29 December 2011

We Must Stop Publication Monopolies

An article at Climate Shift (hat-tip Alice Bell) that describes the many-sides of science journalism today. One passage that is particularly eye catching:
...scientific publishers and societies, universities, science centers and museums, and interest groups are communicating directly with wider audiences, unmediated by journalists, often using narrative and presentation formats that were once the exclusive domain of news organizations, many even employing veteran science journalists as communication staffers. Scholars of science policy and communication, as well as critics and writers, are also producing science-related content directly online.
We need to develop an impact factor for blogs and media of this kind. I have in mind here some measure - beyond ephemeral professional service - that would quantify the impact such media has in real dollars, knowledge translation among disciplines, citation, and exposure for the organizations listed above. This impact factor should be detailed enough to provide, for example, Britain's Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)  or US tenure standards with metrics that can help universities assess the relative value of these contributions.


We have digital media. Why do we have analog gatekeepers?


All organizations like those listed above ought to move into the cheap pay-per-download publication game. Consider, for example, what Louis CK has accomplished in twelve days by publishing his own work and asking people to buy direct. Via Andrew Sullivan:
in twelve days thus far. He's quartering the money, using a quarter to pay for production costs, a quarter for large bonuses for his staff, a quarter for charity and he's keeping a quarter. To me this has been the most interesting online experiment since Radiohead's "In Rainbows".
Total revenue for two weeks: $1 million. Of course, most scholars in organizations such as those listed above do not have the media profile of mega stars like Louis CK. But many universities, museums, societies, and interest groups do: they can leverage their own institutional strengths, produce externally peer-reviewed research, and publish it directly themselves. 


Such a project would not be an immediate high revenue enterprise. But building a substantial database of desirable, high quality publications would almost certain produce long-term sources of revenue split between the author and the institutional host. For the humanities and social sciences in particular, such a model could easily bring in large sums of money. Fields like history and literature are intrinsically interesting. People would buy the books if they were not priced so high. As kindle and other readers become more commonplace, the likelihood that people would buy $7.00 books would grow higher and higher. Why should the old gate-keepers have a monopoly on that? 

No comments:

Post a Comment