I’ve been reading a lot about the boycott against Elsevier lately, and today I came across this article from slate.com called “The other academic freedom movement”. As I’ve moved along through graduate school and published a few articles, I’m a little bit surprised at some of the strange forces at work in the whole peer-review process. It seems to me that, and others have pointed this out, that scientists write articles for free, then get them peer-reviewed for free, then give away their copyright to a publisher who then make a ton of money. (Thats how Elsevier made $1.1 billion last year.) I resent the idea that some CEO of a publishing company is making millions of dollars a year off of the work of scientists at universities who are making a fraction of that. (How different is this than the CEO of a college bowl game making millions while the athletes get nothing but tuition?) Of course, the problem isn’t that simple. This is science and a big part of science is to share work with as many other people as possible. Science needs this communication with other scientists and a peer-review process. What if there were a way to get both of these without a publisher?
In my mind, at this point in time, a journal is just a stamp of approval. It’s just an abstract concept. In the past, journals needed to be physically published. It was the only way. But now I can publish whatever I want (this blog for instance), and it will reach potentially everyone one earth with an internet connection. So why not start an “abstract journal.” No head quarters, no profits, no business plan. Just a group of editors and experts who put their stamp of approval on the work you have done. If you’re work is accepted, it’s up to the author to make his work freely available on the internet somewhere (like a wordpress blog, which is free). The editor of the journal would simply post a list of accepted work with links to accepted articles, and anyone in the world could access this whether they are a top research scientist or just a curious individual with an internet connection.