Monday, June 29, 2009

Scientific Publishers -- trouble on the horizon...

This topic hits pretty close to home for the 108Warren Commission family, as Mrs. 108Warren Commission works for a leading academic/scientific publisher...

Michael Nielsen in his blog posted an excellent piece on the nature of disruptive technologies and their impact. He starts with a discussion of why Industries fail -- and pointing out that while it is easy to claim that the leaders of those industries that are failing are either stupid or malevolent (his terminology), that is rarely the case. Instead, he points out that it is the development of a disruptive technology that opens new opportunities that successful firms are blind to, as a result of the nature of what has made them successful.

He follows this up with evidence that the same forces are now at play in the Scientific Publishing industry. He points to the development of successful science blogs in which serious levels of research are being discussed, and lists a number of additional examples.

I don't disagree with Mr. Nielsen's premise -- in fact, I think his point about the impact of disruptive technology and its role in the failure (past or impending) of leading companies and industries is perhaps one of the most important and under-reported issues in both traditional and new media today.

What is missing from his essay is any discussion of the atmosphere that drives the publication of scientific papers -- the publish or perish paradigm in higher education. While it may not eliminate the risk that Mr. Nielsen has sketched out, this significant externality will certainly play a role in how this industry copes with technological disruption.

Here is a simple link to Mr. Nielsen's article: