The recent Scott Reuben fraud (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-medical-madoff-anesthestesiologist-faked-data) started me on this. A problem lies also outside of the immediate medical framework: the publishing world. The whole process of “acquisitions editor” and “development editor”—people with half-baked knowledge mostly—who run the show. The show might indeed be very profitable for the publishing companies themselves, but the deplorable fact remains that publishing has not even remained market-oriented but has become self-generating, self-consuming.

Market does not mean “library” to me: where you have taken the university representative in your pocket through widely adopted questionable means, and then the library of that particular university calls in for some dozens of that book, a manuscript even its author wouldn’t want since his/her whole purpose was to get a citation somewhere, preferably as in a single-authored book, or otherwise anyhow. Market means the researchers in case of academic books (the lay public also when it’s a question of many humanities books, or the case of higher education books, the “retail”). Publishing has become a complete benzene ring in itself: the co-authors cozy up, sign even when they have had nothing—in anticipation of future such deals which will benefit the other; the agents just want an already widely-cited author, some “expert”; and the publisher just wants a good blurb first to be able to make attractive flyers and start selling—to libraries (and buying the reps). Nobody bothers about the contents: if there is a demand from a certain section on books on Sri Lanka, just about any author is welcome, and you would publish him/her. The retail is not a good example either: Your best dc machines book is not selling: why? Because the sales rep just found out that most universities teach all machines—induction motors, synchronous machines, dc machines, even transformers—all in one term, in one subject, to be covered in one 100-mark paper. You can sell your old-fashioned really good book on dc in the library, yes of course you will do that [and get rid of it; of course, no reprints ever!], but now you need to find an author who will give a jumble of formulas all together with a lot of examples based on those formulas and in between working principles of everything in brief: and you have your book which will sell! Easy! You find some highly respected chap in one of the best universities of the world, tell him that you will supply him with every sub-heading of the book needed, and even the books from which he needs to adapt, and he will get a 6-7 or even 10 percent royalty, and the deed is done. A book which neither the market created nor the author: a book created by urge for profits, by the syllabus system. You should be in good books of the deans to not to change the syllabus every now and then.

I will approach the issue of peer review in a separate detailed essay: both “anonymous” and “open.” What’s certain right now is that with an increase in education, one would have thought that there would be better material available more easily! But it’s the reverse that’s happening: judging from the number of magazines and fiction books devoted to either of the three of adult, chick-lit or horror/fantasy, it seems even the fiction market is not much exempt from the phenomenon of what I call “flooding the market to create the market.”

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