JOURNALS: FIELDS, PLAYERS and
The scientific communication system and, in particular, the role played by scholarly journals are undergoing a period of dramatic change, an observation that has led many to emphasize the urgency of the situation.
In the case of scholarly journals, we may go so far as to question their viability as a central vector for disseminating research results. Before proceeding with conclusions of any kind, a careful review of the situation is required. The format and operating methods of journals are currently undergoing renewal; nevertheless, their role in validating and transmitting research results remains firmly established. 1 The problem posed by journals is also exacerbated by the inflationary spiral in journal subscription prices, creating difficulties for university and research institutions. With stagnating resources, institutions face dizzying price increases that go well beyond inflation and changes in characteristic journal parameters. That vicious circle has been thoroughly studied, and its effects are evident. 2
We must go beyond that straightforward observation, because simplistic imagery is of no great use in understanding the journal world. In fact, the concept we have of a journal is imprecise, because the word designates significantly different