The future of academic publishing is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed

Jeff Leek

Academic publishing has always been a slow process. Typically you would submit a paper for publication and then wait a few months to more than a year (statistics journals can be slow!) for a review. Then you’d revise the paper in a process that would take another couple of months, resubmit it and potentially wait another few months while this second set of reviews came back.

Lately statistics and statistical genomics have been doing more of what math does and posting papers to the arxiv or to biorxiv. I don’t know if it is just me, but using this process has led to a massive speedup in the rate that my academic work gets used/disseminated. Here are a few examples of how crazy it is out there right now.

I started a post on giving talks on Github. It was tweeted before I even finished!

(not a joke) If @jtleek’s new guide turns out like any of the others in the series, it will be one to bookmark

— Stephen Turner (@genetics_blog) April 1, 2014

I really appreciate the compliment, especially coming from someone whose posts I read all the time, but it was wild to me that I hadn’t even finished the post yet (still haven’t) and it was already public.

Another example is that we have posted several papers on biorxiv and they all get tweeted/read. When we posted the Ballgown paper it was rapidly discussed. The day after it was posted, there were already blog posts about the paper up.

We also have been working on another piece of software on Github that hasn’t been published yet, but have already had multiple helpful contributions from people outside our group.

While all of this is going on, we have a paper out to review that we have been waiting to hear about for multiple months. So while open science is dramatically speeding up the rate at which we disseminate our results, the speed isn’t evenly distributed.