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Abstract

The intersection between academia and social media is gradually overlapping. The ability to vent personal and professional discord online, either through blogs or social media, has had both positive and negative consequences on academic communication, with the public and/or in the public domain. ResearchGate (RG) is one of the most popular academic social media sites that allows commenting, either in response to published papers or to questions that are posed on that platform. This paper explores an important aspect of a high-profile, topical and controversial 2017 paper (Derek Pyne; Journal of Scholarly Publishing; DOI: 10.3138/jsp.48.3.137) that had based itself on a flawed blacklist created by Jeffrey Beall. In that paper, unfounded claims were made regarding financial rewards as remuneration schemes at a “small business school” in Canada related to publishing papers in “predatory” journals, i.e., in open access journals that were blacklisted by Beall. Based on those claims, Pyne used RG as a platform to target academics at his research institute. Pyne could have, but did not, use the scholarly platform to engage with his colleagues in an academic debate about his controversial findings, causing personal disrepute on three occasions. Consequently, RG was contacted with a claim of defamation on each occasion. Within hours of each claim, Pyne’s comments were deleted. In early May, RG also erased his social media account. The issue of actual or potential insults in the public domain, such as on blogs, is rarely discussed, much less related to academic social media sites like RG. This case study, and the issues discussed herein related to social media more broadly, will be useful for academics to better navigate increasingly challenging publishing waters.

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