Re: Journal Length Constraints

From: Peter Banks <pbanks_at_BANKSPUB.COM>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007 21:07:38 -0500

It may be that the editor in question was gaming the system for higher certainly happens. However, one does not have to invoke a
conspiratorial reason for wanting a paper shortened.

I don't think I am alone in not looking forward to the print version
supplemented by one or more lengthy "director's cut" versions in
repositories. A strict word limit, like hanging, tends to concentrate the
mind wonderfully. Though the deposited version might contain useful
supplementary data, it might also be simply represent the self-indulgence of
a gassy author.

After all, Watson and Crick's 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA runs
barely more than a page. A paper that modestly suggested "a possible copying
mechanism for the genetic material² needed no supplementary detritus to
change the face of science.

Perhaps what enabled Watson and Crick to think and to write with such
clarity and vigor was the need to be concise. As William Strunk said,
"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary
words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a
drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary

We should guard against cluttering the Web with unnecessary parts simply
because it is easy to do so.

Peter Banks
Banks Publishing
Publications Consulting and Services
10332 Main Street #158
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 591-6544
FAX (703) 383-0765

On 1/23/07 7:01 AM, "Stevan Harnad" <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:

> [Identity Deleted] wrote:
>> I came across the following:
>> I'd just like to add that journals have other means to "coerce"
>> authors into unsatisfactory practices. I submitted a formally
>> written report to a reasonably strong journal (IF>2.0)
>> it was accepted with minor revision. the referee requested some
>> small changes in grammar, and clarification of some details.
>> the editor of the journal then asked us to re-submit our paper
>> as a letter to the editor. the journal's policy was that
>> reports were 1000-1200 words, and letters were under 500
>> words. as such, we had to do a complete re-write, despite
>> the fact that our paper had been deemed satisfactory
>> (with minor revision) by the referee.
>> letters do not count against an ISI Impact Factor...
> Thank you for your message and you may be right that relegating some accepted
> articles to letter status not only cuts their length but may also cut
> their usage and citations, which indirectly affects the journal's impact
> factor.
> Journals have annual page-count limits, for economic reasons (I know that, as
> I
> edited a journal for 25 years), forcing them to accept fewer papers, and
> shorter
> ones, than they might have preferred.
> The remedy in the Open Access era is (1) for authors to self-archive not
> only the shortened published version, but, prominently hyperlinked, the
> original full version too (and any revisions, corrections and updates). ISI
> is not the only citation counter now: There is citeseer, citebase,
> google scholar, and soon scopus and others.
> So (2) the journal can and should ask ISI to count letter citations too
> (many journal have their "letters" indexed in ISI, e.g. Physical Review
> Letters); but soon ISI citation counts (already very incomplete) will be
> supplemented by a wealth of other citation counters, and many other rich,
> new online measures of research impact:
> Shadbolt, N., Brody, T., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2006) The Open
> Research Web: A Preview of the Optimal and the Inevitable, in Jacobs,
> N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects.
> Chandos.
> And finally, (3) journals are already adopting the practice of printing
> shorter versions on paper, but archiving longer online versions, including
> extended figures and even data. This will cover the economic limitations
> on hard-copy length. Once all journals have converted to online-only and
> OA, and have offloaded all text-generation, access-provision and archiving
> functions onto the global network of OAI-compliant OA Institutional
> Repositories, then of course all length limitations will be gone and
> all downloads, citations and other measures of usage and impact will be
> properly counted and credited.
> But journal selectivity will remain: Journals will still be quality
> controllers and certifiers, implementing the peer review, requiring
> revision and correction, and certifying the the fact that an accepted
> paper has successfully met their established quality standards. This
> necessarily entails high selectivity and rejection rates for the journals
> that are at the high end of the journal quality hierarchy. (And that is
> precisely the function of journals and peer review in the OA era.)
> Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Jan 24 2007 - 04:01:23 GMT

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