Questionable publishers, paper mills and research misconduct are polluting the academic record with crazy unsubstantiated claims and fraudulent research. The damage is far wider than individual projects and outputs, they fuel conspiracy theories and snake-oil cures, undermine scientific understanding and damage public faith in science. This piece looks at the problem and the drive to clean up the problem.
While this has been a problem for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic made garbage research especially difficult—and especially vital—to ferret out. The onset of the health crisis unleashed a flood of desperately needed studies, with one analysis finding that between February and May 2020, the number of papers submitted to health and medicine journals published by Elsevier, a leading publisher of scientific research, 63% higher than a year earlier. The growing volume of published studies across the globe—some 2.9 million science and engineering studies in 2020 alone—calls for an effort to clean house.