Conversations with UC Faculty Editors
Summary of Forum Discussions
Six separate discussions were held at the Los Angeles and Berkeley
campuses of the University of California during the Fall 1998 and Spring
1999 semesters. Participants were faculty members who also held positions
as editors, co-editors, or associate editors of scholarly journals. Editors
were identified from the UC Editors Database,
2 supplemented by
self-identification processes. 364 invitations were sent (representing 138
editors from the Editors Database and an additional 226 self-identified
editors). Four sessions were comprised of science and engineering faculty
and two of humanities and social sciences faculty. Other participants at
the sessions included UCB Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ,
UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor Rory Hume, UCB University Librarian Gerald R.
Lowell, UCLA University Librarian Gloria Werner, CDL University Librarian
Richard Lucier, and several other library staff observers.
Four similar sessions were held at UCLA with assistant professors and
graduate students. These sessions did not differ substantially, other than
a limit in experience upon which to draw, from discussions with faculty
editors whose themes are summarized below.
Participants received an information packet containing discussion and
background materials at the session. The packet included scenarios of
potential alternative models for scholarly communication, which had also
been sent to participants in advance, as well as some related articles.
The scenarios were intended to provoke discussion, but not to provide a
script for the sessions.
The issues identified below are aggregated from all of the discussion
sessions and are based on observer notes. Most of these issues arose in
multiple sessions. The categories listed below were extracted ex post
based on the flow of the discussion and not on any predetermined outline.
Participantsí comments reflected their multiple roles as editors, authors,
researchers, research advisors, and representatives of their disciplinary
communities. The key element explored in all the sessions was the faculty
editor attitude towards changes in scholarly communication. In particular,
the discussions explored the question of whether there was a role for the
University in any alternative future model for scholarly communication and,
if so, what shape that role might take.
1. Digital publication and scholarly communication
- There is particular value to digital publication for some fields,
insofar as it provides access to sound files, images, 3-D imaging, animation,
large data sets, and the like. This can readily be viewed as "added value"
beyond what traditional publishing offers.
- There is a perceived prestige/credibility problem with digital publishing.
Digital publications would have to start with very aggressive quality indicators. Acceptance will also be aided by the prestige and rigor of the societies that publish digitally.
- The assessment and review process is important; however, electronic journals
can provide the same vetting process as traditional print journals. Younger
scholars are already depending upon informal Internet publishing and trusting
that peer review will adapt.
- Journals provide more than just the review process for papers in
particular, production values and the provision of a constraint factor. In
some fields, for some scholars, dropping print is "unimaginable"; esthetic
issues really matter.
- Some believe that digital publishing will exacerbate the tension between
exponential increases in information of lower quality and the scholar's need
to share quality information. Digital publishing's ability to support niche
publications and variety while maintaining quality is crucial.
- Many of the concerns with electronic publications are interface issues
(for example, browsing). The loss of "library as place" is a concern.
- Decontextualization is a worry: Piece-by-piece access loses the "shell,"
or context, that the traditional journal provides. The practice of students
reading and using just "bits" of papers was viewed with alarm by some, but
not by others who felt that that has always been the case.
- Archiving of electronic journals is clearly a major concern; some believe
it will be resolved, but not all were convinced. Another long-term concern is
maintaining the robustness of hyperlinks within electronic publications.
- Copyright issues must be addressed. There is a need for copyright
'guidance' (e.g. what rights need to be kept, what can be signed off, etc.)
Editors have little or no authority in changing copyright policies, especially
for journals published by commercial publishers.
2. Economics of Electronic Publishing
- Some editors of scholarly publications find electronic publishing
to be less expensive, due to reduced printing and mailing costs, both during
the editorial process and in dissemination to readers.
- Societies rely on subsidization from journal sales. Startup costs of
electronic publishing and the potential loss of subscriptions in an electronic
era are concerns.
- Scholars recognize the need for new business models in an electronic era.
Those models could include extensions of current practice, e.g. submission
charges to help defray editorial costs.
3. Preprint and e-print servers
- The value of preprint servers as a feeder system to "overlay"
electronic journals was noted; the concept was new, but intriguing, to
- There was considerable discussion about the non (or pre-) peer-reviewed
aspect of the material on preprint servers. Some participants are very
worried about this, fearing that the availability/proliferation of unrefereed
papers will "perpetuate a place for poor publications." Others believe that
the peer interaction that can occur in these systems is strong and can result
in better work. [It was noted that these systems are already accepted by
students as a fluid step on the way to more standard publication.] Acceptance
of such a system appears to be strong in some disciplines; other disciplines
do not have a "working paper" culture (either paper or electronic). The issue
of the permanent archiving of errors also arose ("caveat lector").
- Other areas of concern with preprint servers are copyright, the sheer
amounts of information, and whether presence on a preprint server constitutes
prior publication. Many editorial boards are grappling with this last issue
- The LANL preprint server is generally highly regarded and in some fields
acceptance of the LANL preprint servers is very high as an alternative to
journals. It was noted, nonetheless, that the LANL "xxx" server has continuing
deficiencies including lack of a solution to the long term archiving problem
and lack of a certification process for publications, which is essential for
4. Potential University Roles
in Electronic Print or Preprint Servers:
- Many of the participants were very supportive of the University
managing an e-print server, leaving the refereeing process to journals.
Other strongly felt that scholarly societies were better suited to the task,
but that the University could provide a mirror site to help meet demand on
society servers. Some reservations about timing were expressed - have enough
others already stepped in to preprint activities? Many thought that the
University could take on maintenance of links and archiving.
- Collaborative models, with societies or with other research institutions,
should be investigated.
- It would be an advantage to developing countries if the University
supported electronic (and more open) access.
- Other concerns include scalability, costs, disciplinary differences,
and the inherent vulnerability in reliance on a single large system.
in Technical Support and Infrastructure:
- The University could provide staff to assist with electronic
submissions and training.
- Just what is the University role in the electronic realm, where many
of the costs are distributed to the user for computers, printers, and
adequate network connections? It was felt that in many digital systems,
including some library and publication systems, it is the user that bears
the transaction costs of negotiating through the system.
in Journal Publishing:
- Faculty disagreed as to whether this was an appropriate role for
the University. Some felt that scholarly societies were better equipped
for the role and that the University could not compete in the scholarly
publishing arena. But others felt that they could trust the University
and that it was appropriate since it is the University (and its counterparts)
that foot the bill for journals. The University is already investing in
journals, through the work of its faculty and staff and library expenditures.
Some who found the idea "troubling" had concerns that small societies and
specialized research areas would get lost in any large organization. The
potential for collaboration with societies and other institutions was
recognized as a way to address some of these concerns.
- Many believed that developing a model or pilot journal publication
to gain experience and possibly imitate/emulate would be an appropriate
- Were the University to enter this arena, there would need to be
assurances that the venture would not be privatized later.
- The University could subsidize electronic page charges.
in Policy Issues:
- The University could assist in the promotion of common standards;
faculty could develop practical standards regarding the use of preprint
servers. These could include version control, protection of intellectual
property (e.g., from plagiarism), linking to related materials, and the
- The University could insist that faculty retain substantial rights
over their journal articles upon publication.
- Faculty advancement was a concern: should junior faculty publish in
electronic journals at this stage? There is a need for UC policy
affirming the worth of electronic journals.
in Economic Matters:
- The University is trying to negotiate cooperative purchases
systemwide in an effort to contain prices. This strategy is limited in
its effect on long-term sustainability. As a publisher of a scholarly
society journal, one editor expressed concern about being driven out of
business by consortial buying practices. However, it was noted that the
University is far more liberal in its negotiations with societies (as
opposed to commercial publishers) and is in no way trying to compete
- The University could encourage faculty to publish only in reasonably
1||The CDL is grateful for preparation assistance from Camille Wanat, UCB,
Judith Graham, UCLA, and Cindy Shelton, UCLA.
2 ||The CDL and UCLA Libraries have created a database of UC editors of
what are considered to be 2,000 of the top journals in the sciences,
social sciences, and humanities. The database contains 318 separate
faculty members from UC serving in senior editorial positions (executive,
managing, associate, or regional editors) on 238 of the 1,966 surveyed
titles. Based upon this analysis and data gathering effort, UC faculty
have significant editorial authority for 12.1% of the top scholarly
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