Wednesday 12 March 2008

"Does the Internet move too fast for academia?" Yes - way too fast.

Neil Thurman from City University, London has recently published an article about the use of User Generated Content by the media. It's an interesting piece tracking editors' attitudes to UGC and the use of 'audience' forums.

The problem with it, as pointed out by Shane Richmond over on the Telegraph's Technology blog, is that it's already out of date.

One small example is the figure Neil uses for the number of blogs being tracked by Technorati. When Thurman collected the data in 2005, Technorati was following 9 million blogs. Today, the website claims it's tracking 112.5 million.

Many academic studies are subject to the inevitability of change after publication, but the problem with studying the Internet is the rate of change. Neil's piece tells us what was happening a couple of years ago instead of what is happening now.

Neil has replied on the blog explaining that the slightly historical nature of his paper isn't his fault; it's the incredibly slow rate of the academic publishing cycle which is to blame.
"...academics are leant on to publish in peer-reviewed journals (who demand exclusivity) in order that they and their departments are rewarded--for example with income from the Research Assessment Exercise. Even though the journal that published this paper has recently increased its pagination and frequency, more than 17 months elapsed between acceptance and publication (and more than a year between submission and acceptance)."
I'm afraid I'm too new to the game to know much about the nuances of academic publication, but this is something I'll have to seriously consider in the future. I fear that my hands may be tied in a similar fashion to Neil's.

If this is the case, that will mean I'll be giving you the impact of blogging on the BBC's coverage of war and terrorism in 2008-9, just in time for 2011 (at the earliest). By which time, I might be asking the wrong question never mind providing an out of date answer.

These lengthy publication schedules may be viable in other disciplines but in Internet technology and new media, papers need to be published quickly to maximise their usefulness.

I get some money from the government to help finance my work. It would be nice to think that the research I do would provide more than an interesting historical read and a footnote in the work of future academics.

But I fear that by the time most of it's published, my research will have little practical value to the media industry, and worse, to those who have given up their time to participate.

I'd like to publish my papers or chapters here on the blog, with embedded links. That would be a bit different. But I've no idea whether this is possible or feasible.

When is the academic world going to catch up?


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