Monday, November 14, 2011

How to fix academic publishing again already

The Digital Library Last week I was ranting about academic publishing.

A paper I submitted to a journal in June was finally reviewed. Two referees liked it and suggested some helpful modifications, the third referee wrote incomprehensible nonsense, quoting lots of sentences which were not in the manuscript (go figure). On 23rd October I was asked to submit a revised manuscript, but because the journal is moving from one publisher to another (you can probably figure out who it is), I was told:
"We are in the process of moving to our new Open Access publisher so watch out for new information on how to submit your revised manuscript."

So I waited.
On Friday 11th November I received two emails. One was from the journal, saying:
"This e-mail is simply a reminder that your revision is due in one week. If it is not possible for you to submit your revision within one week, we will consider your paper as a new submission."

Sigh. I have resubmitted the revised version I have been waiting to send for the last month. The other email was from the manager of our institutional repository, saying:
"...for the month of October one of your publications archived on the Leicester Research Archive was accessed 373 times:
Reflective Social Portfolios for Feedback and Peer Mentoring (Cann, Alan James et al)
This made it the 2nd most accessed Leicester research publication on the Leicester Research Archive (LRA) last month."
I really have just about had it with academic publishers. Unless someone gets an arXiv-style post-publication peer review education journal going soon, (I'm looking at you Weller ;-) with these numbers, I can't see any alternative but to simply submit my future papers to the repository, and the publishers can go and (rest deleted of sentence deleted).

So here's a message to all repository managers:

Give me my personal impact data. I need to know how many people are reading what I write and who (i.e. where) they are. That data trumps journal citation factors. Give me that and the repository becomes my first choice publishing destination.


  1. I'm struggling to relaunch JIME at the moment. One thing I've considered is simply having Google Docs submissions, which would probably simply the process. But getting people to move away from pre-publication peer review is very hard.
    How would you see it working - anyone can publish anything and then we let the community decide? Or some initial light touch filter as with PLOS?
    I'm about to go into a JIME meeting so I'll try again!

  2. "Getting people to move away from pre-publication peer review is very hard."
    Possibly because acceptance feels like approbation? And that's a good feeling. A true post-publication-peer-review (PPPR) journal might get off the ground if submissions were accompanied by open, non-anonymous, 'endorsements' by a few credible academics (from institutions other than the author's).

  3. It's not like we don't know how to do post-publication peer review - we have a fully functional model in

    As to whether to pre-screen submissions, I think you'll have to do some sort of screening to remove the obvious spam. Beyond that, it depends how much resource is available, but any filters on the way in should have the smallest possible footprint.

  4. While I hear your frustration (I've also received incomprehensible feedback in the peer-review process), I'm a little old-school, and am very skeptical about the automatic correlation of popularity and quality. (Oldie but goodie Gustav le Bon is instructive on this account). Furthermore, I've had excellent experiences with peer review, ones that made my article far stronger than it would have been had I just went ahead and published it. But on your point about impact data, you are dead on.

  5. Not a good situation, Alan, and at some level I may bear some responsibility for it. I am checking. Seb