The Increasing Use of Predatory Journals for “Advocacy Research”

Current asbestos-related regulations are irrational

This article concludes, “Current asbestos-related regulations are irrational.”

A recent article in the National Review used the term “advocacy research” to describe unscientific articles published in predatory journals to promote a social or political agenda.

I have been observing and blogging about this for some time and wish I had come up with the term “advocacy research,” for it fits the concept perfectly.

The National Review article says,

Another trend, related and equally worrisome, is the increasing frequency of publication of the results of flawed “advocacy research” that is designed to give a false result that supports a certain cause or position and can be cited by activists long after the findings have been discredited. The articles are often found in the predatory open-access journals.

Because journals with an honest peer review process won’t publish unscientific advocacy research, predatory journals have become the venue of choice for people promoting unscientific agendas.

Here’s an example — illustrated in the screenshot above — with both a political and commercial motive. The article, “Asbestos-Related Research: First Objectivity then Conclusions,” (HTML, PDF) tries to make the case that government regulations prohibiting the manufacture and sale of asbestos products are “excessive.”

Journal of Environmental Studies

Want to support junk science?

The article appears in volume 1, issue 1 of Avens Publishing Group’s Journal of Environmental Studies. The journal doesn’t even have an ISSN, and it may have been launched just to publish pro-asbestos and other junk science articles.

I learned about this article through a blog post entitled “More corrupt science manufacturing doubt about harm caused by asbestos,” by Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada.ca. She reports that the article, “…contains corrupt scientific information promoting doubt about harm caused by asbestos.”

Pointing to a possible motive for writing and publishing the article Ruff states,

Russia is by far the biggest producer and exporter of asbestos in the world, producing over one million tons of chrysotile asbestos every year, which represents 50% of global asbestos production. The Russian government and Russian scientists are aggressively and successfully marketing asbestos and scientific misinformation in countries in the global South, where the use of asbestos has hugely increased over the past two decades.

I blogged about Avens Publishing Group in April, 2014, in a blog post titled “Red Alert: Avens Publishing Group.” I still maintain that this is a dangerous scholarly publisher. It may be owned by the same people who own Austin Publishing Group.

After advocacy research is published in predatory journals, the advocates use the articles to convince the public that their views are “scientifically proven.”

Predatory publishers started out by victimizing individual researchers. Now they are victimizing society at large.

12 Responses to The Increasing Use of Predatory Journals for “Advocacy Research”

  1. herr doktor bimler says:

    So Miller and Wager chose National Review as the vehicle for their report on how shabby but superficially-scientific junk-journals are used by hacks and frauds to provide their conclusion-driven propaganda with a sheen of academic respectability, stovepipe it into political debate, and create mocktroversies out of consensus. This seems a trifle ironic.

    True to form, the comment thread at NR quickly degenerates into a competition amongst the readers to see who can shout “Global Climate Change is a Fraud!!” the loudest

  2. George says:

    Another publication by the pro-asbestos author in the same “issue” (http://www.avensonline.org/fulltextarticles/jes-02-0005.html) gives the corresponding email address as that of a Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University.

    What does this say about the quality of the journal’s pre-publication checks?

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Ha! the Liverpool Hope e-address has copied over from paper #4 in the ‘issue’.
      Someone should warn Dr Tigar that she has been fooled into accepting a less-than-ideal vehicle for her work.

  3. Anne LeHuray says:

    Because it accurately describes the work published by several U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists, I used the term “advocacy research” in a Letter to the Editor that appeared a year ago (3/2015) in Integrated Environmental Assessment & Management. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ieam.1619/full

    Here’s what I wrote:

    The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary definition of “advocacy research” is “research that is carried out with the
    intention of providing evidence and arguments that can be used
    to support a particular cause or position.” In other words,
    advocacy research is a phrase that describes the research
    elements of white hat bias, and is conducted in search of
    confirmation of preexisting notions. In contrast, science
    research seeks to challenge a hypothesis and look for evidence
    that might prove it false.

    If you’re interested, see the summaries of post publication peer reviews of the USGS authors papers on PubPeer, beginning with the first one at https://pubpeer.com/publications/62730EDFFC17A5F85CA9EB7FD04C24#fb42729

  4. Marco says:

    More evidence of this is to be found in an omics journal:
    http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/trends-in-extreme-weather-events-since-1900–an-enduring-conundrum-for-wise-policy-advice-2167-0587-1000155.pdf
    This is a Cambridge professor (please consider this for a few moments, a professor at one of the premier institutes in the world), who manages to dump loads of images without credit into a paper, with its scientific analysis almost solely based on so-called contrarian sources, and thus citing numerous blogs as sources. In one case he even referenced a blog of someone else (the pseudonymous Steven Goddard) as a reference (#24) for scientific work by James E. Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies of NASA, from 1981.

    I’d hit a first year student on the head, figuratively, for such poor referencing. Omics proudly publishes such stuff in one of its journals.

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  11. […] stores of human knowledge, and their peer review process foregrounds credible research – most of the time. They teach academics how to write carefully argued pieces, and the best ones hold us to high […]

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