Excellence by Nonsense

I know it’s 5 years old, but I still think this description of academia deserves a wider audience.

In this chapter, Binswanger (a critic of the current scientific process) explains how artificially staged competitions affect science and how they result in nonsense. An economist himself, Binswanger provides examples from his field and shows how impact factors and publication pressure reduce the quality of scientific publications. Some might know his work and arguments from his book ‘Sinnlose Wettbewerbe’.

Binswanger, Mathias. 2014. ‘Excellence by Nonsense: The Competition for Publications in Modern Science’. In Opening Science: The Evolving Guide on How the Internet Is Changing Research, Collaboration and Scholarly Publishing, edited by Sönke Bartling and Sascha Friesike, 49–72. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-00026-8_3. [open access]

Would I like to pay to contribute to a book nobody reads?

I got this e-mail today:

Dear Dr. Ruedin,

I would like to invite you to contribute a chapter to a new open access book project under the editorship of Dr. Ingrid Muenstermann. The current working title of the book is “Immigration”.

That’s a really specific topic. (Honestly, most academic spam I get is even less specific.) Fortunately they offer a link to tell me more about this book project:

Check out the project outline for suggested topics, deadlines and information regarding the publishing process via your Invitation Page [link removed]

On this page, I learn that “This book will be a self-contained collection of scholarly papers targeting an audience of practicing researchers, academics, PhD students and other scientists.” and “The authors are given the liberty of choosing a topic which best suits their current research efforts. In other words, we do not limit you in terms of the topic but encourage you to present your work. Later, when all chapter proposals are collected, the editor will give a more general direction of the book and decide on its scope.”

That’s great, I get to write on anything I want. Nobody really cares; surely there’s a huge readership out there for this kind of book… not! The e-mail even provides information on the publisher:

InTech has been at the forefront of open access publishing for over 10 years, overcoming the challenges associated with restricted access to knowledge by providing free, unlimited access to scientific content to our readers, and helping our authors achieve global recognition.

My name is Ana and I will be your personal contact during the entire publishing process. Feel free to contact me anytime. I hope you will join us in this project.

Cordially,

Ana Simcic
Publishing Process Manager

[contact details removed]

I’m not sure why I’m hesitating.

Don’t we all seek seek global recognition? The publisher sure sounds important (does it matter that I have never heard of them?), and is a specialist in STM (science, technology, and medicine; just the kind of publisher I need to promote my research on “immigration”). It’ll only cost me €670 APC (at least the APC is mentioned somewhere on their website). The book will even be submitted to be included in the Thomson Reuters Book Citation Index…

Can you please just stop this?