Academic Fraud, and the Fraud of Academia, By James Reed

There are scandals a plenty in the dusty halls of academic publishing. Publishers of academic journals have been pulling thousands of papers, which have been traced to the cheating process, known as "paper mills," where writers from places like Russia and Iran, produce academic papers for a price. This is not just Arts/Humanities gear, but STEM and medical science material, although papers in the more technical fields like mathematics do not get the same output. Some publishers have had to shut down entire journals which have been corrupted by this. And editors have been installed in various journals who are paid kickbacks to get the fake papers in.

All this happens because the journal production business is a big multi-billion-dollar business. Academics need these mystical peer reviewed papers for promotion, and some will pay just to get the publication numbers up. Thus, the entire process is quite contrary to the pursuit of truth and objectivity and is little more than a production line for seldom read papers most of which are false anyway:,to%20the%20field%20of%20metascience.

The whole structure needs to be abandoned. Publication should be on the internet, for free, and judged by everyone in open commentary. The universities themselves need to be closed and replaced. The international students need to leave. The publication crisis is but one more example of the corruption of academia.

"John Wiley & Sons Inc is a publisher of academic journals. The company, better known as Wiley, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and each year churns out more than 1,400 scientific and other publications across the world. Last year, it turned over more than US$2 billion ($3 billion).

Wiley is a silverback in the strange, circular marketplace of scientific publishing.

The researchers who write for these journals, and the academics who edit them, do this work largely unpaid. They are subsidised by the same universities that also pay healthy sums to then buy the journals in question.

This industry, estimated to be worth $45 billion, is underpinned by giant licks of taxpayer money — including from Australia, which spends $2 billion a year on medical research alone.

Last year, a strange thing happened at Wiley.

In March, it revealed to the NYSE a $US9 million ($13.5 million) plunge in research revenue after being forced to "pause" the publication of so-called "special issue" journals by its Hindawi imprint, which it had acquired in 2021 for US$298 million ($450 million).

Its statement noted the Hindawi program, which comprised some 250 journals, had been "suspended temporarily due to the presence in certain special issues of compromised articles".

Many of these suspect papers purported to be serious medical studies, including examinations of drug resistance in newborns with pneumonia and the value of MRI scans in the diagnosis of early liver disease. The journals involved included Disease Markers, BioMed Research International and Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience.

As the months ticked by, the number of papers being withdrawn mounted by the hundreds.

By November, Wiley had retracted as many as 8,000 papers, telling Science it had "identified hundreds of bad actors present in our portfolio".

A month later, in exquisite corporatese, the company announced: "Wiley to sunset the Hindawi brand."

A window into a thriving, lucrative black market

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Wiley has now pulled more than 11,300 papers and shuttered 19 journals. In the midst of it all, Wiley's chief executive Brian Napack was moved on.

The Hindawi scandal offers a window into a thriving black market worth tens of millions of dollars which trades in fake science, corrupted research and bogus authorship.

It also illustrates what is just another front in a much broader crisis of trust confronting universities and scientific institutions worldwide.

For decades now, teaching standards and academic integrity have been under siege at universities which, bereft of public funding, have turned to the very lucrative business of selling degrees to international students.

Grappling with pupils whose English is inadequate, tertiary institutions have become accustomed to routine cheating and plagiarism scandals. Another fraud perfected by the internet age.

Businesses openly advertise the sale of essays to desperate students, whose efforts are freighted with the expectations of far-away, often impoverished parents; their websites even have a toggle to select the grade you're willing to pay for.

Over an open chat, I asked a top-ranked essay provider on Google what I would have to pay for a masters-level, 3,000 word essay examining Homer's Iliad which would be guaranteed to score a high distinction. The answer took less than 60 seconds: $238.55. I was assured the paper would not trigger anti-plagiarism software.

This infection — the commodification of scholarship, the industrialisation of cheating — has now spread to the heart of scientific, higher research.

With careers defined by the lustre of their peer-reviewed titles, researchers the world over are under enormous pressure to publish. This is true in Australia, but it is especially true in poorer economies. An impressive number of publications in impressive-sounding journals can open the door to job opportunities and promotions. Citations have become a currency, and few institutions devote the time or resources to check the papers in question." 



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Sunday, 21 July 2024

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