Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Killing a sacred cow

Whoa! Long time, no post. End of semester finals will do that to you. I couldn't keep quiet, however, when I read Nate Lowell's post about getting rid of paper journals as we know them. He's really taken an ax to that sacred cow.

And it's about time.

Others have talked about this kind of thing before, but there needs to be a continued discussion to update the awful printed journal tradition. Maybe the routine of writing, submitting, waiting 6 months, rewriting, resubmitting, waiting 6 months to 1 year for the journal to come out is good in some fields--but not in the field of Instructional Technology. By the time the "current" research is published, computers are twice as fast, there are dozens of new software applications, and the "new" research is old news. Since when was that ever a good thing? As Nate points out, "Paper journals do not foster nor support research. They support history." Amen.

I responded to Nate's post by saying, "I, for one, turn to journals when I have to but my daily reading to stay up to date on the field is checking my rss news reader and email listservs." In our field it is crucially important to stay current, and research journals don't do that. Nate refers to podcasting, which didn't even exist until a few months ago, and by the time the research on podcasting is published, it'll be way old news. This is the case with "older" technologies such as wikis and blogs. How much research has been published in journals about these technologies? Not much, even though they've been growing in popularity in educational circles in the last two years. I was thinking the other day it'd be useful to have a special issue or book about best practices of teachers who are succeeding at using weblogs in the classroom. Why hasn't this been published (to my knowledge) yet? It'd be pointless. By the time it was published, the trends and research would have already changed.

Let's do a needs analysis here: What is the essential component of the traditional form of publishing that is still needed for promotion, tenure review, etc? PEER REVIEW. Okay, we can keep that -- I'll be the first to say that is very important. But why marry ourselves to the printed journal? That's not a need at all. As Nate suggests, there should be a way of keeping peer review but by making the journal an all-digital journal the research would get out there that much faster. Nate suggess two-week turnarounds from when an article is submitted until it is reviewed and published online. That'd be great, but let's take it one step at a time. If we could just cut out the time it takes to publish printed journals by publishing something online the minute it passes peer review, that would be a great step forward. If money is an issue, have a password-protected login before someone can view the articles. We'd be saving so much money anyway on publication costs that the cost of "subscribing" to these journals would be greatly reduced. Then more people would subscribe--how cool would that be? Higher readership, greater dissemination of information, and more recent research. It'd be even better if rss could be incorporated so the minute the article is published, it shows up in my news reader.

I know I'm oversimplifying this and am probably too ignorant to understand some of the barriers. But it could be done. It's about time this WAS done. It should've been done years ago.

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