18 January 2010

Publish or Perish

Being a book reviewer is beginning to convince me that the publishing industry might be a better place if more academics picked the perish option instead. Can one get tenure for picking the perish option? Maybe schools should give it some thought. Especially those with publishing units.

Think of it as akin to the government paying farmers to leave fields fallow to help prop up the value of agricultural produce. Rewarding faculty for not publishing (just teaching) in order to prop up the value of academic produce, or at least that portion of it that is in print. Particularly because academic produce has a very long shelf life and people are really still working on digesting products that were marketed a century or more ago.

If we don't take such a drastic action, are we at risk of a knowledge bubble collapse? We may already be approaching that point. Certainly, people are throwing new academic produce out there faster than it can be digested by anyone, thus limiting it to smaller and smaller targeted markets. The problem with targeting these small markets is that academic produce, as with all produce, is unhealthy if one consumes too much of one type, instead of consuming a balanced diet of knowledge. This means that the glut of specialized knowledge contributes less and less to the overall health of the knowledge economy and its consumers.

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