You know, I am relatively new to the big science. The first 2-column paper I read was Antonin Guttman's paper about R-Trees.1 It was about 2.5 years ago. So, I've never used published journals or conference proceedings. I have been wondering why do they spend money to printing journals if the researchers usually publish their papers on their home pages. Recently, I've read the article about the disruption of scholarly publishing by Michael Clarke. The article is quite dragged out, so I summarize its ideas in the following paragraphs.
When Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of WWW in 1991, he thought of its purpose as some kind of scientific media, which would replace conferences and journals. Nowadays, the Internet is used for social networking, illegal distribution of music and pornography, but we still have journals and conferences off-line. Why?
The author indicates 5 main points:
- Dissemination - journals distribute papers all over the world
- Registration of discovery - to know who was the first, Popov or Marconi
- Validation - to ensure that the results are correct; now provided by peer-review
- Filtration - you are likely to read a paper from the journal with bigger impact factor
- Designation - if you have publications on top conferences, you might be a cool scientist
But in Russia, we don't rank scientists according to their citation index!2 (because we don't have one :) ) So, the designation problem is not solved here, and Russia is already ready to the new publishing system. Why do we still have journals? I don't know, probably the sluggishness of minds...
1 Actually, I had read this paper about Google before, but it accidentally was not 2-column formatted. :)
2 I am cunning a bit: some journals carry out designation purposes. I mean journals published by VAK. One should have at least one publication in such a journal to get Candidate of Science degree (Russian PhD equivalent). But the review process is usually lousy, there was also Rooter case with one of them.