Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog on how journals once facilitated and now hinder scientific progress.

Posted on June 6, 2012


The Dienekes’ Anthropology blog has a wonderful examination on how journals now hinder scientific process. You should read the whole thing as it is very good but some of the main points are:

  • scientists postpone the publication of preliminary results until they have a cumulative piece of work that is “publishable” according to journals’ standards
  • they submit their work to a closed system of peer review in which a handful of eyes decide whether their work merits publication or not. This takes time, and withholds the work from judgment from literally everybody who might have something to say about it, professional scientists and laymen alike
  • they journal-shop their contributions, with perhaps several rounds of submission/review/rejection/re-writing/re-submission. This may, of course, make their work better, but it introduces months if not years of latency; papers could, in fact, be improved and enhanced post-publication.
  • finally, they must abide by journals’ rules regarding publication. The necessity for bundling up contributions in paper format has largely disappeared, but editors’ need to plan issues and schedule papers and “publicity” accordingly has not.

Now I can imagine some readers might take the science angle of the article and believe that it does not apply to the humanities. I think it is a poor excuse to say that, “oh well its different in the humanities, things take more time”. I will not disagree that work may take more time in some cases BUT that should not be only applied to the humanities, mapping the genome took years and particle collider in Europe has taken decades to build. Moreover, we still have excavations from the 1980s, 1970s, hell even a century ago, that have still not been published, that is not the result of things take longer in the humanities.

Of last note is the authors statements on Open Access:

Science dissemination is now more limited. In this respect, the “open access” model has a supposed advantage over the “closed access” one, since it allows everyone to read a paper.

But, the leading variety of “open access” -in which authors pay for publication- is also limiting. It does so not by limiting who gets to read what is published, but by limiting who gets to publish. The choice cannot be for authors to either “pay up” or for readers to “pay up”. No one really has to pay anything more than is necessary to run and maintain the Internet infrastructure itself.

I could not say it better myself. For some reason (Actually I know the reason, commercial publishers looking for profit have convinced people) people see OA and think that they have to pay lots of money. You don’t you only have to pay what is “necessary to run and maintain the Internet infrastructure itself”.

It is a great blog post, you should check it out.

Posted in: Publishing