Friday, December 16, 2005

Wikipedia scandal reopens the academy vs. open source debate

"...Rather than throw things on the Web and let a consensus emerge, in other words, researchers prefer having a few known authorities inspect the work before it's published by a known press. The credibility of authority, both the reviewer and the journal, are seen as more valid than the credibility of consensus."

The report made a big issue that almost half of those academics polled thought open access publishing would undermine the current system of academic publishing, but 41% said it would be a good thing.

"The fact is that while 'open source has no quality control,' as the headline writer put it in David Coursey's recent column, authority is no longer all it's cracked up to be. Authority can be corrupt. Authority can be an excuse for not thinking. Authority may say there are weapons of mass destruction or that oral sex isn't sex."

I didn't realize until recently that academics, particularly those in the sciences, actually pay journals to publish their articles. I spent many years as a freelance writer and editor and, in my publishing experience, that practice is called subsidy publishing. The quality of subsidy publishing has always been suspect because the goal of the publisher is to make money from the writer, as well as from the sale of the publication, so quality control is sometimes quite lax. I would tend to agree with this writer that "authority" is definitely not what it's cracked up to be.

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