Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Can Journal Publishing Be Democratised?

By Abdulrahman Al Lily

An experiment in academic publishing has tested journal practices and questioned whether the autocratic power of editorial boards needs to be returned to researchers.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Academic intelligence is socially distributed, spread throughout the minds of academics of all nations, races and ages. Yet the dissemination of knowledge generated by academics is entrusted to a powerful few – the editors and editorial boards of academic journals.

The current publishing system places a considerable amount of power in the hands of editors, many of whom have presided over their journals for so long that they have developed, in effect, a monopoly over ideas in their field of expertise. In accepting or rejecting manuscripts submitted to their journals, these editorial autocrats act as gatekeepers that decide which ideas will be shared and which will be shunned.

Some academic journals do not allow authors to question and appeal the rejection of their manuscripts by editors and peer reviewers. Some editors will even reject manuscripts without consulting peer reviewers.

These practices encouraged me to undertake an experiment that sought to:

  • democratise authorship by inviting a large number of authors to compose and submit a paper for publication in an academic journal; and
  • democratise publishing by encouraging the authors and readers of a particular journal to elect its editor and constitute its policies.

I began by emailing invitations to academics from all over the world, encouraging them to come...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.