by the (usually) high bar of a PhD.

Another solution is to cut the number of new PhDs. That’s similar to the way we keep from being overwhelmed with new medical doctors. Just make the admission requirements really crazy.

Solving the supply and demand problem would almost eliminate the corruption that is currently brought on by desperation.

Reply to  commieBob
August 12, 2018 4:29 pm

True. The government funds PhDs in science fully through grants so it costs very little for someone to earn a PhD in these fields. One sure sign there are too many is the number of people with PhDs in science that no longer practice science or that teach grade school. Another sign is that 30 years ago, it did not require a postdoc (or two) to get faculty positions at smaller schools. Now it is quite common for job ads even at small schools to say a postdoc is preferred. Same with industry jobs. And there are many people that have to work a few years here and there and move around from temporary faculty positions and postdocs multiple times before they either give up or finally find a position. New rules (even though relaxed) recently have caused post-doc salaries to go way up. I doubt that the grants will go up proportionally to allow the same number of postdocs, so there may be more graduate students funded but then fewer postdocs for them after they graduate.

Reply to  commieBob
August 12, 2018 6:50 pm

“medical doctors. Just make the admission requirements really crazy.”

Like, being GI Joe, able to handle crazy workload, but with
– zero ethics
– zero math understanding (not even four operations)
– zero understanding of stats (not even the terminology used in all biomed papers)
– zero critical thinking?

Because that’s what the high bar of MD got us. Demented droids ready for medical fascism promoted by the far right governments (like the one in France).

Reply to  simple-touriste
August 13, 2018 3:08 am

The French government is a lot closer to “Far Left” Socialists !

Reply to  Marcus
August 13, 2018 6:22 pm

Many factors indicate how close Macron is to 30ties extreme right:

– typical language used during debate against “far right” leader MLP
– legitimate criticism (l’affaire Benalla) is treated as support for the enemy (now Russia) following the “analysis” of “EU Disinfo”

Joel O'Bryan
August 12, 2018 12:16 pm

So many small universities and colleges, so many professors needing to publish. The pressure is intense. Corners get cut, ethics succumbs to CV-centric career-building pressures and of course the fatter paychecks that come with gaining full professorship and tenure.

That the TRU Dean and Provost did not attempt an open, honest discussion and push-back at Professor Pyne’s findings, clearly indicates they needed to keep the dirty secret he was throwing sunlight on to simply disappear. They couldn’t dispute his findings. So like any good liberal, they attempt to shut him down and silence him.

No doubt Professor Jordan Peterson at Univ of Toronto could relate. And same with Professor Ridd at JCU.

C. Paul Barreira
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 12, 2018 2:28 pm

Ridd redux (see various articles at the blog of Jennifer Marohasy).

C. Paul Barreira
Reply to  C. Paul Barreira
August 12, 2018 2:29 pm
Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  C. Paul Barreira
August 12, 2018 11:52 pm


Sunlight is a disinfectant on bad ethics and bad behavior.

Smart Rock
August 12, 2018 2:28 pm

Here is “my” short list of what is wrong with academia:

1, Too many universities. I’ve just downloaded a list of universities in England & Wales. In 1818 there were 2 universities, in 1918 there were 12, and in 2018 there are 123 (the numbers vary depending on how you treat the University of London, which was always a cluster of independent colleges and is now a cluster of independent universities). Why? The majority of the post-1918 universities were formerly colleges that provided quality education, much (all?) of which was related to preparation for specific careers. A valuable function, and some of them still do it as a part of the “all-round” university education.

2. Universities are now businesses. They have highly paid administrators who work at promoting the prestige of their institutions, try and attract star professors, and they advertise. I don’t think I ever say an advertisement for a university before about 2005 (trying to recollect), now there are full-page pullouts in broadsheet newspapers. And the prestige of a university as a business is measured (inter alia) by numbers of published papers and cash flow from research grants (very important because the university gets to apply a proportion of every grant to the salaries of professors, technicians and assistants and equipment/material costs, thereby leaving more of the university’s “own” money for administration and other stuff).

3, Too many students. This of course is a consequence of Too Many Universities. Are 25 percent of kids coming out of secondary schools really ready for a serious academic education? (that’s a rhetorical question of course).

4. Too many researchers. This is a consequence of the “publish or perish” factor in academic career advancement. Not all university teachers should be doing a lot of research. Those who are good at teaching should be doing a lot of teaching, and those who are good at research should be doing a lot of research. Recalling my two British alma maters in the 1960s (those were the days!), there were good teachers, and there were good researchers, and quite a lot who were good at both. There were also a few who weren’t good at either.

5. Too much research. Are there really that many possible research topics? Obviously, there are, but the question should be “are there really that many worthwhile research projects?

6. Multiple publications per research project. This has been a growing trend over the last 50 years and is of course related to the Publish Or Perish aspect of career advancement and institutional prestige metrics. It also has a symbiotic relationship with journal proliferation. Of course, every new publication gets to cite all the others as references, thereby enhancing the author’s citation statistics.

7. Shoddy research. We see it all the time in “climate science” which should by now outrank “military intelligence” as the ultimate definitive oxymoron. It’s also been well publicised in the field of pharmacology, where the power of corporate money to influence outcomes is apparent, with shocking results. No doubt it’s true in other fields too.

All of which amounts to a typical old-timer’s whine: “Why can’t things be like they were in the good old days?”

Reply to  Smart Rock
August 12, 2018 4:16 pm

i agree with #7. it covers your post well.

Reply to  Smart Rock
August 12, 2018 7:17 pm

Intelligence is what the enemy uses.

–James Thurber

Reply to  Theo
August 12, 2018 8:04 pm

Now define the enemy.

Mike Macray
Reply to  Smart Rock
August 13, 2018 1:06 pm

Smart Rock
….”I’ve just downloaded a list of universities in England & Wales. In 1818 there were 2 universities,”…
Did you forget Scotland? ?? St. Andrews (1409), Glasgow (1451), Aberdeen (1495) and of course the much younger Edinburgh founded in 1582…
I hope it was an oversight and not a deliberate ‘sassenach’ swipe at Scotland’s stellar academic tradition!

Crispin in Waterloo
August 12, 2018 5:26 pm

The video interviewee says something that in a roundabout way suggests there are no peer reviewed pay to publish journals. This is simply not true. Something he says early sort of hints there might be but the main thrust is that if you pay the publishing costs, it is a vanity press arrangement, they will publish anything. This is also untrue.

The issue is whether or not the publishing costs come from paywalled access (subscriptions) or pay to publish (open access to readers).

Someone publishes a paper.
It is reported on WUWT.
It turns out to be paywalled.
Someone gets a copy and puts it on a website.
The address link is posted to WUWT.

That is illegal. Copyright violation.

If you want a copy of a paper, write to the author and ask. Almost invariably they will send you one for research purposes.

Someone publishes a paper, and pays 2k so it will be public access.
It is reported on WUWT.
It turns out to be public access.
The address link is posted to WUWT.
Everyone downloads and saves a copy.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
August 12, 2018 9:58 pm

what does it cost to publish pixels?
All the data in the American Library of Congress amounts to 15 TB.
so you can store the library of congress – everything- for about 400$
so storage is super duper cheap for a .pdf.
i can download a hundred gigs in a month for 50$, so bandwidth is not adding the cost up to 3 figures…

so break it down for me the thousands in expenses
cuz i can have a book published by amazon in 24 hours for less than a movie in the theater.
need some splainin

Reply to  gnomish
August 13, 2018 4:16 am

and their running costs and equipment are paid for BY the taxpayers so access to them should be gratis

Dr. Strangelove
August 12, 2018 6:14 pm

THE CONCEPTUAL PENIS AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT is the “best ever” paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.

Here’s a paragraph from the conclusion, which was held in high regard by both reviewers:

We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents significant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

Ian Wilson
August 12, 2018 9:55 pm

The trouble with any discussion on this topic is that it is far more nuanced and complex than many are willing to acknowledge.

From the Author’s perspective – There are multiple ways in which a paper can get published

1. No fee – Paywalled – good peer review
2. Up front fee to cover costs – good peer review – open source
3. Up front fee to cover costs – poor or cursory peer review
4. Up front fee to cover costs – no peer review

Arguments can be made to support possibilities 1, 2 and 3 but not 4. Some would say that 3 is indefensible, however, the large number of quality papers that are being effectively censored because they do not kowtow to the scientific consensus can only see the light of day through option 3. Science needs a platform for ideas that challenge the consensus and, in the real world, options 1 and 2 are often a roadblock to new and/or challenging ideas.

From the Reviewer’s perspective – Double standards and the real world

There are good forms of peer-review:

1. good quality peer review by independent experts in the field
2. good quality peer-review when the number of experts in the field is small e.g. when conference proceedings in a specialist field need to be published.

In case 2, it is effectively impossible to exclude some form of pal-review. It is important, however, to mitigate the worst aspects of pal-review by ensuring that there are outside reviewers who do not share the in-field preferences of those in the specialist field. In fields where the science is highly politicized, like climate science, this may require that the editor balance the reviews of those who are politically opposed to those who attended the conference.

and bad forms of peer review:

1. pal-review without the caveats of point 2 above.
2. peer review by self-proclaimed experts whose minds are closed to new ideas [i.e. scientific gatekeepers]
3. peer review by self-proclaimed experts who have a political ax to grind
4. peer review by self-proclaimed experts who have a personal grudge against the authors or their associates.
5. peer review by self-proclaimed experts who wants to block their academic competitors.
6. poor quality peer-review by those who are not qualified in the field.

I could go on and on, however, you should get the point……

Gary Pearse
August 12, 2018 10:00 pm

I see a lot of rationalization of the behavior of researchers and journal publication practices here. One thing not mentioned is the effect of greatly lowering of standards of entry into universities which began a couple of generations ago. When I entered U over 60 yrs ago less than 5% of the population went for higher studies. Standards were tough (and expected to be) and most people self gauged their inadequate abilities and went on to trade schools and the like.

With high standards, researchers are more likely to produce quality research. Publish or perish and how less talented professionals handle this is one of the products of this throwing-doors-wide-open policy. I know profs who had to put a pre-entry year of studies together for ‘horde enrollees’ to teach English grammar, algebra and writing skills to people who were largely ineducable. They even created a dozen or more wifty-poofty new faculties for empty headed students. Universities received grants tied to enrollment – a terrible idea!

For years, well endowed U of Toronto and McGill U in Montreal, resisted the temptation and were the best schools in Canada. Eventually they were forced by lefty govs to create women’s studies and a host of unbelievable faculties (remember
the journal that was forced by political correctness to publish a paper on feminine glaciology!)

I remember when my now very adult children told me about everyone getting a trophy or prize for something: for ‘participation’ (in my school days they had less gentile methods for NOT participating), or most improved student or most thoughtful student and several other duncie awards. This was the beginning of ‘industrial democracy’ in schools. They dumbified the curriculum to level the playing field and smart students were punished and belittled. This was the beginning of the devaluation of all the great things created by our civilization.

How in heck can we expect superb scholarship to come out of this? How can we expect the quality of climate science to be other than mostly mediocre. How can we expect researchers who would have been gifted bricklayers to not cheat ,plagiarize, make up data, publish garbage out of the desperation of being of just average intelligence – these people are actually victims of this whole process of destruction of scholarship.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 13, 2018 8:33 am

That’s a good point, find the root cause. After WWII in the US the GI bill was a just program and from what I saw while going to college with some of them was a positive experience. They were serious anyway, but got no “affirmative action.” A whole bunch of bad policies followed, not necessarily connected, but the fragmentation of curricula followed along with a primitive political hierarchical behavior. Part of this fragmentation, somewhat understandable in some fields, led to schools of education which moved away from subjects.

It is not satisfactory or fair to the individual or society to be tied up in something you don’t understand. Plenty of skills and intellect exist outside of college. Everybody should have the opportunity (not constitutional right) to attend college if they want and can handle it, just like any field of endeavour . They do not have the right to interfere with others if they are kept in college beyond their maturity, ability, and education.

August 13, 2018 3:52 am

gee isnt this eerily familiar to a slew of psuedoclimatology pal/paid reviews?
shooting the messenger just like JCU did down under too
which just makes the entire board grants committees and the rest look pretty daft and suss.
looks like a LOT of sunshine is needed!

August 13, 2018 9:31 am

In any field, whether it’s a plumbing, electrical wiring, brain surgery, rockets, masons, accounting….. results matter. There has to be continuity. Let’s take accounting, it’s to give a clear picture of what a business s doing. It abides by general principles that everyone in the field knows and accepts. One of the things it doesn’t support is Enron like accounting or a Bernie Madoff that is entirely meant to deceive investors.
The people that support ‘ climate change ‘ as defined by the IPCC fall into 3 groups. 1. The authoritative group that is manufacturing the information. 2. The people supporting it that stand to gain from it. 3. The gullible that have issues and believe things from expects They tend to be emotional rather than seeing if the plumbing actually works or the wiring meets code.
Society is buying stock in a regime that lacks ethical standards and will most certainly fail. Climate Change.
Why would AOL have an article ( today ) about ” One city will become uninhabitable due to heat , warns one expert ” ? Why would they print that when every prediction has failed? How can you take that seriously? I suspect many don’t. AGW is becoming like the people predicting the end of the world on May 25. It gets lots of media attention, but it doesn’t happen…. oh wait not May, August 17 of next year….. send me your money, and I can prevent it.

Reply to  rishrac
August 13, 2018 1:22 pm

” One city will become uninhabitable due to heat , warns one expert ”
And what city would that be then?
Sodom? Or Gomorrah?

Reply to  photios
August 13, 2018 8:16 pm

I don’t know, I didn’t give them the pleasure of having click bait. I can think of several cities that most people would leave if there wasn’t air conditioning. I haven’t chosen to live in them even with air conditioning.

howard dewhirst
August 14, 2018 5:41 am

Just like Prof Ridd at James Cook University in Queensland

August 14, 2018 12:18 pm

Even good journals ask you for names of potential referees. I always use people I don’t know, but it is easy to list your pals. This is like getting to put your friends on our jury. I understand the editors are pressed for time but this standard practice is subject to corruption.

August 14, 2018 2:40 pm

The language cheat the climate science crowd have made is that (a a paper passing) peer review means that that paper is a good paper, its findings are correct. Not at all. If I peer review a paper and recommend it for publication, all I am saying is that, on the surface, it appears not to be rubbish: no egregious errors in logic, and the author appears to be familiar with the latest literature on this topic. Thats all. I am NOT re-doing the author’s research. That would be the only way I could confirm his work is correct. But that that’s the falsehood underpinning of the climate science crowd’s claim that peer-review has such great significance. They know all this perfectly well. ‘Justification by peer review’, from academics, of all people, demonstrates their intellectual dishonesty if nothing else does.

August 16, 2018 1:18 pm

How many people in each intellectual field are mediocre, with barely passable knowledge and understanding of the subject matter?

Verified by MonsterInsights