The pleasure and importance of print journals???

Nature ran a weird Correspondence from Swiss organic chemist Fran├žois Diederich.

Sir,

I am shocked to read in Nature News online that the American Chemical Society intends to stop all personal subscriptions to its printed journals by 2010, and to start introducing major changes this year (‘Chemistry publisher moving towards online-only journals’ http://tinyurl.com/llae53).

The attractive printed versions of Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Organic Chemistry, Accounts of Chemical Research and Organic Letters provide distinct advantages in letting me browse their content (during breakfast at home, for example) and readily take in information, without the lengthy opening of individual web pages, article by article.

But I also find this decision to stop the print journals disturbing in my capacity as a board member of the German chemical society, the GDCh, and as head of the editorial board of the journal Angewandte Chemie. I believe that high-quality journals such as Nature and Science and, in chemistry, Angewandte Chemie and Journal of the American Chemical Society should continue to appear in all their published formats, including print. Otherwise, there is a risk that the quality of these prestigious journals could gradually decline to the standard of many of today’s web-only journals.

This is just plain bizarre. I can understand why someone wants printed journals to continue – I like reading things in print too. But how is it that the failure to print journals will have any effect on the journal’s quality? There are crappy web-only journals. But there are many more crappy printed journals. And I bet if you tried to do some kind of formal analysis you’d find that printing is correlated with journals sucking. But, of course, that’s just an accident too. There’s no reason to think that editorial policies are linked to the means of dissemination, or that switching the latter will affect the former.

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Especially since peer review and editing happens on manuscripts completely divorced from even the final layout of papers, let alone the medium in which the papers are distributed.