Saturday, March 13, 2010

Libel suits prevent publication of research

I just read in the Times about a disturbing development in the United Kingdom. A firm managed to get an article slated for publication in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law to be withdrawn because it would taint the reputation of this firm. In short, a Swedish professor got a an article accepted for publication that was pointing out that lie detectors are very unreliable. The manufacturer got a court order to get the paper removed from the website of the UK-based publisher, appealing to UK libel law.

It is well known that UK libel law has a very broad definition of libel, even leading to some libel litigation tourism. One can also claim that the chosen title of the incriminated article, "Charlatanry in Forensic Speech Science", may go a little bit far. However, there is such a thing called academic freedom, and if this article has been peer-reviewed, industry interests should not prevent it from getting published. In fact, there is every reason to publish it if it highlights a problem.

Imagine if economists could get sued when they say that monetary policy is flawed, or that immigration policy is not optimal, or that Microsoft is behaving monopolistically. Or, say, sociologists writing that Scientology is a cult. Research may sometimes be flawed, but there is a scientific process that deals with that, through peer-review and further research. What is important is that there is a debate. And publishers should not bow to pressure from industry or government, be it when the research is against the industry's interests, or for it (see the abominal case of Elsevier.


Anonymous said...

hi can i have ur name as i need it for my bibliography

Economic Logician said...

Logician, Economic.

Unknown said...

Welcome to the party, pal.