Re: E-Publish, or Die!

Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:20:00 PDT

Young-Leslie writes:

"-And the only ones who can really change this are those who are already
hired and working within academe; the same ones who for the most part
have received promotion by trying (and in some cases succeeding) to
publish in the prestigious venues...."

By the very appelation "prestigious," already entailed is exclusivity.
Journals are "prestigious" as defined by the members of the profession in
part by the fact that they are "exclusive".

What is there to change? The journals that are called prestigious? The format
of such journals (hard copy versus electronic)? Or the review process itself?
Or are all of these symptomatic of a system, as O'Brien suggests, that
fundamentally fails to deal with its responsibilities towards those it
enocourages to enter into the system? But consider another side:
roughly 99% of all applicants to graduate schools have at least 3 letters
of recommendation stating that the person in question is superb, definitely
should be admitted and will make the profession proud--but not all of those
applicants can/should be admitted; when graduate students are evaluated for,
e.g., TA positions, 90% of them (roughly) have letters saying that the person
in question is definitely in the top 5-10% of all graduate students the
recommender has ever seen; most applicants to job positions have letters from
referees that extol their virtues. In other words, the absence of critical
evaluation begins early on and in the absence of critical evaluations
surrogate evaluations are relied upon. But at the level of promotions the
matter is far more insidious as a whole range of baser human emotions (for
want of a better way to describe what happens) enters in and even a semblance
of objectivity can evaporate when a department decides that faculty member X
needs to go--not because faculty member X is objectively doing poor work in
contrast with all other faculty members, but because for a variety of reasons
the department does not want faculty member X around. Discounting
publications on the basis of the journal in which they are published is but
one of a myriad of ways to deny objective evidence that faculty member X is
doing first rate scholarly work.

How do you change this? THe only way I know is through open reviews that
allow for substantive legal challenges to the more egregious violations of
the stated criteria for promotion.

As difficult as that route is to follow for promotions, the situation is far
worse at the level of hirings even when there is blatant violation of the
stated criteris for hiring--and discrimination here can be on the basis of
the kind of research you do, not necessarily on the basis of sex, ethnicity,

D. Read