The Inanity of Academic Publishing

From Verena Hutter and Karen Kelsey:

I have made it clear how I feel about book chapters in edited volumes or editing volumes (read chapter 16 in the book, and don’t publish in edited volumes, and don’t EDIT VOLUMES, until you are tenured). If my advice has come too late, and you have no other publications, it’s fine to mention the book chapter in your publication para, but don’t try to pass it off as an article. Some edited volumes are in fact peer-reviewed, but your contribution is still not an article.

It drives me nuts that edited volumes are given so little prestige compared to journal articles. There is a general position in academia that book chapters are not rigorously reviewed as compared to journal articles but, really, this has more to do with the publishing outlet than anything else. I’ve published with some journals where the review has been a joke and vice versa. The same is true of edited volumes.

But what bothers me even more about the focus on journal publications over edited volumes is that academics are encouraged to publish places where only the wealthy universities can afford to access/read what is written. I was given advice as a very junior scholar that almost no one in government will read academic journal publications because they can’t justify the per-article cost, whereas departmental and government libraries can justify purchasing books.

If you want to make a public policy impact, or want to generally have your work theoretically more available, then publishing in books (or putting pre-pubs in public repositories like SSRN) is a must. But academics are disincentivized from such practices: they’re punished for trying to actually expand the numbers of people who could read and use the work. So while they’re actively glorifying knowledge production they’re simultaneously hindering the dissemination of what is produced.

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