This blog has had just over 17,000 hits mark. (Thanks everybody!) That’s a hell of a lot more than the combined citations from my 30 or so papers in international journals. Mind you, many people have probably looked at my papers without bothering to cite them so the comparison is not entirely fair. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure that my papers have not had anything close to 17,000 ’hits’.
Because of this, the natural temptation is to say “feck this academic journal lark” and just go the web route – just post all my original work on a website, skipping all of the inconvenient stuff like getting through the peer-review process. And, to be honest, this thought – or thoughts like it – have occurred to me on more than one occasion. But then, I asked myself, what do I really want from my academic career? And, I came to the obvious conclusion that what we all want in this business, more than anything, is respect and credibility. That’s why I wrote my textbook. I’ll make a derisory amount of money from it but it means a lot for me to be able to say that I have written a book published by an internationally recognized publisher. Like most academics I suffer from ‘best boy (or girl) in the class’ syndrome and, more than anything, I want the respect of my peers.
But publishing doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. There are now lots of media available for publishing and we should be open to using all of them – it’s a question of defining precisely why you want to publish your material in the first place. I publish papers in peer-reviewed journals because that’s how I get my credibility as an engineering scientist. I blog because I think I have something to say and I would like people to hear it. But blogging alone will never earn you academic credibility. In fact, if you blog too much, you will probably lose credibility.
Just now, I am close to finishing a book based on this blog and there are a number of publishing options available. I can do the rounds with conventional publishers but that is a slow process and will likely lead to a good deal of undesirable rejection – a fact of life when you try to publish in conventional media. Publishers take weeks or usually months to reply to your initial proposal. You need to invest a lot of time trying to match your book to the publisher and ‘selling’ your concept to them. At the moment I’m thinking of going down the self-published eBook route. It seems like a logical way to go considering the relatively small market for what I write. Furthermore, the eBook approach will quickly ‘close the book’, so to speak, on the project and I can get on with the next one. Mind you, it means doing a lot of reformatting to get the text in shape for the eReader market.
But whatever method is chosen to publish ones writing, it has to be said that the core activity of an academic remains publishing original research in high impact, peer-reviewed journals. The fact that not many people read our papers is not the point. Publishing in journals is how we become credible and unless we all change en masse to some new system, that’s the way things will remain