CrossFit | The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough

The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough

ByCrossFitMarch 4, 2019

In this lecture given to an International Journal of Epidemiology gathering in 2016, Dr. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal (now The BMJ), posits that academic journals are fundamentally flawed and actually detract from academic and scientific research.

Smith first considers the reasons used to justify the existence of academic journals and finds that most of their stated purposes — as educational tools, reference materials, or forums for discussion — are outdated or invalid. The two things academic scientific journals do well, according to Smith, are to (1) provide a scoring system for academics, which allows universities to outsource this competency, and (2) promote pharmaceutical drugs.

Smith presents a list of current flaws in academic journals, arguing that:

  1. Journals publish an extremely biased sample of all the research that is performed;
  2. Many to most published articles in academic journals are of poor quality;
  3. The peer-review system is “faith-based, not evidence-based.” There is no evidence that peer review adds value to either the journals or the content published in them, and the system fails to reduce bias or fraud while slowing research timelines and increasing costs;
  4. Journals do not encourage reproduction of experiments;
  5. Eighty-five percent of research is wasted (by which Smith means that either the question the research seeks to answer doesn’t matter or has been answered before, the study is poorly designed, the study isn’t published, or the results aren’t available to everybody);
  6. Journals are inefficient, often requiring multiple rounds of review before publication;
  7. The average time to publish is often many months to years after submission, slowing down the research process and the advancement of the relevant field;
  8. Publication fraud is more common than we’d like to think;
  9. Academic journals are not transparent and are plagued with conflicts of interest;
  10. Most research remains inaccessible: Only 20 percent of studies are open access, despite the fact that most research is publicly funded and/or has implications for public benefit;
  11. Journals and their publishers exploit academics: Journals receive millions in revenue annually, with rich profit margins (30 percent or more in the highest-earning journals) — all while taking advantage of free labor provided by academics; and
  12. Predatory journals (i.e., journals that charge publication fees to authors and have no or very low editorial standards) are increasingly prevalent

In conclusion, Smith argues that peer review could be disposed of entirely and the majority of academic journals add no value to the scientific community. More specifically, he suggests that increasing research transparency, beginning at the start of study design, would ameliorate many of these issues.

Comments on The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough


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Matthieu Dubreucq
November 29th, 2019 at 6:22 pm
Commented on: The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough

I like the idea of using the technology we have available to us to speed up the process or review and make science more Open source. Democratization of knowledge is the best way to allow new idea and new break threw.

I like the format of having a summary that you can read and then watch the conference or vis versa.

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Emily Moore
March 7th, 2019 at 2:05 am
Commented on: The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough

I believe there were three previous comments posted here, disagreeing with the posted article. Were they removed, or are there elsewhere?

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Phil Wernette
March 31st, 2019 at 1:02 pm

As somebody who has had their post mysteriously removed after digressing about one of these posts, I can tell you that it wouldn't be the first time. It's disappointing to see the dialogue be restricted to primarily posts that agree.

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Lynne Pitts
April 1st, 2019 at 3:34 pm

@Phil: Nothing mysterious, and nothing to do with disagreement. Civil disagreement and discussion are always welcome. Snark and insult accompanying that disagreement are not welcome, and will result in removal.

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Joseph Gorton
March 5th, 2019 at 3:26 am
Commented on: The Death of Journals Can't Come Soon Enough

After the atrocious behavior of the climate "scientists" was outed in the climategate emails, I couldn't agree more. Half of these journals are worth more as toilet paper.

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