Telling Ourselves More Is Better

What we care about matters, and focusing on share or volume is a distraction

Telling Ourselves More Is Better

Sometimes, you come across something that reveals just how far we’ve fallen as a knowledge industry. Once focused on quality — admittedly, with an occasional failure in our drive toward excellence because, well, humans are fallible — we now focus on volume, with hardly an eyebrow raised when this pursuit leads to massive failures on the quality front. Such massive failures make retractions from 10-30 years ago — the kind OA advocates like to trot out ad nauseum — seem downright prosaic and comparatively rare.

  • In fact, we don’t even seem to suspect that a business model based on authors and publishers sharing an interest in not examining claims too closely might conceal massive problems nobody has an incentive to investigate.

The hypocrisy of this is telling. The same people who would castigate publishers for a handful of retractions or a slow response to complicated scientific disputations now blithely proceed as if everything is fine, even when thousands of articles are retracted, conflicts of interest abound, financial disclosures around APCs are completely lacking, and the value derived from scientific publishing is collapsing in both the financial and intellectual domains due to structural decline caused by OA, transactional revenues, and abdication of the publisher’s role.

What was the inciting moment that kicked off this chain of thought? A chart promoted by Clarke & Esposito as part of their report entitled, Scholarly Journals Market Trends 2024, which shows how off-target our priorities have become, focusing on quantity and market share rather than relevance, utility, or uptake.

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