I believe in science, but I spend almost no time reading the academic literature where the science of my craft (journalism) has traditionally been published. I spend even less time trying to craft research that would get published in those outlets.
For most normal human beings, this is not a controversial stance. As a tenure-track professor, this cuts against the grain of how you are normally told to proceed. In the Academy, professors traditionally are expected to do research and then publish that research in one of a number of peer-reviewed journals.
A growing number of faculty, including myself, have begun to reject that road to tenure.
The reason: the academic publishing system is built around a 1-2 year publishing process that requires the best and brightest minds to turn over all of their intellectual property without any compensation for that work.
Before I came to the Academy, I was a digital journalist. I worked briefly for Wired before moving to Wired.com, where I first made my name. Eventually I left and helped places like Yahoo! Games and Variety launch their blogs while I finished my first book. My last job before becoming a professor was running MIT’s Technology Review‘s online operation.
I loved each of those jobs, but I would never have worked for any of those places had they not paid me for my work. Now that I’m a professor, I have yet to see a compelling reason to publish in academic journals that neither compensate me for my work, nor give me the right to keep and control the distribution of that work.
Outside the obvious ethical issues I have with this business model, the closed business of academic publishing stands against everything that science represents. At best this system makes it very difficult to parse through data, find relevant science and information, and drive innovation. At worst it works directly against these three.
This has prompted me to finally make concrete what I have danced around for several years:
In my last pre-tenure year as a professor, I’ve decided to see how serious the Academy is about re-evaluating how we disseminate information to our colleagues, our students, and the beyond.And I’m interested to see how other faculty respond to a junior faculty member who decides to explore new, emerging ways to distribute creative scholarship and leave behind the notion of publishing in closed academic journals.
The Academic Journal Cartel
Professors have long been at the mercy of big academic publishers. The tenure system, rightly built on the idea that scholars must add to the collective knowledge of their discipline in order to demonstrate their worth, demands that academic publish results of their research so that others might evaluate it.