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Trust the Science? 19 Scientific Journals Shutting Down Simultaneously After Being Rocked by Retractions and Fraud: Report

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“Trust the science” was always a stupid phrase, deployed by leftist institutions, government and the establishment media to silence opposition to the woke cause of the moment.

Whether it’s to force compliance with the concept of “climate change,” or coerce behavior in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, the phrase has been a cudgel wielded by the powerful.

It means nothing, seeing as “science” is hardly a monolithic block of infallible knowledge, with scientists constantly disagreeing with each other in the midst of making new discoveries.

But now, with a scourge of false submissions ravaging the academic journal industry, the establishment media’s favorite phrase seemed more farcical than ever.

According to an exclusive report in The Wall Street Journal, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, Hoboken, New Jersey-based Wiley, is being forced to to shut down 19 different journals thanks to the black market industry of “paper mills” submitting thousands of fake papers.

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“Paper mills,” often based in countries like China or India, offer to create papers on behalf of beleaguered academics.

Charging fees anywhere from $50-$8000, they deliver a (possibly AI-generated) paper filled with shoddy research, irrelevant references, and “tortured phrases” designed to elude plagiarism detectors (the worst possibly being “bosom peril” for “breast cancer”). The mills then submit the fraudulent papers to multiple journals simultaneously, the Journal reported.

According to the Journal, while Wiley attributed the closures of these journals to low submission rates and rebranding, the problem of fake papers could not be ignored.

Indeed, Wiley’s biggest scandal of 2023 occurred, when, after acquiring the open access Egyptian publisher Hindawi for the eye-watering sum of $300 million, it was forced to retract 8,000 articles after it was found they were AI generated papers from paper mills, Retraction Watch reported.

Do you have less trust in scientific research now than you did 10 years ago?

Moreover, Wiley retracted, in total, over 11,300 articles over the course of the last two years alone, and closed four other journals compromised by these paper mills, the Journal reported.

All told, Wiley has lost millions of dollars thanks to these fake papers, with interim President and Chief Executive Matthew Kissner estimating the company could lose up to $40 million in revenue in 2024 because of the Hindawi problems, according to the Journal.

In a December report, Wiley placed the scandal in the context of a hyped-up “publish or perish” mindset that has long been part of academia and pressures researchers to accrue as many scholarly papers in their name.

That is, unless an academic is constantly getting published in prestigious journals, they will have a greater disadvantage when it comes to getting highly competitive jobs and, especially, tenured position.

“In today’s scholarly publishing world, researchers are contending with increasing pressures to publish, creating a susceptibility to unethical manipulation through papermills, peer review rings, and other forms of fraud,” the report states.

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After all, this is an industry worth some $30 billion, academic journals bearing a outsized influence over academia as a whole

Which, as science website Undark noted in 2022, has led to too many rushed and poorly researched articles flooding scientific journals (never mind the frauds that have compromised Wiley).

Thus, desperate, dishonest academics have fallen prey to the lure of these illegal operations to get something, anything, out there in a reputable journal, and too many of those journals have fallen for it.

However, Dorothy Bishop, a now-retired research psychologist who has studied the phenomenon of fraudulent papers (she was profiled last year in the brand new online neuroscience journal The Transmitter), told Retraction Watch that “publish or perish” didn’t cover it.

“The report presents Hindawi as a victim of an ‘academic culture of ‘publish or perish’, which has incentivized unethical behaviour,’” Bishop told Retraction Watch. “What it omits is the influence of the commercial publisher culture of greed, which aims for massive growth in the number of published papers, with associated growth in profits.”

Beyond who gained and who lost, though, is this larger point that this scandal has cracked the facade of the left’s “trust the science” mantra.

Because, science was never an authority or an institution — science is a process.

Scientific conclusions lay people and academics thought ironclad just 50 years ago have been overturned by new research in the intervening years, and conclusions people today believe infallible will be probably be subject to the same fate.

And, like any process, since it is conducted by fallible men and women, science can be manipulated and used for nefarious purposes like anything else.

“Peer-reviewed” science has been used to silence opposition, but, at least in Wiley’s case, clearly, peer-review was not an adequate defense measure against tens of thousands fraudulent papers.

Science has achieved great good in the modern world, but it was never an infallible authority that could explain every mystery in the world.

Thus, a dose of healthy skepticism regarding scientific claims was never a bad thing.

Especially when the establishment media has frequently used those claims as a manipulation tactic to push an agenda repugnant to most ordinary people.


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