Thursday, March 15, 2007

Interview with Gary Mawyer

Gary Mawyer is the managing editor of the medical journal Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing.

Pat: Gary, a message from an online scientific journal was recently sent to the UH-Manoa English department. Here are some excerpts from the message:

Every artist or author deserves a fair consideration to be published. S——— J——— I——— provides an efficient forum for publishing research and creative work from all disciplines. S——— has assembled an extensive and prestigious Editorial and Advisory Board.

This initiative is driven by an overriding passion to assist artists and authors to cope with the "publish or perish" reality that has been created by the policies of the academia and funding agencies. According to several surveys, a large majority of authors and researchers cite slow review process and publication delays in the current system as a major obstacle to their publishing objectives. Many have also expressed concerns about the fairness and integrity of the peer review process in traditional publishing. Some scholars have argued that there is a need to liberate the publication process for broader and fairer access.

S——— J——— I——— is the first global initiative that intends to accomplish this objective. We sincerely believe that artists and authors who have devoted months or years to a project, should not be shut out of the publication world simply because they did not follow some procedural or stylistic rules and guidelines or because their work did not fit in. All traditional journals have very rigid stylistic or procedural policies that unduly create artificial barriers and in effect retard innovation and creativity.

S——— maintains minimal procedural and stylistic rules, and accepts scientific and creative works that follow any style manual. A fair peer-reviewed evaluation system is used to select works for publication. S——— maintains a rapid electronic submission, review and publication process. Our capability for perpetual future accessibility and preservation is also extremely valuable to both authors and readers.

Gary: This sounds like a shady spinoff of a long-speculated theory about how to resolve the cliquishness of science publishing by having something like the "open journal" idea where researchers sort of post up their work rather than submitting it to an established institutional journal. Peer review and the editorial vetting of the material is the issue that has kept the open journal idea from meaning anything. Obviously I could swear I just recreated cold fusion and this could be done quite egregiously—and then be cited as a published finding—if I can find a way to turn it into a proper-looking cite without exposing the work to any physicists. So the riposte is, we'll have editors and reviewers.

And the next question is, who approves these editors and their reviewers—in other words, what keeps the scientologists and UFO nuts from being the "reviewers"? And suddenly we're heading lickety split back toward the establishing institutional journal after all, whose ancient cliques annihilate all but a select body of "the fit" who then Darwinianly rule the publishing in their field. But the open journal remains awful tempting, especially to outsiders, but also to investors because of its pay-to-publish or self-supporting fee structure.

It is an interesting subject and some general discussion of it would be valuable to would-be editors and writers because more and more of it is going to be encountered—and also because some pay-to-publish venues are well run and a good idea. There's a host of issues: intellectual property rights, what's a fair cost, is the venue providing an audience or not, and what's being claimed. Scholarly pubs are so much about job evaluations and ultimately tenure and advancement that I wouldn't recommend anyone to stray off the traditional track, but non-scholarly pubs can be a different matter.


Megan said...

Regarding the statement

"Many have also expressed concerns about the fairness and integrity of the peer review process in traditional publishing."

Enforcing fairness, integrity, and ethical practices are always a controversial issue. While there is no doubt that scientific papers may not get published in a peer-reviewed journal because of less than fair practices, I do not think the solution to the problem is to declare "no standard necessary.” This philosophy may get more authors published, but in the end might decrease the value of high quality scientific research. Part of the rationale supporting the peer review process is the need to defend each assertion made for a research project, and if a scientist is not required to defend their work among his/her peers, who else will be able to or willing to say, “hey, your research is phony.” A healthy dose of competition is a good thing.

I think it is also important to remember that opinion is much different than fact, especially for scientific research. Regardless of the source of a publication, we all still have to use our critical thinking skills to determine what we’ll believe.

Investing a great deal of time into something does not automatically determine its quality either, and this idea goes for both scientific and artistic works. If you spend two years taking singing lessons, and at the end you still sing like the neighborhood cat on the fence—yes I can be very proud of you for making that effort, but it still doesn’t mean I want to hear you sing (unless you are a third grader, of course).

Jill said...

I just glanced at the email; but I did go to the website link thinking it would be something to submit poetry to, and I read there is something like a $165 submission fee. Anyone else read that? Scam!