Traditional publishing works because academics support it

This post is a written record of mt thoughts after reading “WTF? The University of California sides with publishers against the public” by Michael Eisen.

I suspected and privately said to reluctant ears that there is something profoundly dishonest, in principle, in the system of fabricating research papers for the love of the number of them, BUT (and the emphasis is here) it works because many researchers love it. Well, maybe not many and maybe not especially the young ones, but many of the researchers with established reputation constructed in the interior of this system.

Is this a naive thought? Surely is for the two categories of people in the academia who sustain it: a big, maybe a majority, maybe not, class of mediocre researchers, formed by those who find a sure and opportunistic path to promotion, tenure, etc, by producing a kind of structured noise which looks like research and, a second class, of managers of the academic realm, having direct interest into the system, mainly, I suspect, because it provides access to power over other people lives. (The second class may be  populated by former members of the first, this follows logically from the fact that if the promotion system is based on massive mediocre crap production then the best among the producers tend to be selected by the system.)

My preferred comparison of the fall in the making of the actual academic system is described in “Another parable of academic publishing: the fall of 19th century academic art“. Continuing the comparison, it is true that the production of independent artists surely contained (and still contains now-a-days) a lot of garbage, but it is also true that the academic production of paintings was massively mediocre.  What to choose — diversity, from very bad to very good to out of the scale exploratory art — or — uniform mediocrity, with rare dashes of solid, good, surprising or even exceptional academic paintings?  In the past, diversity won.



  1. This post is not directed  against UC.  At least UC made a statement which is criticised in the post by Michael Eisen. On the contrary, the vast majority of smaller, or less visible  academic institutions don’t even make clear their respective positions on this matter. In the background business goes as usual.
  2. See also the very well written previous post by Eisen, “The Past, Present and Future of Scholarly Publishing “. Just a small quote from the post:

Tonight, I will describe how we got to this ridiculous place. How twenty years of avarice from publishers, conservatism from researchers, fecklessness from universities and funders, and a basic lack of common sense from everyone has made the research community and public miss the manifest opportunities created by the Internet to transform how scholars communicate their ideas and discoveries.


4 thoughts on “Traditional publishing works because academics support it”

  1. “Princeton University is now, throughout many months,
    celebrating the two hundredth year jubilee of its founding. Remarkably this is
    linked to a great secret-mongering: I.e., the scientific lectures and discussions are in
    part only open to invited guests, and even when something is public, one speaks,
    as much as possible, only about banalities, or a lecturer is selected who speaks so
    unclearly that nobody understands him. It is downright laughable. Science has
    now (chiefly because of the atom bomb) on the whole the tendency of turning
    itself into secret-science here.” (K. Gödel in “A Logical Journey” by H. Wang)

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