Proceedings of The Royal Society of Queensland volume 132 – Combined
Julien Louys, Editor and Justyna Miszkiewicz Associate Editor (2023)
We are living in a post-truth world. Driven largely by the rise of social media, where opinion is presented as fact and no mechanisms or imperatives exist to ensure the accuracy of statements, our information ecosystem is awash with falsehoods, half-truths, and wolf-whistles to factional groups. The explosion of AI and its growing influence in all facets of the digital age have only exacerbated the problem; for example, Google searches now provide false AI-generated content as leading search results. The fact that Google or social media companies are now the primary source of information for many people brings into question how much more we can move post truth – some would say there’s further we can go, as terrifying as this seems. Science has not been immune to these trends. Sharing manuscripts publicly as pre-prints, whereby manuscripts are posted online prior to peer review, was initially driven by mathematicians and physicists to ensure priority as well as field advancement, given how long it generally takes for mathematical proofs to be ratified. This has since expanded across the natural and social sciences, and the practice is growing in popularity even if many pre-prints do not subsequently end up in the peer-reviewed literature. Alongside pre-prints has been the astronomical growth of predatory publishers, characterised by large stables of journals promising rapid publication, but with minimal to no peer review and high article processing charges (pay-to-publish). Other, more reputable journals are experimenting with the scientific publication process. Journals such as eLife no longer have articles accepted or rejected, merely posted pre- and post peer-review. Such experiments have not been without controversy, as seen in the strong backlash against the claims of burial and rock art by the hominin Homo naledi in the South African Rising Star cave system published in the aforementioned journal. Where does that leave the traditional scientific publication model? Most, if not all academics acknowledge that the current peer-review system is not perfect. It can be subjective, take significant time, and is reliant on the free labour of volunteers who have other, immense professional obligations – few if any rewards are the lot of peer-reviewers. However, such a system serves as a measure of quality, providing reassurance that the claims made in a published scientific paper have been evaluated by experts. Meaningful evaluation cannot and should not be rushed: it ensures that some measure of quality and accuracy can be trusted, and that reputable science is being published. The editorial and copy processes are also, in their smaller way, indispensable. A journal is built on its reputation, which is in turn a form of a brand that can be judged based on its look and content. It is with these thoughts in mind that we are pleased to present volume 132 of the Proceedings of The Royal Society of Queensland. This journal has a sterling reputation which is further supported by the quality of both its past papers and the papers presented herein. In this volume, Reinhold presents data on the fluorescence under ultraviolet light of mammals from the Wet Tropics of Queensland. These important observational data are contributing to a much wider appreciation of this phenomenon in mammals, data critical to developing hypotheses exploring why this might be the case. A pair of fruit bats fluorescing grace this year’s cover. Rix explores the work of Benjamin Dunstan and delves into the history of why certain geological treasures left Queensland. Nielsen and Kumarasuriyar explore another facet of Queensland’s scientific history with a description of the contributions of Walter Hill, Director of Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens. These history of science papers are critical, for how can we understand where we are going unless we know where we have come from? Rounding out this volume is a book review and the annual presidential address. We appreciated the opportunity to edit Proceedings for the last three years, and although we are stepping down, we look forward to seeing what new Queensland wonders future volumes will bring, knowing we can trust in the science emerging from this august society and its Proceedings.