- scientific information is an economic commodity, and that scientific journals are a medium for its dissemination and exchange.
- as such it is subject to economic factors that affect the value of scientific information and how it is exchanged.
HOW CURRENT PUBLICATION PRACTICES DISTORTS SCIENCE
Based on Young et al (2008), the following economic factors are at play:
- Winner’s curse — the small proportion of results chosen for publication are unrepresentative of scientists’ repeated samplings of the real world
- Oligopoly — a few journals with the highest impact factors rule the roost; publication outside of these amounts to being consigned to oblivion
- Artificial scarcity — any situation where, even though a commodity exists in abundance, restrictions of access, distribution, or availability make it seem rare, and thus overpriced: with journals “page space” is used to confer selectivity, low acceptance rates creates the illusion of a meritocracy
- Herding — the actions of a few prominent individuals rather than the cumulative input of many independent agents drives people’s valuations of a commodity (in this case, an area of research)
- Uncertainty — usually we do not know what information will be most useful (valuable) eventually
- Branding — branding is marking the product as valuable, it is important when a commodity cannot easily be assigned much intrinsic value and when we fear the exchange environment will be flooded with an overabundance of redundant, useless, and misleading product
References and Links
- Young NS, Ioannidis JP, Al-Ubaydli O. Why current publication practices may distort science. PLoS Med. 2008 Oct 7;5(10):e201. PMC2561077.