Jessica Weinkle has written another excellent post on her Conflicted Substack that is definitely worth a full read. Here are a few comments and excerpts from her piece.
The Underbelly of Climate Change Science
She discusses the recent Pat Brown saga and his riveting essay in The Free Press and notes how Patrick Brown, a researcher at The Breakthrough Institute, unveils the inner workings of climate change science, particularly how research is often tailored with the end goal of publication in mind.
“In a remarkable essay at The Free Press, Patrick Brown, a researcher at The Breakthrough Institute, gave the world a lesson on how the sausage is made in headline stirring climate change science. Start the research with the publication outlet end in mind.”https://jessicaweinkle.substack.com/p/dont-hate-the-player-hate-the-game
The Role of Elite Academic Journal
Elite academic journals, such as Nature, play a pivotal role in shaping societal understanding of knowledge. However, the editorial practices of these journals have come under scrutiny, revealing the challenges of gatekeeping and the influence of external pressures.
“The editorial practices of elite academic journals such as Nature, matter for how society understands the state of knowledge and how we relate to the world. On occasion matters arise that bring attention to the fraught activity of gatekeeping at the journal and its broader family of journals.”
The Science Wars of the 1990s
The 1990s witnessed a significant clash between positivists, who believed in an objective truth attainable through the scientific method, and relativists, who argued that people interpret science through their values, culture, and worldview.
“The 1990’s Science Wars was a highbrow conflict between positivists and relativists. Positivists working from the lens of an objective truth obtainable stepwise through the scientific method. Relativists worked from the lens that people make meaning of things including science through their values, culture, worldview, and relationships.”
The Business of Academic Publishing
Academic publishing, once a noble endeavor, has transformed into a lucrative business, with global revenues estimated to exceed $23 billion. The drive for sensationalism, as highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg’s insights into online content, has influenced academic journals to prioritize research that can generate attention-grabbing headlines.
“Mark Zuckerberg, King of Clicks, explains that what gets attention online is sensational information. In debating the line between allowable online content and that which is forbidden, no matter where we draw the lines for what is allowed, as a piece of content gets close to that line, people will engage with it more on average.”
The Quest for “Excellence” in Research
The pursuit of excellence in research has led to issues such as reproducibility, fraud, and homophily. This relentless chase for high standards has resulted in a stagnation of innovative ideas, with researchers producing work that may garner attention but lacks genuine impact.
“Chasing excellence keeps everyone humdrum and producing not so interesting things that make good headlines. But it also keeps them employed and their prestige value growing.”
The Role and Limitations of Peer Review
Peer review, a cornerstone of academic publishing, has evolved over the years. While it was not always a standard practice, it has become a hallmark of scientific legitimacy. However, many researchers argue that the current state of peer review is broken, serving as little more than a cursory check by a few individuals.
“Peer review is not regarded very highly by the many that have to go through it. Today, many researchers will share that peer review is simply broken. It does not mean much more than 2-4 other people looked over the work and didn’t lament any problems the editor deemed too serious.
Is peer review important? Yes. Is it what it is made out to be in the current academic landscape? Perhaps not.”
Brown makes it difficult to ignore the decades worth of abundant observations that mainstream climate change science is not just politicized, it is big business. And elite journals are in on it.
Jessica Weinkle’s “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game” serves as a timely reminder of the complexities and challenges of the academic publishing world. From the pressures faced by researchers to the commercialization of the publishing industry, the piece offers a comprehensive overview of the current landscape. As the academic community grapples with these issues, it is crucial to prioritize transparency, integrity, and the genuine pursuit of knowledge above all else.