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ATG Caught My Eye by Katina: As Misinformation Grows, Scholars Debate How to Improve Open Access

by | Nov 8, 2021 | 0 comments

“As Misinformation Grows, Scholars Debate How to Improve Open Access” is by Suzanne Smalley and it appears on the Inside Higher ED website.


“In the run-up to the presidential election last year, the FBI warned that foreign-backed online journals were likely to spread disinformation about the 2020 elections by disseminating articles with misleading or unsubstantiated information in an effort to “exacerbate disunity and dysfunction in the United States.”

For Roger Schonfeld, director of libraries, scholarly communication and museums for Ithaka S+R, the FBI warning was an attention grabber. As someone responsible for fueling evidence-based innovation and leadership among libraries, publishers and museums, Schonfeld had long grappled with questions about how open access to scholarship is unleashing both positive and negative effects in society.

In a widely discussed Scholarly Kitchen piece published last week, Schonfeld said that misinformation, politicization and other problems embedded in the open-access movement stem from a “mismatch” between the incentives in science and the ways in which “openness and politicization are bringing science into the public discourse.”

While open access has democratized science, to good effect — making research available to sick patients interested in learning more about their condition or to scientists working in the Global South — it also has had “second-order effects” that are more concerning, he said.

“It’s now easier for scientific literature to be quoted and used in all sorts of political discourse,” Schonfeld said in an interview. “When the methods of scholarly publishing that we use today were first formed, there was no sense that there was going to be a kind of politicized discourse looking for opportunities to misinform the public and intentionally cause disunity.”

As someone working at the nexus of libraries and scholarly publishing, Schonfeld said he was motivated to write his piece in part because he has seen a lot of tension and debate over the economics of publishing, without commensurate attention paid to how to better police fraud and prevent misinformation, a role that he believes scholars and librarians have a responsibility to take on.

Schonfeld isn’t the only one thinking about the unintended effects of open science. Brian Nosek, a psychology scholar who has long considered these questions, is the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Open Science and a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. The center’s mission is to increase the integrity of the open-access system…”

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