Travel agents... gone.
Stock brokers... gone.
Real estate brokers... in trouble. Photographer’s agents, too.
The problem with being a helpful, efficient but largely anonymous middleman is pretty obvious. Someone can come along who is cheaper, faster and more efficient. And that someone might be the customer aided by a computer.
If specialized scientific publishers want to survive, Godin points out a way:
Middlemen add value when they bring taste or judgment or trust to bear on a transaction that isn’t transparent. ... To thrive in a world of self-service, agents have to hyperspecialize, have to stand for something, have to have the guts to say no far more than they say yes.
Right now, there are still research journals that do this. Science, Nature, and Cell, although sometimes derided as “glamour mags,” do this: they make judgments about what constitutes cutting edge science. They say “No” a lot.
So the real pressure of open access, and that everyone can have a printing press and distribution channel, is going to weigh upon, not the top journals, but the many other journals that publish most of the bread and butter, meat and potatoes scientific research. What can a journal do that’s going to add value for either the authors or their readers that’s above and beyond what an author can do herself? Here are a few thoughts:
- Develop a review system that checks for scientific fraud as well as scientific rigour.
- Become more active in revising manuscripts for clarity.
- Offer more assistance revising graphics.
- Create long-term archival materials, perhaps more than just the published text.
- Retain scientific reviewers to ensure fast turnaround on review times. Days, not weeks or months.
Any other suggestions? What could a journal do that would be “a dream come true” for the authors?