I’ve recently submitted an article to a professional journal, my first ever. I’m quietly thrilled about it and hope it gets published. Writing and submitting was a useful experience both in understanding the information needs of academic users and in focusing my ideas. Based on a piece of research I wrote over a year ago, I also had to make some effort to bring aspects of it up to date.
But in doing this, I also begun to wonder about the longer term relevance of the journal / article model, especially for professional communication. It seems somewhat slow and unwieldy, and whilst peer review was usefully editorially, was it truly necessary in what is often at best a quasi-academic discipline?
In full-on academia, there are noted shifts away from traditional publishing. PLOS has built a powerful brand around an established traditional open access journal and a variety of experimental publishing platforms. The Physics community has made strong investment in ArXiv and economists have long favoured locally published working papers to quickly disseminate research. I suspect diversification of practice across disciplines is only going to continue.
In the U.S, its my understanding that publishing in LIS journals is necessary for career advancement. It is not the case in the UK, although I’m sure my C.V. could do with a few more. Critically, LIS journals subs cost money and articles in them may never reach potential readers, especially those early on in their career. With professional development budgets shrinking along with the profession itself, is this really the best model to share much needed research and examples of best practice?
Librarians are fantastic at building social networks and sharing findings, both in brief and in-depth. Slowing that process down to the pace of journal publishing (often over six months) can negate the impact. In theory, its simple for me to write up and publish any research myself. My Mac has a ‘print to PDF’ option. This blog can host it and Google can index it. Or I could do it properly and publish in semantic HTML. All I need it time and enough folk on Twitter to publicize it. So what exactly is being gained through an LIS journal? The journal could of course reject me, but my blog has live analytic s of usage and a comments section where my peers can voice their opinions, in person or anonymously.
This is a highly personal opinion, one largely formed out of supposition rather than any noted study of usage. I’ve nothing against those in publishing either, they play a vital role in gluing the profession together. I’m more concerned about the impact of the current model.
I’d be interested in hearing how folk think getting published in an LIS or related journal can add value over a blog or simply publishing a working paper or report online.