Yesterday I learned that the Vice Provost for Research here at UVA is hosting a half-day workshop on scientific integrity in March. I’ll be there, for sure, because when I saw the topic, I thought immediately of the Big Deal. If you’re not steeped in this stuff, the notion that expensive, high-prestige journals would have a negative effect on the quality of science may be counterintuitive. Indeed, lower quality and lower “integrity” are more often associated with so-called “predatory” journals.

This week’s Big Deal Longread helps explain the connection between flawed science and Big Deal journal bundles. In “Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science,” the authors explain that the oligopoly of journal publishers and the artificial scarcity created by journal selectivity contribute to a system where the contest for highest “impact” will systematically undermine the accuracy of “winning” scientific articles. It’s a compact read, and well worth your time.

If you’d like to read more on this theme, our own Brian Nosek has written two excellent pieces (Scientific Utopia I, and II) exploring not only the downsides of the status quo, but also the upsides of a more open and transparent alternative. Bjorn Brembs has also written several essays arguing that high prestige and low quality are routinely and predictably correlated. You could start with “Deep Impact: unintended consequences of journal rank,” and then read “Reliable novelty.”