Reinventing academic publishing online. Part I: Rigor, relevance and practice

Brian Whitworth, Rob Friedman


While current computing practice abounds with innovations like online auctions, blogs, wikis, twitter, social networks and online social games, few if any genuinely new theories have taken root in the corresponding “top” academic journals. Those creating computing progress increasingly see these journals as unreadable, outdated and irrelevant. Yet as technology practice creates, technology theory is if anything becoming even more conforming and less relevant. We attribute this to the erroneous assumption that research rigor is excellence, a myth contradicted by the scientific method itself. Excess rigor supports the demands of appointment, grant and promotion committees, but is drying up the wells of academic inspiration. Part I of this paper chronicles the inevitable limits of what can only be called a feudal academic knowledge exchange system, with trends like exclusivity, slowness, narrowness, conservatism, self-involvement and inaccessibility. We predict an upcoming social upheaval in academic publishing as it shifts from a feudal to democratic form, from knowledge managed by the few to knowledge managed by the many. The technology trigger is socio-technical advances. The drive will be that only democratic knowledge exchange can scale up to support the breadth, speed and flexibility modern cross-disciplinary research needs. Part II suggests the sort of socio-technical design needed to bring this transformation about.

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