journals: the privatisation of knowledge. LO26733

From: arthur battram (
Date: 05/27/01


what follows is a piece of paranoia, perhaps: the point is that perhaps
lists like LO are under threat from some sources, namely journals.
perhaps therefore LO should not cooperate with these potential competitors
who do not share the LO committment to the FREE exchange of information.

read on - see if you share my misgivings...

currently there is a big row brewing in the UK [and US?] about ownership
of science publications. one company Elsevier, in particular is making
massive profits on its journal, and has quintupled its subscription prices
in the last 10 years. they are the biggest but others are just as bad,
according to the press coverage.

now academics are concerned that access to this material is becoming
harder and harder for anyone without major funding, such as independent
researchers, 3rd world countries, charities, etcetera.

one trend I notice is the colonisation of the 'soft' end of business
interventions. now that the IT outfits have sold their databases and
customer relationship management packages and the like to nearly all big
businesses, they are looking for other 'products' to create.

and in parallel to this, we can detect a growth in 'soft' science journals
like ' Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal'. (My
apologies to Group Facilitation for being picked on like this, it's
nothing personal, they're just the example to hand.)

The big boys have saturated the market for BPR, the KM market is filling
up, new potential markets are being explored for technologies based on the
'soft stuff' like people skills, relationships, etc and the science
journal publishers are after their slice of the action.

so what's my beef?
[or soyaburger, so as not to offend the PC readership]

well 2 points:

1. most of this stuff published in the newish soft journals isn't real
science. it may be good interesting stuff, worthy of examination by
practitioners, but it does nobody any favours to dress it up like an old
drag queen in the cast of cocktail dress of science. (apologies to any
old queens, and to our own dear queen, the original old queen).

So to publish a journal, with the trappings of science [peer review,
editorial board, abstracts, references to other similar journals but not
to the more informal, more anecdotal sources like this list, small
circulation, high cover price] is to set up a pretence of science.

these days if astrology had just been invented, and hadn't therefore been
noticed and ridiculed, the astrologers would be launching 'Astrometric
Counselling: A Research Journal for practitioners' as part of their
strategy for building their brand image's respectability.

2. And the stuff is often unreadable; it's written in a strangled form of
academic english that makes it impossible to follow an argument. it's
also often very poor stuff, but dressed up in a sauce of jargon that
conceals the fact that the meat is 'off'. it does not, crucially, promote

3. and the publication timescales grind so slow, there is no life in it...

4. watch out for 'SOBS' 'statements of the bleedin' obvious' as we call
them over here, and spurious statistics like '34% of all junkies were
breastfed, so we recommend banning mother's milk, says a survey by a
scientist on a research grant from FormulaBabyMilk inc.

5. and here's the real paranoia: the next step having set up your journal
to provide you a revenue stream, is to try to close down your competitors,
to lockin your perspective and lockout others - think microsoft and

Soon, if the plan works, only articles referenced in Group Facilitation
will be considered authoritative material on the Facilitation of groups,
and contributions on lists like Rick's will be seen as informal,
anecdotal, not 'proper research'.

The fact is that this list, and others like it, do an excellent job. If
Journals like Group Facilitation were have their way, learning-org would
be stifled and we'd all have to write weird articles in strangulated
jargon in order to be heard. (Take a close look at their blurb below and
see what you think - most of it looks like pretty obvious old-hat stuff to
me... and I say again: my apologies to Group Facilitation for being picked
on like this, it's nothing personal ,they're just the example to hand. -
I'm attacking a style of soft science journal not one particular offender)

so there you have it.

paranoia, or food for thought? you decide.

Best wishes
Arthur Battram

> Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 17:05:23 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
> From: Sandor P Schuman <>
> Subject: Group Facilitation Journal LO26713
> Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal
> Issue Number 3
> Special Issue on Group Development
> Articles in this issue:
> ======================


arthur battram <>

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