Uninformed, Unhinged, and Unfair — The Monbiot Rant (via The Scholarly Kitchen)

I had to force myself to use the “Like” option on WordPress on this one, because that’s the only way to reblog posts….

This supercilious item is an attempt to counter a polemical piece in the Grauniad recently by George Monbiot. That article was about the extortionate cost and general uselessness of the so-called Learned Journals, i.e. precisely the Academic Journal Racket I’ve blogged about previously. I agree with most of what Monbiot says.

You can tell from the tone of the opening paragraph that this rejoinder doesn’t present a coherent argument because it launches straight into invective. And notice too that this from an academic publisher, so it’s hardly unbiased….

Nevertheless I thought I’d reblog this in the interest of balance. Indeed, if the best arguments for retaining the monstrous expense of “scholarly” journals are those presented here then it’s just a question of time before real scholars see them for what they are and get rid of them.

Come the revolution, next in line after the bankers….*

*For the benefit of the entirely humourless amongst you, let me stress that I am not advocating armed revolution, summary execution or any other form of violence against the academic publishing industry. This line is what we in my country call “a joke”.

Uninformed, Unhinged, and Unfair -- The Monbiot Rant I tried to ignore it. It deserved to be ignored — an ill-informed activist with academic aspirations using the Guardian as a pulpit to deliver a tiresome sermon filled with intentional misunderstandings, misinformation, and misapprehensions about academic publishing. It deserved to be ignored. Predictably, it caught fire in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and on Facebook. And now I feel compelled to jump into the fray. After all, the only coherent … Read More

via The Scholarly Kitchen


13 Responses to “Uninformed, Unhinged, and Unfair — The Monbiot Rant (via The Scholarly Kitchen)”

  1. Garret Cotter Says:

    Wow. What a bitter and petty rant.

    Well we all know the reason they’re so touchy about it is because they’re usually failed academics themselves.

    There, I said it. Miaow. Sue me.

  2. telescoper Says:

    There are some interesting follow-up comments on Monbiot’s article here:


    and in Jon Butterworth’s Guardian blog


  3. Some very valid points in your piece on the “racket”. I think you should re-publish / tweet this, perhaps with any updates you have since 2008. A call for change !

    In the area of research I have been looking into recently there appear to be at least 400 journals on the university’s official list (with a handful of 4-Stars, against which you can be assigned brownie points) despite none being specific to our area of activity. Surely the purpose of communicating one’s research and ideas is so that others can respond, learn from and perhaps improve on them. Rackets aside, the journal system appears to be be extremely slow inefficient and ineffective at doing this, only reinforced by academic tradition.

    Oh, and the papers… Perhaps I’m just lazy or have better things to do, but most papers are impossible to read, bogged down in literature review, tying themselves up with having to constantly reference other people’s work plus other chaff – just get to the point ! Most could / should written in one or two paragraphs, preferably with a couple of diagrams. Hope this is better in physics. (subject for another time)

  4. Albert Zijlstra Says:

    arXiv is better for disseminating papers than the journals are themselves. Wat we get for the journal charges is quality control. That should not be thrown away too easily. Having a paper accepted by a journal perceived as having good quality gives a seal of approval. Respected scientists don’t need it – their papers will be read no matter where they are published, but junior scientists or people from less famous institutions would be at a disadvantage. If we were to depend on ArXiv only, it would not only increase the amount of junk, but could also make the field more conservative.

    (Page charges are another way to make sure less well funded competitors remain sidelined. They are unscientific.)

    (Citation counting does not need the journals. ADS is faster, better, cheaper, and more complete than the commercial databases which are based on selected journals only. )

    When I worked for the publishing industry (a long time ago), the main discussion seemed to be (apart from how much to overcharge on postage) how the company could keep hold of copyright in the era of electronic publishing. It amazed people how easily academics sign away the copyright to their work.

    On the issue of copyright, the funding agencies could help.

    Conference proceedings (which noone ever reads) seem to have become much cheaper to publish .

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m not sure journals do control the quality, actually. After all, they publish my papers.

      • Albert Zijlstra Says:

        The better the papers, the more they can charge. Maybe you should try to reduce the cost by submitting poorer papers and see what you can get past the referees? A race to the bottom (where have I heard that one?) or a search for the least publishable increment.

  5. Whoa! You have to look at this

    A couple of quotes:

    “Research Libraries UK, a network of libraries of the Russell Group universities and national libraries, has already warned journal publishers Wiley and Elsevier that they will not renew subscriptions at current prices.”

    “UK universities, according to RLUK, spend almost £200 million on access to journals and databases—10 per cent of quality-related funding”

    10 per cent! Will you now agree that it’s a ripoff?

  6. […] has been bubbling away nicely in the mainstream media and elsewhere in the blogosphere; see my recent post for links to some of the discussion […]

  7. […] been bubbling away nicely in the mainstream media and elsewhere in the blogosphere; see a recent post on my own blog for links to some of the discussion […]

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