[EAS] Scientific Publishing Paradigm Is Shifting

Peter J. Kindlmann peter.kindlmann at yale.edu
Fri Jul 27 01:08:59 EDT 2012

Dear Friends and Colleagues -


There've been nudges toward more open publishing for a long time, but 
the momentum is finally increasing, as the article in The Economist 
reminds us.

So although it's 17 years since the 1995 plea
"If from this day forward, everyone were to make available on the Net, in
publicly accessible archives on the World Wide Web, the texts of all their
current papers (and whichever past ones are still sitting on their word
processors' disks) then the transition to the PostGutenberg Galaxy would
happen virtually overnight."
by Stevan Harnad <http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/>, there has been progress.

Even before Harnad's call to action, Paul Ginsparg's arXiv e-print 
archive <http://arxiv.org/> was already in operation. Now 21 years 
old, it was up to half-million articles in 2008, with a current 
submission rate of more than 6000 articles/month 

In the sphere of publishing the bastion of prestigious journals as 
opinion makers in the tribal politics of peer review is overdue for a 
little air and sunlight. More members of academic promotion 
committees will have to arrive at personal informed opinions and 
justify them. It will be good for all concerned.

In technology-mediated circumstances change is still paced by 
sociology and politics. It took 20 years for "office automation" to 
become meaningful. The transformation of scientific publishing is 
taking about that long also.

And with another academic year starting in another month, think about 
it happening to teaching by lecture. To quote an older sage than 
Stevan Harnad:

Lectures were once useful; but now, when all can read, and books are
so numerous, lectures are unnecessary. If your attention fails, and
you miss a part of a lecture, it is lost; you cannot go back as you
do upon a book... People have nowadays got a strange opinion that
everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that
lectures can do as much good as reading the books from which the
lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be best taught by
lectures, except where experiments are to be shown. You may teach
chemistry by lectures. You might teach making shoes by lectures!
    --Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791).

All best,   --PJK

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