Thursday, December 06, 2012

Metajournal discussions crawl on

Earlier this week I wrote about the idea of metajournals being the future of academic publishing outside of the commercial/megajournal hegemony.

In his comments on that post and in email correspondence, Martin Weller is still positive about the idea of an Edtech metajournal, but the nuts and bolts of how to make such a venture sustainable remain a stumbling block.

Informal discussions have also stared within the SGM Communications Committee (of which I am a member) about the possibility of a microbiology metajournal. The idea is that the involvement of the Society for General Microbiology would help to sustain this. I am interested in this because without new approaches such as this, I feel that the future for learned societies looks dodgy. Maybe universities should be more proactive.

On a related note, I see that Bioscience Education is also looking for a new Editor in Chief. Again, my feeling is that the metajournal model I described earlier is probably the way forward for publishing venture of this sort - encouraging and supporting contributors in publishing via either the Green or the Gold Open Access routes (as I have done recently myself) and then composing a curation layer via the metajournal format.

It's hard to sell these "radical" ideas to conservative academics hung up on REFophobia and that's the way we've always done it. But the clock is ticking and these is only limited time until most of the boutique journals we have now collapse. As ever, defining the timescale of the event horizon is the difficult part.


  1. I think you confuse two elements in your argument against why meta journals will struggle.
    In terms of REFability - the journal itself needs to have REF status, but that isn't an issue here as the articles will have already been published in 'proper' journals with (or without) their own impact factors. Being an editor or reviewer on a journal isn't really a REFable activity, so it doesn't make a difference there.
    Time to do it - most activity we do for journals (apart from a very few big hitters) is unpaid and unrecognised. It's done for a variety of reasons: prestige, keeping up with the field, a sense of scholarly duty, etc. I don't think these are particularly lessened for a meta journal. Maybe prestige is less, but then if it gets traction it could gain you more as it's a more open, public activity.
    So the meta-journal doesn't need to have REF status in either case.

  2. Sorry if I haven't expressed myself clearly, but there is no confusion between those two factors in my mind. You're right that literally (to quote Jamie Redknapp) the only credit most academics get for publication-related activity is the acquisition of a spurious Impact Factor. People keep telling me that's how it's going to be for the foreseeable future (although how long that is....). In which case, let people publish where they may. The task is firstly to get metajournals off the ground and then secondly to make them sufficiently valuable that they cannot be ignored. I don't see how else they will become sustainable - given that there isn't going to be any (significant) funding for this punk/pirate publishing model. As soon as Scholarly Kitchen screams Unfair! and tries to take their ball home, that's when we know we're winning.