[OPE-L:7468] [OPE-L:1002] Re: Re: online journal

Duncan K. Foley (foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu)
Sun, 23 May 1999 15:54:47 +0200

I agree with Jerry that this is an exciting experiment and is worth trying.
The discussion at the moment involves the classic problems any journal has
to face (on-line or print): a) editorial policy; b) editorial board; c)
editorial procedures (including refereeing); d) distribution.

Editorial policy is coming up in several guises: 1) the idea of a "Letters"
type of journal with short pieces versus a regular journal, versus a
"niche" journal focused on review and commentary and 2) several people's
remarks that they want to keep out "fascist" and "counter-revolutionary"
contributions. The second one also involves editorial procedures since it
raises the question of who decides exactly what is "fascist" or
"counter-revolutionary", which may not be as easy as it looks in some
cases. Editorial policy always comes down in the crunch to editorial
discretion. There's also the question of whether the journal is aiming at
publishing fewer, better revised, papers, or more, not so carefully revised

Maybe the easiest way to get started would be to combine the "Letters" idea
with the "Commentaries and Reviews", and aim for a quick, relatively light
refereeing process conducted entirely by e-mail, aimed simply at catching
obvious errors rather than making detailed suggestions for revision.

So maybe it could go like this: the whole list would be the editorial
board. Anyone could sumbit my e-mailing their ms in Word or Ascii or .pdf
format to any one of 5 managing editors, who would agree to filter the mss
for contributions that didn't meet the editorial policy. In case of
disagreement, the author could appeal to the whole group of managing
editors on the policy issue. Then the managing editor would forward the ms
to one or two of the editoral board for refereeing, with the agreement that
no one will spend more than an hour (not counting the time necessary to
read the piece) on a quick response by e-mail, which will go to the author,
the managing editor, and the other referee. Then the author can make
whatever revisions she wants, and send it back to the managing editor who
will post it on the journal.

I think this type of system will work best if there is some limit, such as
5000 words, on the length of the submissions (as in a "Letters" format).
What would those interested in "Reviews and Commentaries" think would be a
reasonable limit on Reviews and Commentaries? On the one hand, it is nice
to have a lot of space to discuss matters, but on the other hand, a journal
featuring _very_ long reviews and commentaries might not be wildly popular.
I'd suggest requiring authors to prepare a standard 100 word abstract, and
to classify the contribution according to the J.E.L. scheme with keywords,
which would facilitate searching.

This scheme basically requires the commitment of the 5 managing editors to
keep the flow of mss going, since the other list members could participate
more or less actively as their time and interest wax and wane.

If more than 5 people want to volunteer to be managing editors, it might
make sense just to let everybody who's interested do it. From my experience
with other journals, I think it would help the reproduction of the journal
if there were an automatic term for the managing editors, say two years,
with the expectation that someone would sit out a year before going back,
if they wanted to. The terms of the original group should be staggered so
the whole board wouldn't turn over all at once.

As an editorial policy, I'd suggest going for an interesting, provocative,
timely content, and phrase the exclusionary part in terms of ruling out
specific problems: polemical tone, ad hominem (and feminam) remarks, and
egregious lack of information about whatever the contribution is about.
These guidelines would not stop a serious Austrian, for example, from
posting a thoughtful critique of some aspect of Marxist economics, but I
think such contributions would make it more interesting.


>I think it might be useful to step back and ask ourselves two important
>1) what do we think are the needs in terms of journals? I.e. what is
>lacking in terms of the content and nature of the current mix of
>conventional journals on political economy?
>2) What are the benefits of an electronic journal?
>Some of the benefits of an electronic journal include:
> a) an ability to reach a *world-wide readership* through the WWW.
> b) an ability to significantly *decrease the time between when an
> article is first accepted by a journal and when it is
> published*. This is not an insignificant advantage to both
> authors and readers since it is not uncommon for the lag time
> between acceptance and publication to be anywhere from 6 months
> to a year or more. Thus, an electronic journal allows an author
> to intervene in a discussion and/or present a new perspective
> which can be published much quicker.
> c) an ability to provide a *free journal*. I.e. readers would not
> have to pay a subscription fee. Given the prices of conventional
> journals, this is a very significant advantage which empowers
> both readers and writers.
> d) minimal cost to publish an e-journal compared to conventional
> ones.
>If one wants to talk about a "niche", let's begin with the above. Taken
>together, these represent *VERY* significant advantages. We should,
>indeed, as Marxists be very *excited* about what this can mean in terms of
>enhancing theory and praxis.
>Comrades, *this is the future*!
>Can you not see that the above will mean, over time (perhaps a relatively
>long time) that conventional (including scholarly) journals will become
>The writing is on the wall. Or, rather, the writing is on the Net!
>Depending on how a journal is set up, there might be other very
>significant advantages. E.g.
> a) there could be a *links page* that could allow readers (*including
> students*) to access other WWW sites for --
> i) research (e.g. sites for statistics);
> ii) other on-line publications (e.g. those posted at OPE-L
> members' sites);
> iii) organizing, communication, and information on *political
> struggles*.
> b) in some e-journals, there can be an on-line discussion of the
> articles themselves. I.e. readers can ask questions and/or
> comment on articles, the author can respond, and such a
> discussion can continue and deepen in a way that is not possible
> through conventional means.
>The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that we should go
>ahead with an e-journal. Of course, it will take some time and thought to
>get it together. We'll also have to make a lot of decisions on format and
>guidelines as we continue. Yet, can we not agree that this is an avenue
>that we *must* pursue?
>In solidarity, Jerry

Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics
Graduate Faculty
New School University
65 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
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