Increasing speed brings challenges to academic journals

The Internet has made publishing a much faster process, which pressures journal editors to meet deadlines much shorter than the norm. The process from acceptance-to-publication generally takes print-media journals rarely less than a year. The process for online publishing is significantly quicker. The process for Media History journal takes on average 6.2 weeks, and 6–8 weeks for New Media & Society journal.

Academic journals appear to find it hard to recruit qualified peer reviewers and to receive reviews in a timely fashion. This statement is suggested by the results of a small survey, which we conducted on behalf of the Journalism Research News that addressed to a group of editors in academic journals. Editors from five journals responded, including The International Journal of Communication, New Media & Society, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Media History, and The International Journal of Press/Politics.

All five journals have relatively small acceptance rates. The journals get from 200 to 700 submissions per year. They accept from 7 to 18 percent.

In order to offer fast publication to authors, the journals ought to have a secured group of reliable reviewers. When we asked about the challenges of their particular journals, three out of five editors mentioned that finding a wide enough group of qualified reviewers and obtaining their reviews in time is a major challenge. In addition, editors cited as their biggest challenges: look-alike predatory journals; the pressure to achieve a high impact factor; serving the authors and readers in a wide range of disciplines/topics, and easy access for people in the southern hemisphere.

Finally, we asked the editors about the future of academic publishing. Three editors mentioned open access journals in their responses, expecting them to have an impact on the whole field of academic publishing. The editors presume that online publishing in general will continue to grow, and plenty of new journals will emerge. This makes it ever more difficult to find a sufficient group of reviewers who are able to work on a tight schedule.

Moreover, only a few general communication journals are expected to survive beside the highly specialized titles. The conflict of interests between the commercial model of publishing and academic needs and standards will, according to the editors, probably remain unsolved in the near future.

Maria Lassila-Merisalo is a post-doc researcher at the Department of Communication, at the University of Jyväskylä.

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