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Some scholars may be hesitant to submit their work to new-model, electronic-only publishers owing to concerns over the reputation of new journals. Will publication in an open access journal be valued less by tenure review boards than publication in a traditional print journal? ISI, publisher of Journal Citation Reports and Web of Science, is just starting to include open access titles in their indexes, but early results indicate that open access titles are being well cited. For example, BMC Bioinformatics, in its fifth year of publishing, has a 2004 Impact Factor of 5.432, not much lower than the well established Oxford University Press title, Bioinformatics (5.742) . And PLOS Biology, after just two years of publishing, has an Impact Factor of 13.868. See Journal Citation Reports for the Impact Factors of other journals. For a list of open access journals indexed by ISI as of 2004, see Open Access Journals in the ISI Citation Databases: Analysis of Impact Factors and Citation Patterns, A citation study from Thomson Scientific by Marie McVeigh.

An important point to make here is that electronic-only and open access publishing are in every way compatible with the rigorous peer review system that is central to scholarly communication. As Peter Suber puts it, "All the major open-access initiatives agree that peer review is essential to scientific journals, whether these journals are online or in print, free of charge or 'priced'. Open access removes the barrier of price, not the filter of quality control" [ 1].


Sometimes called the "death of the scholarly monograph" problem, this issue has come about "as libraries have had less money to purchase books and young scholars have reported increased difficulties getting their first books published" [ 2]. The inability to get a worthwhile book published has very real consequences for scholars seeking tenure, since a strong expectation to publish a book still prevails as a de facto tenure requirement in many humanities departments [ 3]. Although the worlds of science, technology, and medical publishing and humanities publishing often seem like separate spheres with very different issues, this problem demonstrates their interconnectedness: library budgets are increasingly squeezed by skyrocketing journal prices in the STM field, leaving less money to purchase scholarly monographs. Thus, whereas in 1975 a University Press book might typically have sold 1500 to 2000 copies, today the sales figure for a typical book has dropped to a range between 400 to 800 copies [ 4]. This means that scholarly presses are increasingly being forced to pass on publishing books owing to marketability concerns. The result is a disconnect in tenure considerations and publishing criteria. Implicit in requiring a book for tenure is the idea that worthwhile work will find an outlet, but monograph publishing decisions are increasingly being made for reasons other than scholarly merit.


A third problem concerns the ever-escalating quantity of journals and articles. Many scholars feel pressure to get as many articles published as quickly as possible, since tenure committees are often swayed by the sheer number of articles published. This can result in a situation where authors distribute the findings of a study over several articles to maximize the quantity of their published work [ 5]. This is perfectly rational behavior, but it suggests a problem in the tenure consideration process in which quantity is valued more highly than quality. And it aggravates the scholarly communication issue since the more articles that are published, the higher the pressure on libraries to subscribe to sometimes lesser quality journals. (Of course, it can be said that it is important to publish quickly in some highly competitive fields, to get the information out and not be scooped by one's competitors!)

[1] Suber, Peter. " Open Access to the Scientific Journal Literature." Originally in Journal of Biology, 1, 1 (June 2002) pp. 3f.
[2] Magner, Denise K. " Seeking a Radical Change in the Role of Publishing." Chronicle of Higher Education. 2000. Vol. 46 Issue 41. p. A16-A17.
[3] Estabrook, Leigh with Bijan Warner. " The Book as Gold Standard for Tenure and Promotion in the Humanistic Disciplines." 2003.
[4] Willis Regier, University of Illinois Press, Director. Personal communication.
[5] Magner. "Seeking a Radical Change..."