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Re. Can journals monopolize science?

Tom Schneider toms at fcsparc6.ncifcrf.gov
Sun May 30 14:04:49 EST 1993

In article <9305300438.AA13196 at net.bio.net> SJJ at ICBR.IFAS.UFL.EDU
("JONG, SONG-MUH J") writes:

>I found the arguments on the net are going in a very interesting direction.
>The original question was on whether journals should set up a policy
>to prevent scientists from submitting papers to more than one
>journal at a time. However, most of the replies went into the
>discussion of the difficulties of the reviewing system or that
>the policies are already there and, therefore, should be obeyed.

Let me first say that I agree with Song-Muh that we should seriously look at
changes to the review system.  I do not accept the idea of sticking with
policies just because they are already there.

>The difficulties of reviewing system can be solved by hiring more reviewers
>and charging more page charges, which is probably the reality
>we have to face for maintaining a standard.

Not at all.  I get the sense that you have not reviewed any papers yet.
Reviewers are not paid at all.  Some journals call first and ask if I can
review a paper.  I decide based on the title and abstract if I am interested
(and, darn it, I always will take one if it's interesting even if I have "no
time to spare").  Other journals just send it and suddenly there it is on my
desk with a clock ticking.  Often they will have an envelope with stamps to
return it - which is a pity since the government will probably pay for it again
unless I drop it in the mail outside the campus.  I only get "paid" by seeing
ideas months before they hit the press (assuming the paper is accepted later).

>In my opinion, there is no strong reason to insist on that
>policy, nor to punish scientists who tried to break that policy.

To summarize:  If multiple submissions were allowed, this would increase my
work as an unpaid reviewer.  I would not like to see that.  As an author I of
course might benefit, but the system would suffer.  As I mentioned in the other
posting, the route that Science, Nature and Cell have taken - prereview - is a
disaster (to be blunt...  ZIIIIPPPPP!  Flame retardant on!).  It cuts down
their work at the horrible expense of excluding new things the editors are not
familiar with.  (If folks from these journals are listening - here's your
chance to defend your system.)

>The unfairness of the current policy to prevent multiple
>submission is more obvious when one considers that some journals
>do have policies to publish some privileged papers without
>the standard reviewing procedure.

Let's treat that as a separate issue.  PNAS seems to have a policy along these
lines - someone in the academy can pretty much publish whatever they want.  A
large number of interesting and useful papers get published there.  But on
occasion there are some amazingly bad ones, the recent one on the cronon
particles being an example.  Papers should go through rigorous review.  Mine
are always better for it.

  Tom Schneider
  National Cancer Institute
  Laboratory of Mathematical Biology
  Frederick, Maryland  21702-1201
  toms at ncifcrf.gov

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