JIME: The Once and Future Future of Academic Publishing

I’ve just been to a meeting about the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, or JIME.

I’d been vaguely thinking that I may or may not be on the Editorial Board of it, but the meeting has usefully confirmed that I am as of this afternoon actually one of the three core Editors along with my colleagues Patrick and Will.

In 1996 it was a very exciting new development in academic publishing – it aimed, inter alia:

Through its innovative use of interactive Net-based media, to be an action research project which explores the changing face of journals, and more broadly, scholarly practice in the age of digital publishing and communication.

(Ouch. The site uses frames! Making linking to that aims page hard. Oh dear.)

It had a cool new idea about being a proper journal but freely available online, and about the reviewing happening in the open. After an initial quick ‘threshold’ review, the article appears, the reviewers make comments, and the authors respond. All in the open.

Alas, the current technical system to support all that is Broken. And not fixable for boring reasons, on top of the reason that fixing an out-of-date kludgy system that you didn’t build is a deeply boring task. Things have rather moved on from 1996.

So we need to do Something. We had some fun (and despair) thinking about what. I think we have two main principles for the journal:

  • Firstly, we definitely want a Proper Academic Journal. That clearly still has value, and is part of what JIME always was and could be. So that means a proper Editorial Board, and proper reviewing. And – note to self – proper indexing in major citation indeces, which indirectly probably means a regular publishing schedule, which is a serious – but not insurmountable – tension for a very-rapid publication model. (e.g. it might be possible to come up with a hybrid where things appear as ‘accepted’ as soon as they are, and then every four months we create an ‘issue’ which formally moves any and all currently accepted articles to ‘published’.)
  • Secondly, we want to continue to explore new, more open ways of doing that – being open access is a minimum. So teaming up with a publisher (which would get our hands on their lovely money to support the process) isn’t likely to be an obvious big win (since it would be extorted from academic libraries by means that would prevent us being openly available). I don’t know what our current licensing agreement with authors is – implicitly it must involve permission for open access – but that might want upgrading to a CC licence.

The current sketchy idea is to use Open Journal Systems (OJS) for the nuts-and-bolts of the threshold review and the publication process, then some cunning system where the reviewers post their review in their own blogs (opening up that process much more widely in a very interesting new way), and JIME picks that up via trackbacks. Ideally we’d do something clever where the initial submission appears in the author(s)’s blog(s) too, as well as their response/revised final article. Should be pretty easily do-able … just needs the time fiddling with OJS.

There’s much more we could do, it’s just thrashing out what it should be – and convincing people that it has value and then getting the resource to do it (!). We talked about deeper issues – in particular, Patrick’s fine theory that Word has set academic publishing back decades by inhibiting structured authoring and referencing, which were solved problems by the late 80s.

But following the Web 2.0 philosophy, we should do the least that would work as soon as we can, and build towards the bigger vision, rather than waiting to build the whole thing in one huge leap.

It is fun being a (small!) part of the revolution in academic publishing. We’re also looking to refresh the Editorial Board as part of this revamp – anyone interested in joining us?

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

4 thoughts on “JIME: The Once and Future Future of Academic Publishing”

  1. I actually developed the plan from the sketchy idea in the meeting to post it here, so it’s fair to say we’ve not thought that through entirely. 🙂

    My initial thought was that you just tell the reviewers to do it, and pick it up via trackback when they have. The system will need to be watching specifically for a trackback on that draft paper from that reviewer’s blog (we’d hope to get other trackbacks too) to give it the ‘proper review’ status, but that shouldn’t be hard. So the draft paper would list trackbacks in the normal blog way but indicate those from the official reviewers in some way.

    The system would be doing the management of the review process anyway (which is part of what OJS does for you) so it’d just be sticking an extra field in at the right point in the process to say what the reviewer’s blog will be, along with their email and name and affiliation and so on.

    Another – possibly simpler – option would be for the reviewer to post the review to their blog, with or without trackback, and then log the permalink to the post with the system when they tell it they’ve done the review. Depending on what OJS does under the hood that might well be a much easier way – I can imagine simply swapping an ‘attach document containing review’ field in the ‘I have done my review’ form for a ‘here is URL containing review’ field. (For all I know that may even already be an option!) This would also have the merit of allowing the reviewer to post a trackback to the draft article before their formal review, which might be a fun way of getting more comment in to the process – e.g. “I’ve just been asked to review this paper, does anyone know about …”. Or of letting them leave their review up for a bit before it’s formally picked up by the system to give them time to fix minor errors.

    I wasn’t imagining messing around with OAuth or anything like that. But I haven’t even looked properly at OJS yet so this is all off the top of my head. I’m very much open to ideas here!

  2. Word and academic publishing – any refs?
    Interested due to a rowImeanDiscussion I’m having with my MA, because the MHRA referencing system is stupid and Iord, if used (I don’t), is keeping it alive when it should be dead.

  3. Alas no – not without searching specifically. But Patrick and I might write something at some point 🙂

    The thing about stupid referencing conventions is that as long as they’re consistent, you should be able to get your references out in whatever silly format automatically, or with minimal tweaking. You could do this entirely reliably with BibTeX back in the early 90s, and earlier systems (the *roff family) did pretty much as well. It was only the emerging requirement to use Word that broke all those things and led to the misery that is Endnote and its ilk.

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