The current role of journals

by Oded Goldreich

The historical roles of journals used to be

Needless to say, the first role of journals has been abolished, firstly by conferences and more so recently by web postings. This fact effects also the journal's ability to fulfill their other roles (or goals), becuase it was the first role that made journals so central to the scientific process (and thus its abolishment causes a decrease in the stature of journals). Still, the other three goals are important, and journals may and should continue to play an important role in serving them.

The aforementioned change should effect the journal's policy. For example, in the past it was required that a paper that appears in a journal has not appeared in the same form (or version) anywhere else. This rule makes sense with respect to publication in other journals but not with respect to (prior) publication in a conference. It is indeed rare that a conference version is so complete and polished that it will not undergo a revision following careful review, but still the question remains (and the answer is clear: there is no scholarly reason to disallow journal publication of a version that is identical to a conference version, provided that this version is satisfactory for journal publication and that the relation to the conference version is stated (which is the norm anyhow)). (I am ignoring here copyright issues and refer only to the scholarly angle of this question. Furthermore, the scientific community should require that the publishers do not interfere in this matter, as a special case of requiring to preserve the right for free posting of its work in other non-commertial media.)

Similarly, I think that there is no justification anymore for having special issues devoted to a selection of papers from a conference that has a scope that matches the one of the journal. For further discussion of this issue see my opinion regarding STOC/FOCS special issues.

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