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Research Information:FOCUS ON NORTH AMERICA


model prevalent in Europe, US research universities are constantly diversifying revenue and attempting to grow the size of these streams.


Pursuit of corporate revenue has always been strong in US higher education institutions and, even today, US institutions receive nearly 50 per cent more corporate funding than their European counterparts. A factor of the


corporate/university relationship with potentially positive impact is that universities are often presented with better insights on critical problems and, data gathered by corporations through their research, sales, marketing and other business activity. This stream of problems and supporting data enables institutions to drive research efforts in a more structured fashion and with a focus towards specific outcomes. This complements the value of basic research where the outcome is much less certain. And, aside from the impact of corporate relationships on U.S. scholarly publishing in all its varying forms, the space continues to be influenced by the politicising of science and published works, the impact of which has been almost entirely negative. Increasingly, political groups using pseudo- science to support their issue-driven agendas have had a serious impact on the perception of science’s validity. The public’s understanding of the difference between carefully worded public opinion surveys masquerading as science and actual peer-reviewed works is poor and, as the distinction between scholarly work and political positioning papers becomes blurred, the value of science is increasingly diminished. The pace of publication of pseudo-


science has quickened because of less rigorous publication outlets. The impact of this and other factors need to be closely watched to guard against a future erosion in public confidence in higher education and academic research. As a final note, in addition to corporate and political interests, there is also the impact of the technology of publishing itself in the age of the internet, scientific social networks and content sharing platforms, as well as the emergence of China as a research powerhouse. While online publishing has made it easier for institutions and publications – regardless of geographic location – to share information more broadly, the internet itself has fragmented the publishing world. The dizzying profusion of websites, blogs, and pay-to- publish outlets of varying degrees of credibility have contributed to a blurring of the lines of referenced scholarly works of high quality, with those of weak credibility or politically driven advocacy being passed off as quality science. How all these elements will impact scholarly publishing enterprise over the next decade remains to be seen. Clearly they will continue to shape the research landscape on both sides of the Atlantic and have an impact on the economic health of nations though the strength of their knowledge and information economies.


Brad Fenwick is senior vice president for strategic global alliances at Elsevier


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