Last week, I decided to post one of my original research papers on my blog. As expected, the post about why I blogged the paper has received far more hits than the paper itself. What I could not expect (but hoped for) was the excellent comments and discussion I received in response. Thank you, all.
I spent a few hours Friday afternoon and Saturday morning turning the paper that I self-published as a blog post into a PDF, deliberately trying to emulate what a final typeset article in a professional journal might look like.
Have a look. How close did I get?
I did all that in Microsoft Word 2010. Some writing and typographic purists who will groan at this, then tell me I should have used this or that and I would have gotten better results. Yes, I know. But the point is, this is consumer software that most people have, and the PDF is... not bad. (If there is enough interest in how I did this, let me know, and I'll write a detailed “how to” post.)
This is relevant to the matter of publishing a paper on my blog, because one of the arguments that goes around about academic publishing is whether publishers provide useful services to authors. (I contend that they do.) One of the ways that publishers provide “added value” is with professional typesetting. I still prefer reading typeset PDFs of journal articles to manuscripts.
I spent a few hours with Word and got something that is maybe 90% the quality of what professional typesetters working for academic publishers do. And that’s without much practice, although a lot of experience with Word. I could probably speed up the process considerably.
Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for over two months for my most recent paper to move from “provisional PDF” to the final typeset form. That is not an isolated incident.
That does not make me a happy partner in scientific communication. It makes me want to say, “Pick up your game, publishers, or these first self-published papers on blogs won’t be the last.”
Additional: I received an email from Bryan Vickery at BioMed Central, indicating that there have been changes in their production process that have caused delays. They know about the problem, and are working on it. Sensibly, they focused on getting the HTML version out first, so there was something that could be read and cited. See more here.
Good thing I’m not in a hurry
The Typography of Authority — Do Fonts Affect How People Accept Information?
Analysis: When will your BMC paper be typeset?
The Glacial Pace of Scientific Publishing: Why It Hurts Everyone and What We Can Do To Fix It
The Glacial Pace of Change in Scientific Publishing