Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Journal Of Access Services Jumps the Shark

I may be in the minority that feels that (tenure track) librarians need to change how we define scholarship. Until there is a paradigm / culture shift, the peer-reviewed journal will remain one of the gold standards. However, the integrity of the entire system is built upon maintaining the quality of our journals.  

It is of great concern when I see a refereed journal, either intentionally or inadvertently, set aside their standards. This appears to have happened with Haworth’s Journal of Access Services. The journal's editor recently decided to dedicate all of Vol 5(4) to  a series of essays written by an 'anonymous' blogger. [I refuse to acknowledge this person by pseudonym]

[For the purpose of full disclosure, I am unable to independently assess the quality of the issue's content since the electronic version title is currently embargoed. Doing so would be like reviewing a movie without screening it. However, I am not focusing on the content but the editor's decision.]

When I put on my hats as both a scholar and the the Chair of our promotion and tenure committee, the decision by the editor and publisher creates a crack in the foundation of our profession's scholarly communication. It is as if the editor of the American Psychologist decided to dedicate an issue to the essays of Dr. Phil.   

There are so many problems with this decision that I do not know where to start. I think I will let others highlight them for me.

Chadwick Seagraves observes: (make sure to read his entire post!)

Ponder this. This Journal now gives legitimacy to an anonymous writer, in a professionally sanctioned and sponsored serial...You know, you come to expect some level of authority from peer reviewed journals. Does this mean I can submit articles under my own pseudonyms and be potentially accepted for publication in the Journal of Access Services? Apparently it does...the beginning of the end of the authority of peer review is now here
Rudilibrarian notes:
Has scholarship in librarianship grown so weak that AL is now the best of what’s out there? Is this what passes for reasoned argument? Is Access Services so devoid of smart people doing interesting work that this is the best the journal could find to publish? It seems like one of the premier publishing houses in the field of LIS thinks so.

 Mary Carmen Chimato comments:

I would like to take a moment to thank the Journal of Access Services for driving home the point that the work we do here in access services is ripe for the mocking

From Colleen Harris:

You have just admitted that you are not a scholarly journal to be taken seriously. And as someone moving back over to Access after a long stint away, I'll be certain to send my work to the Journal of Library Administration, the Journal of Academic Librarianship, or hell, even to that cute little kid 'zine Highlights before I let my professional work be associated with you.

Karen Glover is saddened: 

I assumed this was a joke but am slowing beginning to realize the seriousness of it. I will not begin to complain about what this does to scholarship. I will, however, complain about what this does to Access Services... I am left feeling like the butt of a library joke. It saddens me that the one avenue of thoughtful discussion on subjects in my area is reduced to an extended tirade
At least one of the editorial board members was even unaware that this decision was made before seeing the issue themselves. 

My guess is that that the editor a) decided to take advantage of the recent attention given to the 'guest' author to promote their journal; or b) was duped; or c) seriously thinks the author offers a fresh voice.  The impact this decision could have on the state of our scholarly communication could be profound, assuming anyone notices, or even cares.  It makes our 'profession' more amateurish. 

Lastly, I applaud the bloggers quoted above for not hiding their opinions behind the veil of anonymity (although it took digging to identify Rudy Leon).   

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words about my post! I'm sorry I made you dig for my identity-- when I started the blog I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. Since then, rudibrarian has just become the me that operates in web 2.0 and other online forums. I've never thought about the need to make it explicit.

Expect that to change this weekend!

Eric Schnell said...

NOTE: While Chadwick's post was meant tongue-in-cheek, he makes some valid points, even if unintentionally.