Publish - and be panned

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Education researchers are often ridiculed for the dense, reference-littered articles that they publish in academic journals a year or so after their research has been completed.

But it would appear that they have almost as many reservations about the journals as everyone else, even though they believe they are at the "cutting edge" of research and theory.

When Professor Gaby Weiner of South Bank University and two colleagues asked 124 researchers "What makes a good journal?" the majority of them replied that up-to-date articles and clear writing were vital ingredients. Articles should be accessible, jargon-free and well-written, they said.

Twenty-four of them complained about the time that it took to review and publish their articles. Insensitive, unhelpful comments from the referees who vet journal articles were also mentioned by 19 researchers. One referred to "vitriolic reviewers who would be rapidly counselled should they mark undergraduate essays in this way". Another had been shocked By "personal and spiteful comments" from anonymous referees.

Most were cautiously optimistic about the prospect of seeing journals "published" on the Internet. But some will clearly find it difficult to adjust. "You can't read an electronic journal in bed," one traditionalist said.

The paper's authors also scrutinised 10 years of back issues of 10 journals to establish who was most likely to have an article published.

They found that men outnumbered women by three to two in the single-author-article stakes. And they were intrigued to find professors had had more articles published than their junior colleagues.

"Maybe the question to follow up is 'Did they have so much published because they were professors?'"Professor Weiner and her colleagues concluded, a little mischievously. "Or is it because they publish so much that they are professors?" "Is it what you write, how you write, or for whom you write? Exploring the editing, refereeing and publishing practices of academic journals", by Gaby Weiner and Margaret Scanlon, South Bank University, and Angela Packwood, University of Warwick

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