Volume, Issue Volume, Issue

The editor, peer review, issue driven model seem like it's old and tired. I don't me that the editor/peer* review part of the publishing is old and busted, it's the issue driven model that seems so old and busted when compared to the new hotness of "publish when you wanna" way of doing things. I've seen people write about the peer review components built into the web and blogging because we have people reading and commenting on what we write. While this is one kind of peer review, it's not the same thing, and I don't think it's a good replacement for how things are currently done. Editors and reviewers are key to any good writing process. I can't entirely agree with the line of thinking that peer review happens by being linked to, or it happens after the piece is posted via comments. At least I can't entirely agree with it at this point. Links and comments can and should be one part of the peer review process, but editors and reviewers should be as well. I really think a top quality "journal of the future" should have all of the above.

But anyways, to my point, can't we combine peer review and blogs into some kind of peer reviewed blog? What do we gain by having one issue of 14 articles comes out once a quarter as a single issue? What would be wrong with having a new article once a week? What is it about a journal that says it must come out as a single issue? "Because that's how it's always been done" doesn't seem like a good answer, there must be something else.

Why must we wait for the next issue of X? Why can't we get an article a day that's gone through the peer review process? Do we gain something from having an issue a month or quarter? While this isn't really about LISNews, why can't half of what we post to LISNews be a peer reviewed, scholarly and original article? Actually, maybe I need to rephrase my question; what do we have to lose by moving away from issues towards publishing on a very irregular basis? I'm very curious about how people feel about this.

I'm sure I'm not the first one to think about this, if I was a better librarian & writer I'd do an exhaustive literature search. If I wasn't so lazy I'd search a word or two on Google because I bet someone is already doing this kind of thing. But I'm a blogger, I'm lucky if I can string together 3 or 4 sentences into a readable paragraph. But like a good blogger I can't resist rambling on about an unoriginal idea that deals with how blogs are revolutionizing some damn thing or another.

*[pee passes spell check and I was about 1 second away from hitting save having written pee review :-)]


The question then becomes, how do you peer review? Can you set it up so that the article won't get published until 2 or 3 people give it a "go ahead" and not if it gets marked "revise"? I think it's a great idea, just not sure of what the technical practicalities would or should be.

Good Question.
I'm not really sure it would be any different behind the scenes. Someone would submit an article in some form (electronic or print), people would review it in some form (electronic or print), and then it would be published, in electronic form. I guess the only thing that would be substantially different would be the regularity, and the format. How it happens behind the scenes would depend on the tools available to the journal's staff.

This of course opens up a can of worms about URLs, citations and all that jazz, I know.

[pee passes spell check and I was about 1 second away from hitting save having written pee review:-)]

Gee. Whiz.

The way peer review works is: the author submits his piece without any identification on it, and it is sent around to a few (3-5 or however many) readers who are well versed in the field dealing with the subject matter. They subject the work to a critical review and either recommend that it be published, revised to answer any questions raised, or rejected as unworthy of publication.

If revisions or clarifications are asked for, the journal would send the objections to the material along to the author, also without identification, I believe, so as not to needlessly create ill will in the community. The author would have to respond to the objections before resubmitting his paper (which could mean doing the work all over again, or, in the case of library related studies, having the statistical analysis done by an independent body).

Submitting the work in electronic format makes it cheap and easy to create as many copies as needed, of course.

The job of the editor would not be substantially changed in that he or she still has to format the piece according to the editorial standards of the journal. The biggest difference is that the decision to print or reject is made with the assistance of the opinions of expert witnesses, as it were. What the process means to the author is that it can take a couple of weeks or months before his piece is accepted or rejected.

Peer review to me sounds a lot like the software engineering concept of Quality Assurance (QA). So an article is put through the QA process, and if it passes its built into the next issue/volume. There are lots of software packages that help control this kind of workflow, perhaps that is what is needed for publishing.

"Do we gain something from having an issue a month or quarter?"

Sometimes a lot, sometimes nothing. For many, perhaps most, STM journals, at least those below the top tier, the answer may be "not enough to retain the issue structure."

For the top-tier journals in a field (typically 1 to 4% of the total, if you're lucky), one answer is that practitioners will (or should) scan at least the table of contents and probably the abstracts for each issue as part of maintaining familiarity; periodicity is, then, a time-saving factor.

For some journals (many in the humanities, I think) and many magazines, issues convey additional meaning and context through clustering of related articles and addition of article-related content beyond the articles themselves.

And for some "old friends"--anything from magazines through top journals--the issue structure is a useful package for reading.

But if you're saying that, in many cases, the refereeing structure could be separated from issue orientation, I think that's true--and some ejournals (journals available only in e-form) have been organized that way, with a volume consisting of all the articles accepted during a year, each article being published as it's approved.