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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Fast-Food Publication

To the Editors:

In his column “Digitizing the Coin of the Realm” (September–October), Francis L. Macrina discusses the benefits of a system of digital publication in science. All glorified advantages of such a system aside, it also has a serious demotivating effect. Online publication leads to what some call “McDonaldization,” or cheapening, of science. Nowadays, anybody can publish almost anything on a personal or group Web page. That situation inevitably erodes the distinction between a peer-reviewed paper and a self-published one. For authors to see their paper in a hard-copy, paper-bound journal gives a sense of satisfaction and personal accomplishment. Computer printouts from an online journal hardly bring the same level of these feelings. Even if online-only publications save some trees, the eventual deterioration of the quality of their contents might well outweigh the supposed blessings.

Alexander A. Berezin
McMaster University

 

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