26 June 2004

Earlier this month, I commented on the excessive cost of academic journals and the consequences thereof. It only took the New York Times three weeks to get around to the same basic story. As usual, for NYT reporting on the publishing industry, though, it doesn't go nearly far enough—or look hard enough outside the mainstream. The most egregious omission from that article is that it neglects to consider the web itself. HTML was developed to enable scientists to exchange data and analysis between otherwise incompatible computer systems. High-end physics migrated to the web half a decade ago. The various gene-mapping projects have been very tightly integrated with the web from the start.

<SARCASM> One might almost say that the only reason to continue with academic journals as we now know them is to placate Luddites on tenure and promotion committees who refuse to use computers. And they do exist, even at so prominent a "computing center" university as the University of Illinois—home of the NCSA, birthplace of Mosaic, and location of the HAL plant in Clarke's works. Perhaps we should go out and shoot that Gutenberg guy too, while we're at it; we need more monks research assistants to grade papers advance the state of knowledge anyway, and if they all have a reasonable chance at employment security they'll demand unreasonable things like a living wage. </SARCASM>