Monthly Archives: August 2010
Anyone who has been around the halls of academia for a while has heard some well meaning soul talk about how we produce too many PhD students for the number of faculty positions, that this is unfair, and that therefore we should take fewer students. The most recent version of this idea on the web goes so far as calling the academic enterprise a Ponzi scheme. I’ve never personally found this argument very convincing. No other area of employment has a degree the guarantees its recipients their preferred job and I think that thinning the pool of potential talent from the scientific fields before it’s really possible to tell who the important thinkers of the next generation might be is bad for science (and all of the things that benefit from it). I’ve never taken the time to really expand on these thoughts, but thankfully James Keirstead over at Academic Productivity has an interesting post up responding to the ideas in the first link. Go check it out.
I really appreciated Jeremy and Owen’s follow up to my original post about PubCred. They have clearly thought a lot about the feasibility of implementing their system and while I still don’t agree that it’s quite as straightforward as they propose1 I am will to concede that they would get the details figured out pretty quickly. So, that leaves three questions: 1) Who should decide the details of the system? 2) Is there a set of details that makes this system preferable to simply using money?2 and 3) In the context of the answers to 1 and 2, is this a good idea?
I proposed that since this is intended to transform the process of scientific publishing that we should put together a council of scientists (or academics more broadly) to collectively make decisions that would be best for science. In response Fox and Petchey suggest that
The decision makers are the journal owners; they’re the ones who already control all other aspects of the operation of their journals, including editorial policy and pricing.
It was upon reading this sentence that it finally clicked for me why I think that the PubCred proposal is in fact inherently bad for the scientific process. It codifies the idea that for-profit journals have a right to have the majority of their labor done for free.
After posting about PubCreds I emailed the authors of the original article to invite a response because: 1) it’s only fair if you’re going to criticize someone’s idea to give them a chance to defend it; and 2) I think that the blogosphere is actually the ideal place to have these kinds of discussions because unlike journals it is actually designed to allow for… well… discussions. Below follows a guest post by Jeremy Fox & Owen Petchey. My thanks to Jeremy and Owen for taking the time to respond. Enjoy.
First, thanks to Ethan for a very thoughtful post on Pub Creds. This kind of constructive criticism is actually more welcome and valuable than unreserved praise. Thanks also to Ethan for inviting Owen and I to respond. Owen and I have chatted about our response, and I’ve taken the lead on actually writing it.
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