Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


What Are Academic ‘Luxury Journals’? And Are They the Death of True Scholarship

Nobel Prize Winner, Randy Schekman

The prestigious, commercial academic journals — like Science, Nature and Cell — are doing to academic researchers just what the TP publishers have been doing to non-academic writers for some years.

What is that?

Putting the almighty dollar ahead of true, talented content makers. Publishing only what they feel will make the top buck and not what may actually be better for society.

Can’t really blame TP’s, though, if their main guiding factor is money/profit — Call it their ‘Impact Factor’ – a term used to measure commercial academic journals.

BUT, academic publishing should be more pure in getting the genuinely researched scholastics (perhaps boring but better for build-upon future research) PUBLISHED.

Tonight Nobel Prize winner, Randy Schekman (a scientist and academic researcher himself), is interviewed by  of the Library Journal and dishes on Impact Factor and how to fix academic publishing.

Some interesting insights unfold. For those interested, further background on academic journals can be found in these previous posts on this blog.

Ian interviews Randy:

A Broken System: Nobel Winner Randy Schekman Talks Impact Factor and How To Fix Publishing


Just before he accepted a Nobel Prize in December for his work exploring how cells regulate and transport proteins, UC Berkeley professor Randy Schekman penned an indictment in the pages of UK newspaper The Guardian criticizing the role of what he calls the “luxury journals” – NatureCell, and Science in particular – for damaging science by promoting flashy or controversial papers over careful scientific research. Library Journal spoke with Schekman, who also edits the open-access journal eLife, about what he sees wrong with academic publishing today, and how it can be fixed.

For those who haven’t read your piece in The Guardian, what’s the thrust of your argument?

My feeling is the system is broken. People are chasing what amounts to a lottery to get their best work published in these journals, and those decisions about what gets published are being made by people who are not practicing scientists.

Commercial journals restrict the number of articles that are available by making limited print runs. In the electronic world, there are no limitations. They do this because it’s their business plan to sell subscriptions. Scientists and science suffer as a result.

What prompted your boycott? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back in publishing for you?

I haven’t actually published in these journals for years, aside from a few review articles in Scienceand Nature. I have not submitted my own research to these journals for six or seven years. I was just fed up with them. Even if you win the lotto, they make you cut the heart of the paper and relegate it to a supplement that very few people will ever read. It’s a crazy way to display scholarship.

What are the major things you see wrong with the prestigious luxury journals today?

One is restricting the number of papers and pages. In a sense, these journals have a quota, and if you don’t fit it, even if your work is first-rate, they will find an excuse not to publish it. And these decisions are being made by people who are not active scientists and have not seen experiments for sometimes decades. Most scientists would prefer to have these pub[lication] decisions made by active peers.

One of the other major problems is that journals now live and die by impact factor. That is a measurement of citation and impact that was initially created by the Institute for Scientific Information (now Thomson ISI) to help librarians determine the journals they should be subscribing to. Now it has morphed into a number that every young scientist knows by heart. It’s become a holy grail for publication and it’s being used in ways it was never intended for.

Are there things the industry could do to fix impact factor?

Article continued here

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