Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Reducing academic publication time

NY Times article: "A group of prominent scientists is mounting an electronic challenge to the leading scientific journals, accusing them of holding back the progress of science by restricting online access to their articles so they can reap higher profits. Supported by a $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the scientists say that this week they will announce the creation of two peer-reviewed online journals on biology and medicine, with the goal of cornering the best scientific papers and immediately depositing them in the public domain. The two journals are the first of what they envision as a vast electronic library in which no one has to pay dues or seek permission to read, copy or use the collective product of the world's academic research."

Cool. Given the scientific attachment to notions of progress, it should come as no surprise that these folks are eager to disseminate their research as quickly as possible. Another example: Physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists have been using arXiv.org to distribute pre-print research, and I've been told that if you're "in the know" that's where you look for cutting-edge work.

The exciting part is finally seeing academic knowledge removed from the Ivory Tower. Without wanting to sound too crass, this goes a long way towards discouraging intellectual masturbation. And I'm all for letting "others" (the whole peer review process is based on getting "us" to evaluate each other) have a voice in the production of academic knowledge. I claim no monopoly on the truth - and my friends shouldn't be able to either!

Now, if only the disciplines I work with could share this vision. After all, timely social research and cultural criticism shouldn't have to be hung up for the 1-2 years academic publication cycle. By the time these papers are published, they are no longer timely...

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