Saturday, June 7, 2014

Old-World Publishing in the New Age

Through the web, we can self-publish pretty much anything at any time. This doesn't guarantee, however, that anyone will read it. Actually no venue can guarantee that. Old world platforms such as newspapers, trade publications and journals do have a circulation among their audiences that effectively guarantee a certain number of page views. On the other hand, all-electronic open access journals can serve as such amplifiers as well. Some blogs have become so popular that their number of page views exhibit viral-like growth. So why should anyone publish on the old-world platforms?

That's a loaded question, and truly one that has many possible good arguments to support it. I'll rest on providing one answer by example.  I recently published a Comment in C&EN. The piece was quite a bit longer than my usual blog post. As such, it would have been appropriate for my EveryWhereChem blog only if I broke it up into about three posts. There is one more key difference. I was able to work with an editor who helped me to focus the piece while allowing me to retain my "voice." My prose was probably a bit too breezy, but she embraced it and made it better. Trouble is that editors need to be paid and one might argue that authors do too! While this and other quality control mechanisms are not exclusive features of the old-world publishing model, they are certainly a large part of the service that authors and readers enjoy from them. They also serve as curators of the pieces that they publish. And this means that a good editor can exert a meta-level quality control that adds value to the readership. There's also a role for blogging as otherwise I wouldn't be writing this too. My postmodern view of the so-called traditional publishing venues is that they remain valuable even if we aren't sure how to monetize it as readily as we once did.

My C&EN Comment focused on Mentoring and the key role if fills in advancing young scientists into their careers. Most new faculty learn the job on the job. As the demands and the tenure decision pressure have grown, it is nearly impossible to figure out the job without help. This is where mentoring can play a big role.  The New Faculty Workshop is one attempt to institutionalize mentoring across all of the chemistry research- active departments. I wrote about my experience at last year's New Faculty Workshop in two earlier posts on July 6 and July 16. The next workshop being held on July 31-August 2, and I'm looking forward to meeting the newest cohort of young faculty.

Check out my my March 24th Comment in C&EN on “Mentoring New Faculty—It Really Works!” and John Schwab’s letter to the editor on May 19th reiterating the “Importance of Mentoring” in response to my Comment.

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