What’s the opposite of a predatory journal? A dismissive one? The Review of Higher Education (RHE) falls into the latter category. The top-in-field journal, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, recently suspended submissions after reporting a more than two-year backlog.
While that’s newsworthy in itself, more stunning are the specifics and the explanations for them. The journal wasn’t receiving reams of junk; the submissions, on university-related topics, were high quality.
This, experts argue, is yet another symptom of universities’ purported ‘publish or perish’ culture, exacerbated by the preeminence of research in university rankings. A third of ARWU‘s rankings indicies are research-based, and the 2019 QS World University Rankings revealed that a significant factor in the Go8’s improvement was their intensified research output. Reuters, meanwhile, ranks universities as ‘innovative’ solely based on research measures.
It is estimated that there are approximately 30,000 journals, which publish nearly two million articles annually.
But publishing pressure alone has not been blamed for RHE’s predicament. One of its associate editors pointed to a lack of article reviewers.
As Assoc Editor of RHE, over 25 scholars rejected/ignored my request to review a single manuscript. Each takes weeks and some never respond. Not a challenging piece just “busy.” https://t.co/rKZgQwZTnd
— Jenny Lee (@jennyj_lee) 15 August 2018
A respondent to Lee suggested reviewing should be a quid pro quo process:
One way to think about reviewing us that it is a professional obligation – if you publish peer reviewed work you should also review.
I prefer to think about it as an opportunity to shape a field. If you want to influence the literature write and review.
— Brendan Cantwell (@cant_b) August 15, 2018
Though, as reviewing is voluntary, goodwill cannot be assured. This has led some to suggest that, in tandem with immense and ever-growing publications, the entire academic research system and culture requires reconsideration.Do you have an idea for a story?
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