journal pluralism

Because I advocate open access, public access, and other new forms of scholarly publishing, some people think I am against traditional journals. That’s not quite right. I am always against ineffective, or incompetent, journal practices – like dragging papers through 3 or 4 rounds of revision. But my larger point is this: journal pluralism – scholarship comes in many forms and there can be many forms of distributing it.


  • Standard model: High rejection rate, often “developmental” – multi-year revisions standard. Criteria are particular and vague.
  • Up or out: Sociological Science is a new model. Maybe not quite as selective, but they take papers “as is” or with modest revision. Still, there is a strong editorial influence.
  • Agnostic: PLoS One – the main criteria is scientific rigor but completely agnostic with respect to “importance.” The reader decides.

It is not too hard to see the value of each model. The Standard model allows people to engage in a lengthy and complex revision process. It is also good for identifying papers that fit disciplinary norms well. Up or out is well designed for papers that may not fit disciplinary standards, but have an obvious and strong result. Agnostic publishing is exactly that. The journal certifies adherence to scientific standards but shifts decisions about importance to external audiences.

Some people see the new models as illegitimate, but I say the competition is good.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 21, 2014 at 12:54 am

Posted in academia, fabio

One Response

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  1. The question of whether 3-4 round revision processes are valuable or not is an important one, but not to my mind a simple one. As with many such questions, perhaps the question comes down to contextual factors that make such processes more or less valuable/appropriate. I write from the perspective of someone whose journal submissions tend be either inductive, qualitative papers or non-empirical theory/conceptual papers. Perhaps because of this, and the inherently malleable nature of at least my versions of such papers, I have often found multi-round revision processes valuable in developing my work. I would even go so far to say that on the whole (though not without exception), I have felt my papers were significantly improved by the process.

    I won’t say multi-round revisions processes are not painful at times, and I have experienced multiple rejections after 4, and even 5, rounds of revisions (followed by much cursing and disparaging of editors, reviewers and anyone else I can point to).

    My self-interested concern with respect to moving or even trying to or thinking we should move to a much more ‘up or out’ kind of process is that it may disadvantage the kinds of work I do, where there has traditionally been great value in developing ideas and analyses through a revision process.




    February 21, 2014 at 3:09 am

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