Friday, January 13, 2012

On the Absurdity of Academic Publishing: a Parable

A fun story about the absurdity of academic publishing HERE

"Jack is a sheep farmer. He gets some government subsidies, and also works long hours to keep his sheep happy and healthy. When his beasts are ready for slaughter, he offers them to an abattoir. The abattoir is very choosy and may reject Jack’s sheep, which is a disaster for him, as there is no other route to the market. If he is lucky the abattoir will accept the animals, slaughter them and sell them, at a large profit, to the supermarket. Jack does not see any of this money. The populace struggle to afford the price of meat, but the government has no control over this. When Jack feels like a nice piece of lamb, he buys it from the supermarket. Meanwhile, Jack provides his services for free as an inspector of other farmers’ animals....

Crazy story, right? But that’s the model that academic publishing follows. Academics work their butts off to get research funding, often from government. They then do the research and write up and submit it for publication. They run the gauntlet of picky reviewers and editors to get the work accepted for publication. Once it is published, it appears in a journal which is sold on to academic institutions for large profits. Post publication, the academic often has to pay a cost equivalent to several hardback books to get a formatted electronic copy of the article. Meanwhile, the journals justify this by arguing they have extensive costs. But in fact, it is the academic community that does the bulk of the work for free, acting as editors and peer reviewers. Increasingly, they are expected also to do copy editing and graphic design, tasks that were previously undertaken by professional journal staff."

Full article HERE

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