Do Legitimate Publishers Benefit or Profit from Error, Misconduct or Fraud?
Keywords:article processing charge, APC, confidentiality, funding, instructions for authors, library, Open Access, post-publication peer review, predatory publishing
One of the aspects of post-publication peer review that is difficult for reputable journals or publishers to accept is that it may reveal flaws in their oft-claimed resilient peer review and efficient editorial management. Prospective authors are frequently sold a brand-associated image of a fail-safe process, rigorous editorial handling, and stringent peer review. Yet, in reality, a sector of the published literature that has passed through claimed rigorous screening may still be flawed and contain errors, while some of the peer-reviewed literature is the product of fraud or misconduct. Even top-ranked journals, in terms of journal-based metrics such as the Clarivate Analytics’ journal impact factor, or those that are indexed or hosted on platforms like PubMed, Scopus or Web of Science, have published papers with associated errata or retractions. In such journals, it is possible that erroneous literature has yet to be detected. This paper argues that publishers draw benefit in the form of metrics-based recognition, such as citations to erroneous or retracted papers, or financial reward, either as subscription fees or in the form of article processing charges, neither of which is refunded when a peer-reviewed academic paper is retracted. Knowing that peer review and editorial decisions can be imperfect, publishers have a moral responsibility of toning down claims of the excellence or perfection of peer review when advertising their journals, or they should conduct a full-scale post-publication peer review of their journals’ entire collection to prove it. In turn, academics need to be more proactive in the publishing ecosystem, seeking to correct the literature when errors are found, and not be afraid to call out editors or publishers that defy their claimed academic or ethical excellence.
Copyright (c) 2021 Jaime Teixeira da Silva, Quan-Hoang Vuong
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