Is OA Ripe for Money Laundering?

A new preprints operator offers a token, and our new reality seems to invite money laundering

An interesting bit of speculation about money laundering Ted Gioia made during a recent interview about AI and the music industry — a topic I covered yesterday — made me want to think through how that could affect scholarly publishing in an era of AI-generated articles, producer-pays transactions, predatory publishers, lax standards, and open science.

Money laundering involves taking funds earned through an illicit activity — selling drugs, illegal weapons, banned technology, etc. — and transacting them through a legitimate source you can still access, thereby laundering away the money’s dirty origin.

Could our current transactional environment provide a way for nefarious people to launder money?

Sound far-fetched? Then check out this extract from a recent Australian news article covering Wiley’s woes:

. . . the UK Research Integrity Office recently described the [research integrity] problem as vast: “These are organised crime rings that are committing large-scale fraud.”

The mills, principally operating from China, India, Iran, Russia, and other post-Soviet states, have even been planting stooges in editors’ chairs at certain journals and paying bribes to others to ensure fake papers are published.

Or this from coverage of a Research Watch investigation in Science:

At least tens of millions of dollars flow to the paper mill industry each year, estimates Matt Hodgkinson of the independent charity UK Research Integrity Office. . . . So cash-rich paper mills have evidently adopted a new tactic: bribing editors and planting their own agents on editorial boards to ensure publication of their manuscripts.

Where is all this money coming from? And why are nation-states known for sketchy activities the ones mainly involved?

It’s not like we don’t have blind spots that can be exploited. After all, OA enthusiasm gave a Russian PsyOps and phishing operation carte blanche for years as various administrators and advocates embraced Sci-Hub, only to find it was simply a front for hackers.

So if you still think tying scholarly publishing to money laundering seems patently ridiculous, hold that thought as you peruse this recent announcement about, a blockchain-based platform with its own coin, which you can buy:

Of course, even in the world of crypto, there are things that give exchanges pause, and the PRNT token is apparently one of them: