Since my most popular blog post around here continues to be "I Hate Research," I thought some of you would enjoy reading my angry thoughts about journal publication ... something that I've grown to conclude requires an irrational number of hours of work for something that has no tangible benefit to anyone or anything other than your own ego or CV.
Again ... these rants include cursing, and were written right after I made the decision to leave - therefore, the anger and frustration is pretty raw. So, language is pretty NSFW if you care about that kind of thing.
F*ck Journal Publication
So grad school and academia sounds immensely interesting and important, right? You spend years/decades conducting studies and writing up the results of your “groundbreaking” research, all with the grand purpose of changing the world and contributing to the breadth of existing knowledge in your field. It sounds sooooo immensely important and useful and interesting, doesn't it? I know it did to me, when I started grad school. I was going to study one particular social institution and set of social policies ... and my research was going to change the world.
Then, of course, I got out of coursework and into the research portion of my career, and suddenly realized the ugly truth ... in order to advance my academic career, I had to publish all of my "groundbreaking, world-changing research" in academic journals that only a tiny portion of the world even knows exist and will ever read ... thanks to how obscure the journal's topics are, how arcane the academic jargon and writing style are, and how insanely high the subscription fees are. I slowly began to realize that even though I knew what an academic journal was, almost no one else in the real world had any clue ... nor had any idea how to find such things and read this "groundbreaking research" I was conducting.
The author’s response? “Well, I think I’m going to publish it in X journal, and then maybe do a slightly different version of the paper and try to get it published in Y journal.” The Department of Ed guy pushed back, trying to get the author to talk about what "real world" implications this paper could have, since it showed considerable promise. The author had clearly never thought of such a thing before ... this paper was an academic exercise to him, and nothing more. Even though he was ostensibly interested in "making schools better," it never crossed his mind to try to ensure that his research (which strongly suggested a way that schools could improve) would reach the outside world. It had obviously never even occurred to him that his research could have real world effects, or that policymakers might be interested.
This was completely baffling to me. Upon looking back, I think this may have been the moment at which I truly lost my interest in an academic career. I told everyone I knew about that experience ... and most grad students responded with "well, you know how faculty at R-1 schools are..."
Oh, that's right ... only a self-centered academic who is obsessed only with getting lines on their CV and mentally masturbating to other faculty about how awesome and smart they are. Who cares if anyone else can ever read your paper, as long as you know it's there and can use your "three hundred publications in top journals" to lord over all of the other academics in your field?
And if I wanted to write something strictly for my own benefit/ego, I'll write a novel or a play or posts for my blog. Hell, at least that will be entertaining ... oh, and no one will expect me to spend 20 pages giving kudos to all of the novelists/playwrights/bloggers who wrote some tangentially related material 40 years ago for a lit review. :)
Fuck publishing in journals.
(*My most high-profile publication came out five years ago. When talking about my CV, people often mention it as something I should be proud of. Do you know how many people have ever commented on the substance of that paper to me (other than my co-author)? An administrator at a school I interviewed with, and my cousin who is not in academia but works at a library. That's right, folks ... two people; neither of whom are academics. That's academic publishing for you.)