A new technology journal relies heavily on old closed technologies, to the dismay of those who want to see real change to open models. And I make a modest suggestion.
Blogger, open source software advocate, and theologian Michelle Murrain called into question the launch of the new Journal of Information Technology in Social Change on a paid subscription basis. Ms. Murrain asked the fundamental question How do we do make change if we keep doing things the same way? She questions the decision to bring out the journal with such tight controls on dissemination of articles.
This prompted a response by Michael Gilbert of the Gilbert Center (a for-profit firm), who developed the journal. He defended his decision to go the paid subscription, limited license approach reluctantly, but explained that coordinating the process of peer review takes substantial personnel effort time and few are willing to volunteer that kind of effort. That requires a paid staff, which requires a stream of income.
But then (curiously) he answers his own question:
Maybe the answer is for a single donor to step forward and fund the next half dozen issues. Maybe the answer is some kind of quarterly bounty which, as soon as financial pledges reach a certain amount, the publication goes to open license (or maybe that's when the next issue is commenced).
Exactly. The biggest drawback of the paid subscription journal approach is that it keeps the information from being disseminated on a timely basis. First, because of the delay in the publication process and second because of the limited number of people willing to buy the subscription.
As an alternative, I would suggest the following:
- Rather than a journal, publish articles individually but regularly as a series with a branded identity. Rather than eight articles in a quarterly journal, publish a single article every week or every two weeks. At any time, there would be a number of articles in the pipeline, all at different stages of preparation.
- Use a wiki-type tool for online peer reviews (I'm referring to the wiki technology for collaboration, not the wide open access of Wikipedia. It would be a limited access wiki at the peer review stage. And there are probably better tools out there than wikis for this purpose by now.)
- Employ several teams of coordinators and editors. Each team would processing its assigned articles through all the different stages in the pipeline. At any point in time, each team would be finishing one, in the middle of one or two others, and starting up one.
- Upon publishing, disseminate articles as widely and quickly as possible and encourage on-line discussion in various formats (email lists, message boards, podcasts, chats, blogs).
- As with Wikipedia, maintain a parallel process evaluating the model as it goes.
- Because of the novelty of the process and the pertinence of the subject matter, foundations (perhaps plus a corporate sponsor or two) should be willing to foot the entire bill for a period of three years, by which time technology will have moved on and another model would need to be developed.