The publishing of scholarly journals, on paper or electronically on the Internet, allows scholars to communicate their discoveries to their colleagues and to publicly discuss the discoveries of others. It is estimated that there are now over 10,000 electronic journals, the majority of which are not much more than reprints of previously printed texts in professional journals.
Surprisingly, some of the electronic journals still suffer the symptoms of the same old disease which has plagued the academic printed press for decades. The troubles with the academic printed press are so serious that the problem has reached the pages of a prestigious British weekly intended for serious reading by top managers of world corporations. In one of the articles, "The Economist" (24-30 January 1998, p. 77) asks the following question: "Could new kinds of electronic publishing rescue academia from its long running 'journal crisis'?" . The crisis entails (1) the long delay of months or years between submission of manuscripts and their publication, (2) the not so rare abuse of power by anonymous peer reviewers to delay or reject a manuscript for their own gain and (3) a high cost of publication.
The same magazine reveals a lesser known fact that the academic serial publications which are produced by commercial publishing houses bring corporations profit margins of 40% or more (!) - something to ponder when sending in subscription money. It was such money, says the article, that "helped support the lifestyle of the late Robert Maxwell, a scoundrel who made his early fortune from the worthy business of publishing the scientific world's latest discoveries".
Nonetheless, the financial aspect of the crisis in academic publishing is by far the least of its troubles. The greatest worry is with the very standards that the scholarly journals are expected to promote and presumed to safeguard: freedom, honesty and truth. For instance, the long delay in making research results public and the opportunity for anonymous coercion played an important role in the painfully slow unfolding of the infamous "Baltimore affair" more than ten years ago . Important laboratory research data were found to have been falsified and the Nobel laureate David Baltimore resigned his presidency of Rockefeller University. Regardless of the outcome of this case for the famous scientists or for their junior colleagues, the lesson for the academic publishing lies in the shameful manner in which new research findings were handled.
Scientists have long used pre-prints of articles as an expedient way to announce and respond to new discoveries. In many fields, electronic pre-prints are not only the standard way of doing things but they are more sought after than the out of date publications on paper. In the field of physics, the famous Los Alamos E-Print Archive in New Mexico have developed the Los Alamos Physics Information Service where over 70 new pre-prints per day are filed. Its data base is "visited" by over 40,000 readers a day and growing at such a rate that 'traffic congestion' on the Internet is already a serious problem. If you search for a topic, no matter how obscure or specialized, you are bound to find an electronic journal in the field.
The old fear that the electronic publishing will degrade the exalted status of the academic press by opening its doors to "anyone" who wants to submit a manuscript, without prior sifting for quality, seems to be sour grapes of commercial publishing houses. The same opinion, expressed by established journals and by professional institutions appears to be more a fear of the potential loss of easy influence from anonymous sources (by editors and anonymous reviewers) rather than the real fear of loosening of academic standards. On the contrary, the long history of the peer review system shows some incredible failures when great discoveries were rejected while fraudulent results were endorsed as a result of the misuse or non understanding by professional peers who took on the role of "specialists in the field".
Thus, the greatest success of electronic academic publishing lies not only in the extraordinary speed of manipulating large amounts of text for far less money. Its greatest achievements will come when the following is accomplished: (1) a new policy of openness to publish and to respond to original ideas, (2) doing away with anonymous pressure by peer reviewers and institutions, (3) providing authors the opportunity to improve their original articles by considering the immediate comments of their peers, (4) the opportunity for fast exposure of scientific fraud, and (5) the phenomenal means to reach a wide, international audience from all fields in an interactive manner. A few electronic journals already follow these honourable principles of academic press - The EJCP is structured to join them.
Independent, international, multilingual electronic publishing is long overdue in the field of psychoanalysis. Communicative Psychoanalysis already has a distinguished publication on paper, The International Journal of Communicative Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (The IJCPP) which is published quarterly in the USA by the International Society for Communicative Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. This publication is mailed automatically to all members of the Society and to several institutional and private subscribers. It continues to print exciting new contributions to the field. The birth of The EJCP on the Internet has added an important new dimension to the opportunity for communication among all interested in psychoanalysis. The EJCP endeavours to supplement and support the aims of The IJCPP by an offering to publish regularly all the articles from The IJCPP as Pre-prints and to encourage its own authors to submit their pre-printed articles to The Editor of The IJCPP.
I hope that the many rubrics of The EJCP will be freely used by the readers and by the authors. Publishing in this Journal will contribute to the advancement of psychoanalysis without theoretical or geographical borders.
Visitors and contributors: welcome!
Copyright © 1998 by V. A. Bonac