Vigilantism in Science: The Need and the Risks

Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva


Science is in a constant state of flux. In recent years, science and scientists have been coming under attack, and scrutiny, by internal and external skeptics and critics, as well as a potentially anti-science movement. Despite this fairly negative portrayal, the expected outcome is that science – and its players – will become more robust, more critical and thus more reliable and accountable, i.e., that there will be a positive light at the end of a tumultuous period of challenge, although we are still far from reaching that point. Part of this process involves individuals or groups, known or anonymous, who are actively seeking out faults or errors, to demonstrate that science and scientists, and journals and publishers, are flawed and that something needs to be done to rectify this. Very rarely are such individuals referred to as vigilantes, but in essence, this is in fact what they are: individuals who have taken the reigns of quality control where it has failed, or where it has perceived to have failed. Vigilantism, which tends to conjure images of mob squads or self-appointed policing figures, involves taking on community style group awareness and implementation of their own rules, morals and values, as they see fit. Vigilantism, in the era of post-publication peer review, has reached science. This paper examines the positive and negative role that vigilantism plays, or can play, in science.

DOI: 10.5901/ajis.2016.v5n3p9

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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