Last week was a big one for higher ed tech and publishing news. As I’m sure everyone’s heard by now, Blackboard enveloped yet another of its competitors and Amazon released the new Kindle. I’m kind of happy about the first item — I tend to agree with the Twitter comments spotlighted on Inside Higher Ed that this move will only feed the anti-Blackboard fires. And while the new Kindle looks promising for textbooks, I admit to being a bit concerned about its high price, esp. for our students @ CUNY.
But the news that really grabbed my attention was the revelation that Elsevier published a fake journal, the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, financed by pharma giant Merck and devoted to shilling for Merck products. It’s not the first time something like this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
This news is depressing for many reasons, but the pedagogical implications are uppermost in my mind right now. One of my responsibilities as a library professor is to try and strengthen our students’ information literacy: finding sources for their coursework, evaluating and selecting the most appropriate sources, and using those sources ethically (think plagiarism + copyright). For many of their papers and projects students are required to use scholarly journal articles, and I try to spend as much time as I can in a library session unpacking the differences between scholarly journals and newspapers/magazines and explaining peer review. And in many ways fake journals, like high-profile plagiarism cases, just make it harder to convince students to value the scholarly literature for their coursework.
On the other hand, at least one librarian has pointed out that perhaps we can use this depressing revelation as a teachable moment. So I guess I’ll add it to the list of strange/scary-but-true cases that we can use to emphasize the importance of digging a little deeper, paying attention and critical thinking.