Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Publishing, Journals, Online-only, When Demand is Greater than Supply

1. The problem is not online vs. printed journals (with online availability). It is about journals with known standards. If you get together the top 25 people who publish in a field, and they decide to publish mainly in a single venue (online, offline, ...), after a while the journal will be recognized for its quality. Of course, you still need peer review and serious editing.

2. I am not sure if diversity is affected much by any of these journal innovations. If you have double-blind reviewing, such blindness might hurt those with big reputations when they submit weaker work.

3. I would not worry much about whether the article has appeared as long as it is accepted and scheduled to appear. The delay, say six months, is unlikely to affect reputation or impact for those coming up for tenure and promotion. You need to have things out for several years before impact can be measured.

4. There is a crucial message for probationary faculty: Make sure you send out papers to the journals as early in your career as sensible. Your dissertation's output is likely to be ready to be sent out after your first year or 18 months after the degree. And your next project should have publishable outputs by the end of year three or at most year four. The idea is to give yourself time to rebound from rejections and resubmit, having perhaps improved the paper. This means that you must respond to revise-and-resubmits with an improved paper without delay.  And it also means that journal editors need to give reviewers deadlines (?two months) , and if the review is not received, have other reviewers in mind. Reviewers who are always tardy should be avoided.

5. We might also ask ourselves if we are crowding out important work  by publishing our work when it is not as polished as it should be. I cannot imagine anyone who would not try to publish, but perhaps editors need to ask authors for stronger papers. I am not sure this is possible.  

6. More importantly, if we ask that tenure, promotion, and full-professor reviews demand a certain number of papers in the main journals, I believe the numbers will prove that is almost impossible given the number of papers published vs the number of papers that need to be published if people are to be awarded tenure or promotion. What happens is that departments, deans, and provosts discover that their rules are followed in the breach. Put differently, I suspect that in the past and likely in the future, schools talk demanding standards but must not honor them if they are to have any regular faculty. Surely some people perform much better, but again the problem is that the cohort of reasonably strong people may face more demand than there is supply.  Is this observation just wrong? I could imagine a dean or provost saying, "We understand the constraints. But we want just those faculty who are able to thrive under such a regime."

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