New directions in academic publishing

8 April 2015, 2142 EDT

I’ve wrote a post today with Bethany Albertson for The Monkey Cage. The post reports the findings from a recent article we wrote for the relatively new academic journal Research and Politics. The article includes a survey experiment we conducted to assess what messages, if any, the American public finds persuasive on climate change. Both represent interesting departures in the academic blogosphere and publishing.

The Monkey Cage

The Monkey Cage was independent up until September 2013 when it came under the aegis of the Washington Post. Since then, it has become the central hub for academics wanting to find a wider audience for their work. Blogging has not only gone mainstream but has become an increasingly central vehicle for academics to build a bigger audience for work.

With that move to a larger platform, it is easier to reach a non-academic audience.  On other hand, some of those folks might not be interested in much give and take. For example, on our piece today, a number of crank climate skeptics wrote in.  StanTD9104, I love you. Don’t ever change:

The biggest hypocrite in the world is a man made climate change believer. If you believe turn off everything electrical. Stop driving your car and heating your home. Stop anything that you believe is causing so much damage to the world. Don’t force your religion on others. Funny how liberals want to let anyone into the US they want to but they want someone else to pay for it. Same seems to be the way for man made climate change believers. Al Gore would be an example. Of course he got what he wanted. Money. Now he has several houses and commutes via private jet aircraft. Hopefully he buys lots of his own carbon credits. But I doubt it.

While some may bemoan the loss of the glory days of the freewheeling academic blogosphere, I think there is an audience for both blogs associated with establishment journalism and niche outlets like the Duck.

Research and Politics

Research and Politics is an interesting experiment in peer-reviewed, quality open access publishing. Published by Sage, the journal publishes short pieces of 4000 words and since it only appears on-line, articles come out whenever they are ready, rather than in issues. You can also have full-color graphics.  The short length and on-line format means that from the start of the review process to publication (if accepted) can happen much more quickly than a typical journal.

For example, our piece was submitted in October and reviews came in December, with four to six week turn-around time for our revisions before a final decision. Late January came the final decision of acceptance with copy edits in late February. Production time took about a month, and the piece came out the first of April. Having had other pieces go through a multi-year review and publication process, this experience is far preferable, particularly for articles that may be  reflections on topics that are salient in policy debates.

I don’t know how this kind of open access is as a business model, but the journal review and publishing process seems to be more in sync with academic professional needs and how we increasingly read journals. I wish the model great success and hope that it helps shake up the way publishers think about making their work accessible to a bigger audience. The subscription-based paywall approach may keep journals alive, but it also traps our work so that nobody but academics read them.

Together, the blog short-form and the journal article make for an interesting combination, the former a taste or teaser of the longer work that readers can delve into if they so wish. On the Duck, we have something similar with our periodic connection to ungated articles and blog posts about them. ISQ has done something similar with their blog reflecting on articles in the journal. That is a trend I hope continues.