Books Front Matter

Knowledge Matters: Maintain Integrity in Book Publishing

fake news

At a stage in American history during which news media is suffering from an unprecedented lack of trust and credibility, whistleblowers are accusing news outlets of reporting alternative facts and fake news. It can seem like the public no longer values knowledge and expertise. Has this lack of trust invaded scholarly and university presses as well, or do their practices ensure truth and integrity? This concern is evident in the theme members of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) chose for this year’s University Press Week: #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

Scholarly publishers and university presses

University Press Week is the AAUP’s annual celebration of the vital work university presses do, the emphasis they place on integrity, and the dissemination of accurate peer-reviewed knowledge. This year’s event ran Nov. 6 through Nov. 11, and the theme “#LookItUP: Knowledge Matters” demonstrated the group’s concerns over the erosion of trust in news media with a focus on how scholarly publishers can avoid similar degradation in scholarly publishing.

The internet has spawned an era in which anyone can write anything — and someone is likely to believe it. For various reasons, some of these falsities gain momentum and become news. Scholarly publishers and university presses have the opportunity, even the duty, to preserve their stringent publishing practices and derail the propagation of such alternative facts.

They also have the platform. University presses publish 14,000 books annually, in which experts provide knowledge on history, government, science, politics, journalism, and more. Fact-checkers meticulously review these works to ensure their validity, and scholarly publishers provide a wealth of unbiased knowledge to help explain some of the political and civil unrest and as a basis for further social and scientific investigation.

“These ideas—that knowledge matters and expertise is something to be respected—are universally of concern to our membership,” said AAUP President Nicole Mitchell in the press release. “We believe that in choosing this year’s theme for University Press Week, we’ll be able to make more people around the world aware of our work and its value in a free society.”

Peer Review

The peer review

Scholarly publishers and university presses have a longstanding reputation for publishing high-quality, rigorously reviewed publications. At the heart of ensuring university presses’ integrity and credibility is the long-revered tradition of the peer review process. These experts eliminate bias through single or double-blind processes, and having more than one reviewer also helps eliminate bias or collusion. The practice of having experts review the accuracy and validity of information and assertions in manuscripts before publication helps ensure publication quality and credibility as well as the integrity of the publisher.

The high standards scholarly publishers and university presses exhibit should set an example for members of other media outlets as well as the general public and inspire them to “look it up” before passing it on. In the spirit of peer review, when doing their own fact-checking, readers should first determine whether another person or group has already researched the claim, then go directly to the original source, and research what others are saying about the claim and the source.

Like scholarly publishers and university presses, it’s important for book publishers to uphold high standards and avoid contributing to the proliferation of fake news. All publishers can learn from scholarly publishers and university presses: They can implement and follow strict review and fact-checking processes that scholarly publishers and university presses employ.

Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation to discuss how Sheridan can streamline your publishing processes.

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