Sunday, October 01, 2006

Competition breaks up monopolies, including academic ones

It's pretty hard to get an academic paper published. The more prestigious a journal, the more selective it will be, putting submissions through a very rigorous process. I'm pleased to see that some are bucking tradition and publishing their papers online:
Web journals threaten peer-review system

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scientists frustrated by the iron grip that academic journals hold over their research can now pursue another path to fame by taking their research straight to the public online.

Instead of having a group of hand-picked scholars review research in secret before publication, a growing number of Internet-based journals are publishing studies with little or no scrutiny by the authors' peers. It's then up to rank-and-file researchers to debate the value of the work in cyberspace.

The Web journals are threatening to turn on its head the traditional peer-review system that for decades has been the established way to pick apart research before it's made public.

Next month, the San Francisco-based non-profit Public Library of Science will launch its first open peer-reviewed journal called PLoS ONE, focusing on science and medicine. Like its sister publications, it will make research articles available for free online by charging authors to publish.

But unlike articles in other PLoS journals that undergo rigorous peer review, manuscripts in PLoS ONE are posted for the world to dissect after an editor gives them just a cursory look.
A relative few academics for far too long had the power to restrict the dissemination of what could be great work, and they should be afraid, very afraid, of losing their monopoly. Online journals will still have academic reviewers, but they won't exercise full sway as to whether the paper will ever be released. Perhaps a paper published online won't be worth the photons on our monitors, but can't we decide that for ourselves?

Also, so many more people will have access to the papers without having to pay, whether several dollars per individual paper or hundreds (even thousands) of dollars a year for a journal subscription. Score another victory for the Internet in greatly reducing the cost of acquiring information.

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