A research outlet is, as we define it, an open access arena for research publication owned by a research group, where members of the group publish some of their research and where they invite some other groups of researchers to also publish research. The idea is not to open up an arena for yesterday’s news or rejected stuff, or to avoid critical evaluation, but to open up an outlet for direct publication contributing to an on-going research discussion. Some things we publish this way, some other things are published in established journals and in conference proceedings.
The main differences of a research outlet in relation to a peer-reviewed journal are:
- The material is not peer reviewed – researchers and research groups take responsibility themselves for published material,
- The outlet is not open for everybody, but is an arena for publication by invitation – more like an on-going book project than a journal,
- It is a channel for direct publication where researchers can publish material in the way they actually want the research to be presented, rather than having to make compromises on grounds that sometimes are obscure and “commercial" in nature,
- The outlet is an arena and not a series of journal issues. Reactions and comments can open up for revisions of material, but this is an open process.
"The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than just a crude means of discovering the acceptability—not the validity—of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong." (Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet)
Bibliometrical matters, such as impact factor, h-index etc., are more tools for research management, political control and career planning, than something of interest for science, research itself.
In order to promote and develop research, we all know the importance of an open, and critical, discussion. The critical component of this is of course a major factor. But it is far from obvious that this must be part of a pre-publication process filtering, altering, and possibly stopping interesting and unconventional contributions.
In order to comply with measures of productivity we publish in absurd quantities, which of course have nothing to do with serious in depth research. The number of papers published, and where they are published, does not tell us very much about the originality of our research, the way in which you have contributed to new ways of thinking or contributed to deepen given insights. We all know that we may stumble upon one, or perhaps two, really deep ideas in a lifetime – the extraordinary lucky ones can certainly stumble on more for sure – and that the rest we do is more about working out the details, providing examples, carrying out the obvious studies and so on.
"With the motto 'Quality not quantity', the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has implemented new measures to counter the flood of publications in research. Germany’s central research funding organisation today presented new regulations that will take effect on 1 July of this year regarding the number of publications that can be cited in funding proposals and final reports. This measure seeks to assure that in future, researchers submitting proposals and reports to the DFG only include a limited number of particularly significant publications, rather than an arbitrary number, thereby reducing the importance placed on publication lists and numerical indices. At the same time, more emphasis should be given to the actual description of the research project. 'By doing this, we want to demonstrate that content matters more to us when evaluating and funding research,' said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner.
With these regulations, the DFG wants to counteract the quantitative factors that have been increasing for years in terms of research publications. 'Whether in performance-based funding allocations, postdoctoral qualifications, appointments, or reviewing funding proposals, increasing importance has been given to numerical indicators such as the H-index and the impact factor. The focus has not been on what research someone has done but rather how many papers have been published and where. This puts extreme pressure upon researchers to publish as much as possible and sometimes leads to cases of scientific misconduct in which incorrect statements are provided concerning the status of a publication. This is not in the interest of science,' stressed the DFG President." (DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Press release 2010)
Perhaps we should relax a bit when it comes to academic publication and see it for what it is, i.e. ways to make findings public and to contribute to the on-going research discussions. A research outlet is then just one way to do that in a more direct manner using the wonders of modern computation and communication technology.