Finch report fails to acknowledge editorial quality
19 June 2012
The Finch Group, set up by universities and science minister David Willets MP to investigate how to expand access to publicly funded research, has published its report (PDF). The report's key recommendations fail to acknowledge the importance of editorial quality in new publishing models.
The National Union of Journalists, which represents members in academic publishing, has expressed its disappointment with the report.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"The added value of quality editorial work that includes editing, assessing manuscripts, handling peer review, copy editing, layout and design, and web production – must not be left out of the debate about improving access to academic publishing or specialist information available in the public domain.
"The NUJ urges all those with an interest in the Finch report to recognise the crucial importance of the jobs and skills involved – without which it would not be possible to create high standards in academic research and publications."
Pete Wrobel, chair of the NUJ's Magazine and Book Industrial Council, said:
"Open access must be open access to readable and comprehensible information. The Finch Group rightly stresses the role of high-quality peer review. But peer review in itself is not enough. The academic community and the public at large will be ill served if journal and book publishers with a history of producing properly checked, well edited and clearly designed publications suffer as open access develops."
NUJ members welcome moves to expand access to the fruits of research, but there is no free lunch. Turning research into clear, accessible, consistent and rigorously scrutinised learned articles and books isn't possible without the skills of professional editors, copy editors, art and production editors, and many others in the publishing chain. This must be recognised and paid for. There's no point in endless amounts of information if readers can't make any sense of it.
In the coming months, the NUJ will be seeking to engage with all those involved in the chain of academic discourse – from research funders and publishers through to university librarians and even Google – to ensure that new publishing models preserve and if possible enhance the editorial quality of the journals and books on which academic life depends.
Read the NUJ's open access publishing and editorial quality briefing.