60(ish) Seconds: Navigating the Infodemic, Part II

In the second of a four-part series titled “Navigating the Infodemic”, CapU Library’s Mia Clarkson explores existing flaws in academic publishing.


One thing catching my attention during the pandemic is the way research on COVID-19 exposes existing flaws in academic research and publishing.

We often ask students to research assignments using academic sources, but we don’t talk about the way these experts can participate in problematic systems of knowledge creation and sharing. 

A great example is a study on the drug chloroquine by a Harvard medical researcher. They made it into the news when the researcher was asked to share his data, and it turned out this wasn’t based on his own study, but on false medical records from a third party.

As a student, this is like writing a paper based on information your friend collected and tells you is accurate. As a student, you want to submit a paper and get a good mark. The Harvard researcher wants to participate in timely COVID-19 research. In both cases, the focus is on the end goal, not the research process, which is where we actually have the opportunity to learn something.

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Academic experts are often faculty members at universities that base pay and promotion on publishing. So we can see how publishing COVID-19 research is valuable for the individual, but does it make a positive contribution beyond that, to the larger academic community, or the general public?

In this example, the academic community was not able to build on real research about a deadly virus, and the general public received and spread false information. Ideally, the goal of sharing research is education for many, not recognition for few.