Too Much Information?

Book sculpture

I read another really interesting blog post the other day. Henry Bauer, in his post Scientific publications are vanity publications, describes how Universities have changed from the business of educating to the business of well…making money, which has subsequently resulted in individuals needing to fund their own research and graduate students, and grant funding being tied directly to “success” and career advancement.

Bauer then discusses the problem of “vanity publishing” in which academics pay to get published. He gives examples of page charges, processing fees, open access journal charges, and rapid review charges, concluding that “scientific publication is increasingly a matter of having the wherewithal to support vanity publishing”.

In a not-so-recent post on the Scholarly Kitchen blog Kent Anderson commented on a Research Information Network funded project that evaluated Researchers’ e-journal use and information seeking behaviour. One thing Anderson pulled from the report and mentioned briefly was that

researchers are dealing with too much information, and feel there’s “too much literature being produced.”

Some of the largest journals are publishing more than 5000 articles a year, and I am sure many people have had the thought that journals such as PLoS One which choose to “publish all papers that are judged to be technically sound” are increasing the amount of literature out there, though the argument is that they are accelerating the publication process, which is a good thing, right?? I remember reading that the average number of times an article is reviewed before it gets published is 2.5 (Houghton et al.). That’s not really that high, and we can only assume with an average that low that if you submit to enough journals you eventually WILL get published (and this is unrelated to the idea of paying to publish). This brings up queations about the current value of peer-review as well.

So can anyone with money get published…or can anyone with enough patience get published? Are there too many publications? Is the quality suffering? Should peer-review be stricter? Or is the abundance of literature a good thing? And what does this abundance mean for academic institutions, society, and the furthering of knowledge?

Image credit: Thomas Guignard

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About Willow Fuchs
Willow is based at the Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham, where she works as an Open Access Adviser on the NECOBELAC and OpenAIRE projects. She has previously worked on the JISC funded Repositories Support Project and JISC funded Research Communications Strategy project.

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