UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

How Many Publishers Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Apr 2009

“Submit Comments By Easter Monday”

I’m feeling a bit grumpy. On Wednesday night while listening to some excellent live music at The Bell, Bath I checked my email in the interval. There was an email from a publisher with the final corrections for an accessibility paper which had been accepted for publication. The email message give the blunt instructions:

“Please approve these proofs, or return any corrections by 13 Apr 2009. Failure to do so may result in delay of your publication, reallocation to a later issue, or review and approval of your article by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief.”

That’s right on Wednesday 8 April at 21:50 I received an email telling me my updates had to be submitted by Monday – that’s Easter Monday. And today (Good Friday) I’m in a cyber cafe in London sorting out the corrections before heading off the the Museums and the Web 2009 conference.

The email message (which was sent from India) also contained the stark warning:

PLEASE NOTE: The CATS system only supports Internet Explorer versions 5.5 and up, or Firefox 1.0 browser software. Popup blockers should be disabled. If you have any difficulty using CATS, please contact me.

And there’s me using FireFox 3.0 (not supported, it would seem).

As for the comments themselves, they were fine, asking us to supply, for example, years of publication which we had omitted for a couple of the references. But for one reference the Production Editor had requested the page numbers of one of my previous papers, and the URL of the online version of the paper had been removed. It would appear that the publishers are trying to help the reader of the printed journal by providing the page number, but hindering users who wish to access the paper online. Good business for the publishers who might expect to receive additional income for requests for the journal or paper but bad news for other researchers who might wish to access such papers which are freely avaailble online.

Why Do I Bother?

Why do I bother writing peer-reviewed papers, I sometimes ask myself. In this particular case myself and David Sloan were invited to submit a paper based on an update to a paper published at the W4A 2008 conference. As I received this request when I was preparing an invited keynote presentation at the OzeWAI 2009 conference I felt this would provide an ideal opportunity to publish my updated views on Web accessibility, which I described to a small but supportive audience at the OzeWAI conference. And after I gave my talk I discussed my ideas further with two delegates who, I discovered, had similar interests regarding the complexities of Web accessibility in the context of accessibility for the Deaf and implementing best practices for Web accessibility when challenged with limited budgets and short deadlines in a Government context. As I was in the process of finalising the paper, the meeting with Lisa Herrod and Ruth Ellison provided an opportunity for me to strengthen the paper with these two case studies.

I should also add that the (anonymous) reviewer’s comments we received were invaluable, pointing out flaws in our arguments, ways in which are ideas might be misinterpretted and suggestions for how the paper could be improved. The updated version of the paper was improved greatly following these comments, so you could argue that the publishers had a role to play in enhancing the quality. But why do I suspect that the reviewer was an academic who was doing this work for free?

Look on the Bright Side

I have now submitted the corrections to the production editor and am feeling less grumpy (I started this post yesterday evening).  And to cheer myself up (and others who might have had similar problems with publishes, here’s a joke:

Q. How many publishers does it take to change a lighbulb?

A. It’s a trick question – publishers are living in the drak ages and the light bulb hasn’t been invented yet. Mind you, they’ll charge you for use of a candle if you want to read your manuscript.

Have a good Easter.

6 Responses to “How Many Publishers Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb?”

  1. Paul said

    Nice point Brian. And that’s to say nothing of the often horrendous and mind numbing terms and conditions that publishers sometimes expect one to sign up to.

  2. Les Carr said

    A light bulb would throw enough light to allow multiple readers to benefit from a single copy. A torch is suitable technology to fit in with modern approaches to DRM.

  3. So where’s the Slideboom post?

  4. I’ve just started reading the Peer Project report, and a phrase that stood out to me was “This report is the result of a process of negotiation with publishers to establish best practice in deposit procedures least disruptive of existing publication workflows, while minimizing interruption of repository ingest activities.”

    I’m not really criticising PEER for taking this approach as the idea is clearly to make it easier for authors to deposit their work in repositories – something of which I’m very supportive. However I have to admit my first reaction was to question whether taking an approach that did not disrupt existing publication workflows was really what was needed.

    Brian – the question I have for you is not why you decided to publish a peer-reviewed paper – clearly the peer-review system has much to recommend it – but how you decided which journal you would publish in, and what factors influenced your decision.

    In academia it would be common for the decision of where to publish to be affected by things like Impact Factor, subject coverage, readership – are these factors for you?

    If you were purely looking for peer-review, perhaps you could have considered a journal supporting alternative approaches to peer-review (see my blog post from the Rioja event in Cambridge last year http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas/2008/07/new-models-of-peer-review.html). Although this might not solve the problems you outline, I think it is just the right time to consider alternative workflows for peer-reviewed publication.

  5. Jonathan O'Donnell said

    My American colleagues were very surprised when we said that we didn’t want to teleconference on Good Friday. Seems they don’t take Easter as a hol.

  6. […] I was a bit grumpy at having to submit the final edits to the paper over Easter, I’m pleased that our paper has […]

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