2020 Special Focus–The Role of Scholarly Communication in a Post-Truth Era: Lessons Learned, Futures Gained?

The dissemination of misleading or biased information is not a new phenomenon. Nor is it new for politically motivated forces to drive public misinformation. But, in the era of the internet, the intensity, scale, and global flow of rhetorically skewed messages raises new challenges with real implications. In the fields of scientific knowledge there are planetary implications for the future of human life. In the fields of social or cultural knowledge, the cohesion of peoples and societies is at stake. We are experiencing a fragmentation and polarization of a social life, in part media driven. A move away from principles of mutual trust and shared assumptions about the empirical verifiability of reality are at the very base of existing knowledge structures.

This year’s special focus seeks to ask: what is the role of scholarly communication in this ‘truth’ landscape? What is the role of the scholar in public discourse, and the responsibilities of the scholarly publishing system? Are there qualities that make this domain of information production uniquely suited as a mechanism for intervention? If ‘mainstream media’ and the ‘digital sphere’ are caught up in the battle for the ‘truth’ landscape what role can the scholarly author, funder, librarian and publisher play in building trust? What is the role of their systems for assessing validity, ensuing accessibility, and guaranteeing public discoverability of scholarly work?

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