Accepted Paper:

Abusing openness? Predatory publishing and the response of STS  


Sally Wyatt (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences (KNAW))

Paper short abstract:

The number and sophistication of so-called predatory publishers, working under the banner of open access, has exploded in recent years, with an estimated 400,000 such articles published in 2014. How should STS respond? Celebrate the diversity of publishing, or lament the decline of gatekeeping?

Paper long abstract:

Openness has long been one of the normative ideals of science, and the internet was heralded as the perfect medium for providing free and equal access to data and publications. Many authors, individually and collectively, have been exploring the use of digital technologies to share work in innovative ways, e.g. embedding large-scale data and visualisations in publications, and facilitating peer review in a process of 'open social scholarship'. However, long-established publishing practices are being challenged, as commercial publishers find new ways business models, combining the traditional model of 'reader pays' via subscription charges, with a system of 'author pays' via article processing charges (APCs). In this contribution, I focus on the emergence of so-called 'predatory publishers' who promise rapid peer review (days or weeks), and quite often require the payment of the APC up front. How should STS react to this development? Is it a way of breaking the oligopoly power of academic publishing, and providing greater diversity of publication venues? Or is it leading to the exploitation of scholars desperate to be published? Is it polluting the scientific record if it results in more plagiarism and the publication of low quality research? How are different disciplines and countries affected? I will describe 'predatory publishing', and analyse the controversies that are emerging around this practice and the response of publishers and other stakeholders. How should STS scholars respond, in light of long-standing debates about the demarcation between science and junk science, and the constructed and cumulative nature of knowledge?

Panel T061
Open science in practice