Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why we don't publish

That's a royal (or editorial) "we". Books, okay, they take while (an always longer than we planned), but what's the deal with journals? I get that peer review takes time, but it shouldn't take as much as it does.

While I was updating the rolling list I keep on my other blog ( http://masterplansinc.blogspot.com/) today, I kept noticing that there was a year or more lag with journals. A year? For a hot topics/2.0 article is a very very long time. I get that we do it for tenure purposes, but let's get real - is it if any use to anyone else? Doesn't a blog post today contribute more to the profession than an outdated article next year?

So we have the odd circumstance of publishing twice - once to get the news out there, and once to get "extra credit". Sure, I'm not doing this post in an academic style, and I'm not spending anything on the distribution method, but does that make it (theoretically, at least) any less valuable to the profession, because it's fresh and new and not aged in oak?

I also noticed that a lot of well respected folks in the information professions blog. It's not just the young or new who are impatient with the traditional processes. So why do we bow to old academic traditions? Not even all the academics do - being the first with an idea is much more valuable than the first to print is more important in the world of patentable ideas, like engineering and physics.

So where do we fall, and why do we fall there? If we're supposed to be the cutting edge of information distribution, why are we on the cutting room floor?

It's not true of all of us, I know, and all props to the people who are supporting online journals and open access. They are the leader we should be looking at, not the publish or perish world. If we can't lead, maybe we shouldn't be on the dance floor, either.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Digitization in the NYT

I'm glad Harvard is willing to take on the task, forseeing OCLC's passing, but I'd rather see someone take on printing all the scanned stuff onto microfilm for permanent preservation (who is left with deep pockets and no pet project...can you say Facebook? I knew you could.) Intellectual access to something that has no physical access is useless, and it's scary how many institutions have lost files. (Can you say hot backup? Come on, try...)


In a related thread, the Chronicle has a fiery debate about Wikipedia. Personally, I'm fond of the person who assigned annotations as a class project, on the "better to light a candle than cuss" theory. I'd prefer the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy model, but I can't afford a server either, so I"ll be happy with the guys who are doing the "portal" work for Wikipedia. It can work, it's just messy and slow, like life.



But the reality is that we have no national library (LC is not), no permanent agency, and no tax base (except NY state). There's a lot that KB can do because it has a big stick that's not available to us, so we need to accept that we're not going to be the leaders in this race.