Monday, November 18, 2013

Publish ... or Perish ... A Few Reflections on Academia

So, I have been a member of the world of academia for just over 5 years. I am now a tenured Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at BU. I have been thinking about the academic game lately - the publish or perish 'game'. I want to state from the outset that I agree that a big part of the job is scholarly work - including publishing peer reviewed articles. In a few years I hope to apply for promotion to Associate Prof and I know I have to show achievement in 4 areas: academic prep, service, teaching & scholarship. I know service & teaching are not an issue, I hope my Ph.D. will be a done deal by then, and I think I do a fair amount in the scholarship area. I also admit that I have grown to value and enjoy the scholarship part of the job since entering the academy. The 'bee in my bonnet' is the pressure (mounting all the time from colleagues, deans, etc) to publish peer reviewed articles ... in major international journals. I don't really have a problem with that per se, I understand it is part of the job and one way that research & scholarly work is disseminated, I even have a few articles published. I just think that the impression is that we need to publish this way just for the sake of the publication. We put so much focus on publishing ... as if it is the most important task of the university scholar (hmm, still not used to using that, I don't view myself in those terms - maybe that is part of the problem?) My first issue is the nature of most academic journals - behind expensive pay walls. My work is funded by a publicly supported institution, why should anyone wanting access be forced to purchase the article or subscribe to an overpriced journal? There are many open access journals, but again, some require a fee from the author for publication. I think I will try, as much as possible, to submit only to journals that are open access & without fees in the future.

Another problem IMHO, is that it seems that we do not value, very highly, other types of scholarly work. For example, spending time working with teachers and schools for improvement of learning. I am involved with a few such projects, sharing my knowledge and experience. This is valued, but ultimately only if I get a publication out of it - and not just any publication, a peer reviewed international journal - that many people will never have the opportunity to read. I know blogs and other online sharing venues are not valued very highly either. One bonus,  at my institution, I have the ability to try to make the case for other forms of scholarship - for whatever good that will do. Another avenue of sharing academic work are presentations - I have done many, but have come to realize that I should do only a few each year - first they cost a lot of $ and my account for this is not very big, and they take time to prepare - and they count for little in the game. Hmmm, I did not intend for this post to be a rant, but in the end I just question the emphasis on the publishing game - I get the sense (and hopefully I am wrong) that the main point is to get published - not to do work that can help inform yourself and others. Publishing is part of sharing that learning, but just for the sake of a line on a cv? Another part of this game is bringing in grants .. but THAT is another story!

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