25 August 2014

Scientists must take the lead on improving academic publishing

I was having a discussion last week with some colleagues who are not in the sciences about their publishing experience. The conversation echoed an online one I had with Rebecca Schulman on Twitter after she published an article in Slate about academic publishing. The academic publishing process she described was not one I recognized. I barely recognized the publishing process in the chat last night, either.

This individual described the process of submitting to a reputable business journal.

  1. Start with a non-refundable $350 submission fee.
  2. Don’t expect any reviews in less than six months. In fact, even six months is optimistic.
  3. If your manuscript is given a recommendation of “revise and resubmit,” that will cost you another $150 submission fee.

I hear the litany of complaints above, and it seems to me that this is a ripe opportunity for an academic publisher. Surely someone can provide a better service to scholars than this. I wonder, “Where is the answer to PeerJ for business, the humanities, and other academic disciplines?”

The answer to why new journals are having a tough time breaking into those market, of course, is “prestige.” Certain journals were viewed as “the best” (suspected translation: high Impact Factor) which means people will put up with a huge amount of inconvenience and strife to get published in them.

We scientists may whinge about our journals, but they seem to be doing a better job across the board than in other academic fields. There are exceptions (grrr), but there are recognized as exceptions. Scientists have been slowly changing how academic publishing is done. And yes, it’s been too slow and too little, but we’ve made progress. We need to keep pushing so that our colleagues in other departments and colleges will have some of the same options in publishing that we are starting to enjoy.

Additional, 20 September 2014: There is a very interesting comparison of open access issues in sciences and humanities here. Hat tip to Mike Taylor.

External links

Revise and resumbit

Picture from here.

1 comment:

Joanna Bryson said...

For $350 you could be paying a conference fee. In the computer, mathematical and cognate sciences, conferences print archival proceedings with papers of about 6 pages (double column). There's only one round of reviewing, but there is revision (with no re-review, just an honesty system) for papers that are accepted. The advantage of this system over "pay to publish" open access is that it eliminates the moral hazard -- not everyone who goes the the conference gets a paper in automatically, and the conference gets paid for having good talks. Yet the conference fees for most meetings are all the money they need for publishing, so the papers are available free on line.