Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here or leave a comment below.
Feeling kind of special after her paper got published, Marie-Jeanne asked:
How do you feel about special issues?
Underwhelmed. Seriously. What is the point of special issues? Nowadays, I mean. I get that – in the dark ages of science – special issues were a ‘necessary’ evil in case you wanted to combine research that focused either on a specific region or on a specific topic, or was the result of a fruitful workshop. Only then it was possible to realize one, single, hard copy publication with all relevant research at hand. Otherwise you were obligated to scour the libraries and muster single issues and raggedy copies of foreign-language publications. Which would take quite a chunk out of your daily working hour budget, by the way. That’s all in the past though. The advent of the internet has not only allowed us to make a quarter-hourly depression dump on our social media records, but also gave us Google Scholar, Mendeley, ResearchGate, Scopus, Web of Science … et cetera, et cetera: every single publication at your fingertips. You know, only in case your institution has acquired permission with a bag of money.
Besides the outdated nature of special issues, there’s another noticeable observation. Have you ever stopped to see which authors, co-authors and guest editors are involved with the issue? With the strict regulations of journals, and the pertinent role ethics play in the daily routine of a scientist, I am confident that this is simply an outcome of the resourcefulness, versatility and network opportunities acquired through many years of outstanding productivity. Nonetheless, a single whiff of conflict of interest coincides with a red flag of unnecessary penmanship. Unfortunately the only thing one can do is add some Febreze™ and play some flag football. Nevertheless I will carry a torch for special issues. The small variety. A tiny one. So small you could almost say its relevance is questionable.
The Sassy Scientist
PS: This post was written in a plain blog time table. No special issues needed.