All the steps of the editorial process used by legacy publishers are obsolete. To see this, is enough to ask “why?”.
- The author sends the article to the publisher (i.e. “submits” it). Why? Because in the old days the circulation and availability of research articles was done almost exclusively by the intermediary of the publishers. The author had to “submit” (to) the publisher in order for the article to enter through the processing pipe.
- The editor of the journal seeks reviewers based on ___________ [please add your suggestions], which amounts to hunches, friends advice, basically thin air. Why? Because, in the days when we could pretend we can’t search for every relevant bit of information, there was no other way to feed our curiosity but from the publishing pipe.
- There are 2 reviewers who make reports. (With the author, that makes 3 readers of the article, statistically more than 50% of the readers the article will have, once published.) Why? Because the pyramidal way of organization was, before the net era, the most adapted. The editor on top, delegates the work to reviewers, who call back the editor to inform him first, and not the author, about their opinion. The author worked, let’s say, for a year and the statistically insignificant number of 2 other people make an opinion on that work in … hours? days? maybe a week of real work? No wonder then that what exits through the publishing pipe is biased towards immediate applications, conformity of ideas and the glorified version of school homeworks.
- The editor, based solely on the opinion of 2 reviewers, decides what to do with the article. He informs the author, in a non-conversational way, about the decision. Why? Because again of the pyramidal organization way of thinking. The editor on top, the author at the bottom. In the old days, this was justified by the fact that the editor had something to give to the author, in exchange of his article: dissemination by the means of industrialized press.
- The article is published, i.e. a finite number of physical copies are typed and sent to libraries and particulars, in exchange for money. Why? Nothing more to discuss here, because this is the step the most subjected to critics by the OA movement.
- The reader chooses which of the published articles to read based on authority arguments. Why? Because there was no way to search, firsthand, for what the reader needs, i.e. research items of interest in a specific domain. There are two effects of this. (a) The raise of importance of the journal over the one of the article. (b) The transformation of research communication into vanity chasing. Both effects were (again, statistically) enforced by poor science policy and by the private interests of those favoured by the system, not willing to rock the boat which served them so well.
Given that the entire system is obsolete, what to do? It is, frankly, not our business, as researchers, to worry about the fate of legacy publishers, more than about, say, umbrella repairs specialists.
But, what to do, in these times of transition? It is in my power to laugh a bit, at least, and maybe to make others, with real decision power, to think.
That is why I propose a Journal of Uncalled Advices, which would work as the spnetwork, only driven by publishers, as a journal.
- The editor searches in the arxiv, or elsewhere, article he likes, or he consider important.
- Makes a public call for reviews of the selected articles. He manages the place of the discussion.
- At some point a number of technical reports appear (the uncalled advices), collaboratively.
- The editor uses again his nose to separate opinion from technical reports and produces (writes) two final (for the journal) articles about the research article. The opinion part could as well serve as vulgarization of the research article, the technical part could serve to the specialists and to the author.
- The two articles are sold by piece, for 6 months and then they are made public.
- The reader uses the journal articles as evidence and makes his own mind about the research article.
UPDATE: The following older posts are relevant
- Peer-review is Cinderella’s lost shoe
- What is an author buying from a gold OA publisher?
- Peer-review, what is it for?
- Journal of very short papers
My post ended here, in case there is something added after the end of the post, it’s an example of uncalled adds.