“India does not need any more journals, especially localized institution-based ones, if that is what you mean. We already have too many journals, most of them third rate. What we need is to look for ways by which we can convince many of these journals to close down. Instead, we should try to identify the better ones and persuade their editors and publishers to make them Open Access…”
My challenging correspondent has permitted me, in this case, to share his comments and my response on this matter of journal proliferation. I have chosen to do so as it has become a common enough concern, and one that I may otherwise seem to be exacerbating through the Public Knowledge Project’s lowering of the cost barrier for scholarly publishing by developing and distributing its open source (free) Open Journal Systems.
As opposed to my correspondent I feel that there may well be value in supporting the spread of journals and a research culture. As a result, I have grown concerned with how government agencies in South Africa, Brazil, Australia, and elsewhere, are increasing the recognition and reward for researchers who publish in the “best” journals and in the best journal alone (as defined by a ranked listing in the ISI Web of Science, for example). This may well be a way to convince third-rate, as well as second-rate, journals to close down, which my correspondent suggests is a desirable thing....
What I believe, at this point, is that what is needed are many publishing opportunities at varying levels of selectivity (rejection rates). This will allow for a greater number of researchers (if only another 10-20% in addition to the accredited elite) to make their way up the long ladder to the submission upload page of the best journals, while in the process raising the quality of at least the second-tier journals in the process.
For government agencies to in effect cut the rungs below the top levels of this research ladder needlessly reduces the chances of their research communities making it up the ladder. That is, the idea that the best value is achieved by concentrating resources/opportunities on the very best is countered by the idea that the best arises out of the surplus production of knowledge, along with a few surprises from unexpected sources....As well, as only the best journals are recognized, to start a new title becomes all the more difficult, even as such an act is often a common, if not necessary, step in developing new, innovative field of research....
[I]t also happens that work on local, practical questions may not get published in the best journals for reasons not related to quality. To go back to the case for open access, I would also argue for how a greater availability of research — of varying qualities — also contributes to greater interest in comparing studies and qualities in the public use of this work....
Peter Suber at 5/20/2009 01:54:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.