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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's Stop Publishing Research Papers

A brief and superficial note published by Tom Bartlett on the Chronicle of Higher Education about my last paper in Social Epistemology

September 15, 2010, 02:51 PM ET

Let's Stop Publishing Research Papers

You do the research, write the paper, submit the paper, wait for peer review, and then, if the paper's accepted, wait several months for the journal to publish. Once it's published what you've written is available to only a handful of journal subscribers and most of them won't read it anyway.

Is that really the best way to get an idea out there?

Gloria Origgi thinks not and so she's ... written a research paper to trash research papers. OK, that's not totally fair. What she's actually trashing is the slow, old-fashioned system of submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals. She's not the first person to make that complaint and she doesn't have a grand plan for how to fix it (though she does throw out a few possibilities, like allowing colleagues to see papers earlier in the writing process so their feedback can be incorporated). Here's the heart of her grievance:

It seems thus in my everyday professional life that academic papers are no more the most efficient way to communicate the state of advancement of my research to my community, nor to keep in contact with my colleagues. Striving to publish in an academic journal does not depend on the efficiency of the papers as tools for communication, but on social norms in use in the academic system that I passively accept because this is the way I have learned to do my job.

The title of her paper is "Epistemic Vigilance and Epistemic Responsibility in the Liquid World of Scientific Publications." I would add to her complaint that I think researchers should stop using needlessly opaque titles.

(The paper is published in Social Epistemology. The abstract is here. The full article—oh, the irony!—is not available online.)