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.”
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 the harm caused by asbestos,” by Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada.ca. She reports that the article, “…contains corrupt scientific information promoting doubt about the 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.