In the way of things that makes coincidence sometimes seem an inadequate rationalisation, I finally submitted a paper to a journal on the same day that Steve Wheeler published the first of two blog-posts about publishing journal articles. I have a real issue with having to publish in a peer reviewed, behind a paywall, journal. This not because I dislike peer-review, on the contrary, my experience to date has been positive, but I dislike the secrecy and the lack of conversation that goes with the process and I struggle with the concept that publically funded work (I am paid by a UK University) is not freely available to everyone.
I suppose I could have insisted that my article be submitted to an open-reviewing-not-behind-a-pay-wall journal. But, as Steve points out, particularly for those of us at the beginning of our academic career, this is problematic due to the pressure on us to publish in high impact journals. I have not submitted to a high impact journal, I have submitted to a journal that I thought might be interested in my work but still has blind reviewing and a paywall.
So, you may ask, why send the article there and not to a journal that I know has open reviewing and no paywall, the type of journal I believe in and want to support? Because I was advised to submit it where I did by someone with more experience and a huge publication record. And because submitting to a recognised journal was an objective for my annual performance review and therefore, ultimately, because I want to keep my job. This, I guess, is one of the oldest dilemmas in the book: employment and conformity to a (broken?) system or potential employment issues but sticking to one’s guns.
And even acknowledging that I acquiesced to employment+conformity, I am left in a quandary. I think that some of the work that has gone into the paper is worth talking about; I feel quite excited about it. I’m surprised by this because I was rather cynical about writing it up; it felt like ticking a box or jumping through a hoop rather than something meaningful. But I think there is something meaningful in what I wrote. I want to talk about the work with people. I want to ask them what they think. I want their feedback and their input to make the work better; more robust. But I don’t know if I am allowed. I don’t know how much of the work I can talk about on this blog for example? Can I publish my model here and ask people what they think, or do I need to wait until it’s published behind a pay-wall and then hope that maybe someone will bother to read it and engage with me about it? Once it is published can I make the PDF available here , or will I get into trouble? If so, how do I make it available?
Which brings me back to the beginning. I don’t like articles behind paywalls. I want everyone to be able to read my work if they think it is worth their time. I want people to give me feedback and feed-forward. I’d rather they were constructive so that I can improve the work, but I’d take negative, at least it might be the opener for a conversation. As it is, behind a paywall probably means little if any readership and so not much comment at all. And I find that frustrating!