Did you know that the average global sales of an academic monograph is 300? On the other hand, a single paper I uploaded to my research website at Berkeley Electronic Press has attracted 400 downloads over 3 months. The issues of academic publishing and the move from hard copy to electronic publishing was discussed in the Australian recently. The bi-line compares academic monographs to the Hapsburg monarchy .
I wrote about the topic of e-publishing of academic research and how it might change the face of our research outputs in an earlier post. The only purely electronic journal in statistics that I know of is InterStat. The Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation actually recommend that you send your paper there when they reject it! It is hardly a prestigious journal. For instance HERE is the issue for February last year. Spot the problem?
Anyway, journals have two roles. One is quality control which is achieved through the refereeing system and has nothing to do with the publication of the journal per se. The second is for disseminators of research, which journals do badly; the papers are condensed to fit a page limit, often to the point of being incomprehensible, and papers are typically a couple of years out of date. While not replacing hard copy publishing, some Universities, like ANU E Press, have moved into electronic publishing in a major way. Their aim is to distribute their best and most recent research as widely as possible, and let’s face it – publishing in a journal is not the way to do it. They currently only publish e-books but the move to an e-journal does not seem like a great leap.
During one year they had more than 1 million downloads. Several papers had more than 50,000 downloads, which puts my 400 into a bit of perspective!
For me, the key statement in the Australian article linked above is
The 21st century may be one in which university press publishing goes “back to the future”, in that institutions again assume responsibility for access to and distribution of institutional scholarship, scholarship that combines authority with public accessibility within digital frameworks.
It is about time we got commercial publishers and paper millers out of the process of distributing knowledge. But it is not going to be easy to come up with a system that combines academic integrity with free and wide dissemination.