Thursday, May 27, 2010

Filtering scholarly information

With the enormous quantity of research being published nowadays, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all this information. While Paul Samuelson could claim in the 1940s to have read all research there was, that statement is now impossible, even in a subfield. Clearly, there needs to be some way to filter this output, a role that traditionally journals have had. But, as I mentioned before, journals are not particularly useful, especially in Economics, because of huge publication delays and the fact that most are gated. Working papers are the way to go, but they are not peer reviewed, and there needs to be some sort of a filter.

I mention this because Omar Al-Ubaydli and Rufus Pollock address the filtering issue and argue that there should be an open and decentralized mechanism for doing so, with the help of digital technology. They argue that given that publishing nowadays is so cheap, there is no reason really to have gated journals, they should be open access, and there is no reason that journals should have exclusivity on articles. In cannot agree more. A paper may be of interest to several audiences, why would only one benefit from it? And why would you want to hide it behind a costly gate? And let commercial publishers exploit their market power?

But why go to open access journals? Why not bypass journals entirely and let the peer review process be handled by citations and discussions on blogs like this one or the others listed at EconAcademics? This process is certainly open and decentralized, and don't we believe that the market mechanism can lead to efficient allocations without central intervention? For one, I do not see where the market failure would be. And we have the institutions in place to handle the necessary monitoring, with NEP and the RePEc rankings.

1 comment:

thomas said...

"Why not bypass journals entirely and let the peer review process be handled by citations and discussions on blogs like this one...?"

we already are. people vote through their voluntary actions by creating and reading material online instead of going to the library digging through dusty articles that the author himself often does not remember.

"This process is certainly open and decentralized, and don't we believe that the market mechanism can lead to efficient allocations without central intervention?"

well, i don't know my exact beliefs about decentralized markets and efficiency, but i do believe that there is more competition now that anyone can publish a blog without getting approval from someone else.