Does quoting scholarly journals make something less authoritative?

Pay WallThe title is, of course, supposed to ruffle some feathers.

I was reading reviews on the book “Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss” and found this comment:

“Fuhrman does cite many scientific journal articles, but most people will not be able to access those articles to see if they truly support his statements.”

On one hand, I feel like the reviewer is naive to expect all researchers to use publicly available data, and on the other hand, I can totally see where he/she is coming from. Not many local libraries carry the expensive databases needed to verify the research, and not everyone has access to a university library. Isn’t it reasonable for people to expect that they can check to make sure an author is doing the research? Isn’t it great that people are even interested in critically analyzing works?

Will we see the tides turn, when information locked behind a pay wall is not cited by popular writers because it lacks credibility with the general population? Would this be a good or bad thing?

Photo of the “Pay Wall” here:

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6 Responses to Does quoting scholarly journals make something less authoritative?

  1. Mark says:

    I find this to be a quite interesting critique. A large number of books geared to a popular audience do not even include useful citations.

    They generally have a list of “Useful References” or some such but rarely include direct links between specific claims and supporting research via footnotes or endnotes.

    I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve read/heard that “no one will buy a book with footnotes.”

    I’m not so sure how I feel about this specific critique. It has some value but is, as you say, quite naive. I think full disclosure of sources–of whatever kind–is most important in the interim. Probably equally important–but longer to achieve–is an educated citizenry that is not only not put off by a footnote but actively wants them so they can check sources. Once we have that then this critique would carry much more weight. I am also sort of assuming that if we ever reached that point then we might also have access to far more publicly-funded research.

    But at this point, I do not see this critique as holding much weight. If the critic actually points out specific cases (and a significant percentage) where publicly-available research can support the same claims as are based on the author’s use of harder-to-access material then in that specific case this specific criticism would have greater relevance.

  2. karin says:

    Mark, I totally agree that we need “an educated citizenry that is not only not put off by a footnote but actively wants them so they can check sources” as you say. I wonder what needs to come first- easily accessible research, or a citizenry that demands easily accessible research.

    I don’t think the concept of open access has made it into the public consciousness, but it may be of interest to the few that actually want to follow footnotes.

  3. Connie says:

    On an unrelated note, I found this post on a good blog and thought of you,

  4. quack-quack says:

    As someone with a background in health and nutrition, I have no earthly idea why anyone would even pick up this book when there are so many reputable sources out there. The book is just another example of someone trying to cash in on people’s laziness and unwillingness to realize there are no short-cuts to weight loss. Therapeutic diets are based on quack-science.

  5. karin says:

    Commenter above: I agree with you. Most nutrition and diet book I read can be summed up thusly:

    1. Eat more fruits and veggies and whole grains
    2. Eat treats sparingly.
    3. Don’t gorge yourself.
    4. For god’s sake, get some exercise!

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