There’s a brilliant guest post today on the Valve by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, english and media studies professor/blogger, presenting “a sketch of the electronic publishing scheme of the future.” Fitzpatrick, who recently launched ElectraPress, “a collaborative, open-access scholarly project intended to facilitate the reimagining of academic discourse in digital environments,” argues convincingly why the embrace of digital forms and web-based methods of discourse is necessary to save scholarly publishing and bring the academy into the contemporary world.
In part, this would involve re-assessing our fetishization of the scholarly monograph as “the gold standard for scholarly production” and the principal ticket of entry for tenure. There is also the matter of re-thinking how scholarly texts are assessed and discussed, both prior to and following publication. Blogs, wikis and other emerging social software point to a potential future where scholarship evolves in a matrix of vigorous collaboration — where peer review is not just a gate-keeping mechanism, but a transparent, unfolding process toward excellence.
There is also the question of academic culture, print snobbism and other entrenched attitudes. The post ends with an impassioned plea to the older generations of scholars, who, since tenured, can advocate change without the risk of being dashed on the rocks, as many younger professors fear.
…until the biases held by many senior faculty about the relative value of electronic and print publication are changed–but moreover, until our institutions come to understand peer-review as part of an ongoing conversation among scholars rather than a convenient means of determining “value” without all that inconvenient reading and discussion–the processes of evaluation for tenure and promotion are doomed to become a monster that eats its young, trapped in an early twentieth century model of scholarly production that simply no longer works.
I’ll stop my summary there since this is something that absolutely merits a careful read. Take a look and join in the discussion.