Academia, the bastion of human knowledge, and journals, the gatekeepers of this knowledge, play an over-sized role in many aspects of modern life. Whether it be from determining the fields, positions and scholarships offered by universities for undergraduates and postgraduates to study, thus directing the world’s intellectual powers towards very particular areas of research, or subsequently offering budding academics and crusty old professors the chance to prove their credentials and scholarly prowess in order to maintain their reputations and collect massive amounts of public and private money for research grants, it cannot be denied that this billion-dollar industry plays a crucial role in human thought.
As such, you would be forgiven for thinking that, given the importance of maintaining a modicum of respectability and professionalism, the standards for publication in journals should be strictly rigorous and totally unbiased. As this story about duping academic journals shows though, academia is just as vulnerable to false research as the media is to fake news.
In recent years there has been increasingly vocal backlash against the exorbitant prices that academic journals charge for access, so in their defence journals claim that it is absolutely necessary to charge such obscene rates restricting access to what should actually be free human knowledge, because journal publishers have a supposedly crucial job in vetting the credentials of the authors of the papers, whilst also ensuring the legitimacy of the research they publish. In essence, they claim that they do not let just anyone publish anything, because they employ editors, reviewers and researchers to ensure that these supposedly strict standards are upheld.
This falsehood can now be further demolished, because in addition to the numerous scandals of falsified, doctored and plagiarised academic work that continues to get published by journals across many fields, deliberately bogus and totally fabricated research can again be added to the list of what they are willing to publish.
Importantly, according to the hoaxers themselves, their goal in this prank was actually to highlight how certain areas of the humanities have become a breeding ground for dubious studies about social grievances. However, the issues raised about the credibility of research topics, the quality demanded of research, and the authority of academics themselves – in particular academics who need only to have a research paper or two published in a journal per year to maintain tenure and command a lot of money in both their salaries and in projects or research they conduct – is what is really most shocking. Is it finally time to question what academia actually contributes to society compared to the special privilege and massive costs that it demands?
Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship