Can Twitter help break the rubbish research / expensive journal subscriptions cycle?

Picture of some journals

I was very interested to see a link to Peer Review: Trial by Twitter, on the Marketing Matters for Librarians blog. It's definitely worth reading the whole thing: it details, to quote the sub-heading, how "Blogs and tweets are ripping papers apart within days of publication, leaving researchers unsure how to react."

This is a recent phenomenon - journal publications, of research whose premises are flawed or whose methods are less than rigorous, used to have literally years of leeway before people could respond in print and point out the errors. Nowadays, people can respond more or less instantly, within days or even hours, to sort the wheat from the chaff and call the researchers to account.

There is a murky cycle of research and publication which has been going on for some time, which doesn't often get discussed, and for which libraries are footing the bill. Under Labour, HE funding in the UK became increasingly tethered to research output - there were more and more strict criteria as to what counted as 'research' capable of gaining funding for the academic department for which the researcher was working. This became, and is now still, quite ridiculous and inflexible, to the extent that some researchers will publish anything, regardless of quality, to fill a quota (alongside their quality output, which may not be extensive enough for the funding criteria). A whole cottage industry of sub-standard journals has cropped up to accommodate this sub-par research, as acknowledged by the Times Higher recently, and guess what? No one wants to subscribe to them. So they are packaged with 'proper' e-journals in purchasing deals, thus pushing up the prices libraries have to pay to subscribe to the stuff we need - and we get a load of rubbish thrown in with it.

Maybe Twitter and blogs can help with this problem? Or maybe no one will care enough about the poor quality research to even bother attacking it in public. Let's hope it's the former.

- thewikiman