Scholarly Publishing is a Social Contract

Especially in view of yesterday’s post, I thought “The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing” from Dan Cohen was thought-provoking.

Roy finally broke the silence, explaining the magic of the last stage of scholarly production between the final draft and the published book: “What happens now is the creation of the social contract between the authors and the readers. We agree to spend considerable time ridding the manuscript of minor errors, and the press spends additional time on other corrections and layout, and readers respond to these signals—a lack of typos, nicely formatted footnotes, a bibliography, specialized fonts, and a high-quality physical presentation—by agreeing to give the book a serious read.”

I have frequently replayed that conversation in my mind, wondering about the constitution of this social contract in scholarly publishing, which is deeply related to questions of academic value and reward.

The essay is about scholarly publishing in paper journals. It begins with the question of “Why not publish online?”

I spend time going over my blog and the posts I make here, checking for accuracy, fixing spelling errors, updating links… I think that while my blog is not a paper-version of a scholarly journal, I still have valuable information here in a form that shows my professionalism.

Is it possible to publish well on the net, outside of a net-version of a scholarly journal?
Does blog publication de-value a work, either in the eyes of the readers or in the eyes of academia?
At what point or under what circumstances might net publication become more valuable?

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