Re: Independent scientific publication - Why have journals at all?

From: Bruce Edmonds <b.edmonds_at_MMU.AC.UK>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 10:28:06 -0500

A key difference between Stephen's and my proposals is that in his one
either gets a generic quality constraint on the flow of information (via
journals) or none at all (using public pre-print archives). In my
proposal papers are `tagged' with relatively rich judgemental
information so that the reader can determine the selection of
information to suit their own needs - mixing judgemental and
content-based information. Readers could emulate the journal system by
choosing selection criteria so as to cover a single topic area allowing
only papers of high general quality, but they would have the choice!

This early and inflexible constraint on the flow of papers from author
to reader that occurs in the journal system was necessary because
publishing used to be costly - this is no longer the case. Reviewers
already produce this information - why not release it to readers so that
they can determine their own selection criteria?

I have written up my proposal in detail as a pre-print (of course). It
is at:

I will try and answer the points Stephen raised below.


Yes, I accept that a system which is involves a dialogue between author
and journal is different to a one-shot review. However I disagree on
the assessment of the overall impact of this change. The one-shot
system would encourage authors to get feedback from colleagues *before*
submission, thus saving editorial staff a *lot* of time.

Review boards, could unilaterally decide to review an on-line paper,
they would not have to wait for submitted papers. Thus there is no
danger of authors being afraid of the process - they would have no
choice but to get used to it!

Tha balance of work for reviewers is far from obvious. Considerable
time would be saved in mark-up and in the managment of the review
process. On the other hand papers will be reviewed more than once by
different boards - but this is an approapriate and vital academic
activitiy, on a par with writing and reading. I think more effort is
required judging academic output so that it becomes accessible to more
than one audience. At the moment this lack of cross-judging impedes the
flow of information from field to field.

Yes there would be many changes to get used to. One would have to put
up with getting poor reviews on your on-line journal, but if you did not
want it to be judged, why make it available. There would be
compensation in that, with a plethora of review boards, one would get
used to have a variety of reviews depending on its acceptability and
importance for different audiences.

Life is `tough' for academics, if they go public with ideas they are
responsible for the quality, regardless of whether it is formally
submitted to a journal. One has to accept one's work will be judged and
not release it (i.e. publish it) until one is ready to take that risk.
It is a *problem* with the current system that the level of judgement is
low, unless it is formally submitted. But my way you can have this
judgement _without_ restricting the availability and flow of information
until it almost reaches the reader.

Bruce Edmonds,
Centre for Policy Modelling,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Aytoun Bldg.,
Aytoun St., Manchester, M1 3GH. UK.
Tel: +44 161 247 6479 Fax: +44 161 247 6802
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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