Chris Locke on Wed, 7 Jan 1998 07:18:24 +0100 (MET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Re: Academic Paper Sloth

John Horvath is right in recognising the importance of the financial aspect
of  electronic academic publishing.  But if it is still unprofitable, then
why are so many academic publishers still fighting to put content on-line?
(Elsevier, Blackwells, etc.).  Academic publishers were quick to recognise
the profit to be made in re-marketing a journal archive in CD-ROM form (and
then change the software to make the archive redundant), and we can expect
similar funding models to be applied to on-line academic publishing by
publishers and subscription agents eager to increase their profit margins
and reduce their production costs - it makes far better financial sense to
deliver academic papers on-demand from a central server via a pay-per-view
system than it is to publish in print.

Equally McKenzie Wark is correct in recognising the affects that electronic
publishing has on the 'quality' of research published.  Many attempts have
been made to transfer the peer-review process successfully into an on-line
environment - from open review systems that allow the readers to debate the
merits of a paper, to hybrid systems that just use electronic communication
to speed up a traditional peer-review panel process.  In the UK at least
the issue of quality is pressing not just because of the need to maintain
academic standards but because of the unwillingness of funding bodies such
as HEFCE and assessment excercises such as the RAE to recognise
electronically published research as valid.

These topics have been rattling around conferences for a while now, notably
at the ICCC/IFIP Electronic Publishing 97 conference at the University of
Kent at Canterbury, UK last April
(  Also, Charles Bailey has an
exellent resource list on-line (

The Canterbury conference seemed to quickly split into librarians and
academics on one side and subscription agents and publishers on the other
(like that's anything new).  Jean-Claude Guedon from the University of
Montreal gave an excellent call-to-arms asking for the removal of
publishers from the journal industry via electronic means.  This would
certainly get close to what Anne Okerson has called a 'circle of gifts'
system in which journal publishing becomes a non-profit system published
and managed by academics (Ann Okerson, "The Missing Model: `A Circle of
Gifts,'" Serials Review 18, no. 1-2 (1992): 92-96.- see Charles Bailey's
on-line article discussing this and other models at  There's a brief excerpt from
Joshua Lederberg's essay "Communication as the Root of Scientific Progress"
in Mark Stefik's "Internet Dreams" anthology (MIT 1997).  Lederberg is
persuasive in discussing the importance of the strong relationship between
electronic academic  discussion groups and refereed academic publishing.

Of course, academics would have to agree to relinquish any profits made by
publishing research for this model to really work.  And seeing that only
one person seems to have offered the full-text of their paper on-line from
the Canterbury conference (step forward John Smith), this may be some way
off in the future.

On-line academic publishing can offer so much to on-line commerce and
culture as it has experimented with so many different models of funding,
access and community-building.  Yet we're still miles from a workable

Chris Locke
Xerox Lecturer in Electronic Communication & Publishing
University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT
(0171) 380 7204 (SLAIS office - messages)
(0171) 504 2476 (direct line)

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: