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Re. Why do journals monopolize manuscripts?

Douglas Fitts dfitts at carson.u.washington.edu
Thu May 27 00:33:26 EST 1993


>Dave Kristofferson wrote:
>>dfitts at carson.u.washington.edu (Douglas Fitts) writes:
>>>Beyond this, what happens when one submits the same article to 10 journals
>>>and gets accepted by 5.  The author chooses one to accept, and then has to
>>>withdraw the accepted article from the other journals.  I'll bet s/he
>>>would have a difficult time publishing *there* again.
>>This should raise a few feathers 8-) ...  Philosophically speaking,
>>what happens when a good student applies to ten universities and gets
>>accepted by nine???  The other eight activate their blacklist, right
>>8-)?  Just out of curiosity, why do journals get a monopoly right on
>>submitted manuscripts?  I realize that they have simply created this
>>policy, but it seems like authors are bowwing to the monopoly power of
>>the press.  What advantage does it give to the researcher?  It might
>>be interesting to put some competition in this system ... (dream on
>>8-).  Of course, then reviewers would actually have to review papers
>>promptly or risk good manuscripts going elsewhere, and, since
>>reviewing is mainly a volunteer effort and reviewers less susceptible
>>to the pressures that could be laid on a paid reviewer, perhaps the
>>whole system would be in chaos????

The competition idea is unworkable in the current system of peer review.
Sure, Universities hate to see good students get away, and would love it
if they changed their minds.  But as a graduate admissions coordinator, I
know what work it is to process every "back-up" application from students
who really have no place here.  We *pay*  people to process all these 
applications.  Same thing in the mainstream publishing world.  Imagine
how it would be taken if the authors of books had to review the books
of others -- all the over-the-transom stuff -- as a courtesy to the 
publishers!  Would there be great respect for multiple submissions?
Nay!  Yet publishers, many of them, pay English majors to wade into this
soup to search for the prize bone.  The operative word is pay.  That's
all these people do.

I don't get paid for reviewing manuscripts.  I review one or two a month.  
Anyone who takes this seriously will spend a goodly while contemplating
a manuscript before mailing back the critique.  (Granted, some reviewers
seem not even to read the puppy.)  I got one to review two days ago.  This
does not come at a particularly opportune time given the logjam of other 
stuff I have, but I'll get it done somehow, on time, and well done.  
What would my attitude be if this load were increased tenfold, with the
knowledge that the odds were good that the authors probably would withdraw
it anyway?  I suggest that the peer-review system would die so rapidly
you could hear the thump from Wausau to Wenatchee.

>I think that this is the best challenge to the current reviewing system and the
>old traditional scientific society. With the current situation of "publish or

And you seem to relish the idea.  So what goes in place of it?  Do you
advocate an increased workload for reviewers or do you want the journals
to pay reviewers (I mean non-practicing scientists who do these reviews
for a living.  It would never work to pay professionals;  the journals
couldn't afford us especially with a vastly increased submission load.)
Would *you* want your paper reviewed by such a person?

>perish", we should not put more restraints on researchers for the freedom of
>publishing their results. In fact, this has been the policy of medical
>publications in which every MD publishes more than 10 "papers" a year. If the
>current evaluation system stays in counting the NUMBER rather than the QUALITY
>of research papers, any unfair restraints will be to the disadvantage of the
>scientific comunity.

Yes, "papers" with 12 authors, one of whom headed the laboratory and had
no earthly idea what the others were doing, three of whom did nothing but
refer patients for the study for the "courtesy" of an authorship, three of 
whom received authorships for reading an EMG or pulling some blood, one
of whom did some statistics because the principal author didn't have time,
and two of whom were residents who knew little about the theory of the
project but got authorships in payment for their services in meeting the
subjects at the door and escorting them through the gauntlet of treatments.
This leaves two, who had a vicious battle over who got the first position
because they both know that nobody's going to take any of the authors
seriously beyond the first on a two page paper like that! 

>Song-Muh Jong
>University of Florida
>sjj at icbr.ifas.ufl.edu

Anyone who writes true QUALITY research papers will not have trouble
getting them published under the current peer-review system.  It seems
to me that the only persons who have trouble with this system are
those who offer less than their best in Least Publishable Units in order
to pad a vita, or else are simply not capable or discriminating in their
submissions.  Why should we want these published anyway?

Doug Fitts
Department of Psychology
University of Washington
dfitts at u.washington.edu

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