Ignored in the last 2 decades: A Publishing Miracle

MANILA: "Publish or Perish!" is a dreaded phrase that describes the pressure on academicians in English-science oriented countries in the world to publish the results of their researches in peer-reviewed journals in order to retain their positions or advance their careers.

Since the scientific journal was invented, there has always been 5 constraints that confronted the publisher here: (1) writing of the scientific papers, (2) reviewing, (3) editing, (4) layouting, and (5) production. I learned firsthand the harsh truth in all that having been for years Editor in Chief of a government publication (FORI's Sylvatrop, The Philippine Forest Research Journal, 4 times a year), 1975-1981; those were in the Age of the Dinosaurs (typewriters). I have also been the Editor in Chief of a private publication (CSSP's Philippine Journal of Crop Science, 3 times a year), 2001-2008, in the Age of Computers.  

So, what did I do when I accepted the position of Editor in Chief of the PJCS even if it was 3 years late in coming out with its issues? I introduced an all-digital production process for this journal. I asked extraordinary UP Los Baños Professor Ted Mendoza to help me encourage the writing of and have those scientific papers reviewed by peers, while I took over the jobs of editing and desktop publishing: issue design, page layouts for each manuscript, embedding tables & images within texts – not to mention checking for accuracy.

What happened? Note that it was essentially a one-man job: I was editor, secretary, proofreader, layout artist and rewriter (mostly the Introduction and Discussion, when found wanting). Thus, I made the PJCS that was late 3 years in its issues up-to-date in 3 years, within 2003-2006! That's how powerful desktop publishing is to the master.

Which brings me closer to the answer to my own question: "What exactly is the publishing revolution the whole world has been loudly ignoring in the last 20 years?" No, desktop publishing is not the answer, but it's close. If you look at the image above with a discerning eye, you will see the answer.


I had the insight today, Sunday, 01 November 2015, that we do not need additional government funds to finance the dissemination of scientific knowledge in agriculture to farmers as well as to other users of such knowledge. The inexpensive tool? Blogging.

A competent editorial staff, whether one-man band or not, still have to work, but blogging solves the problem that most offices have: You spend only for the WiFi connection, and that's about P10 a day. The annual fee for a domain name like frankahilario.com is minimal.

What's the difference between blogging the whole issue and bringing it to the commercial press? The tens of thousands of pesos of expense; blogging is almost free. Instead of printed copies, you can distribute online soft copies in portable document format (pdf). From the pdf, people can print selected pages on their own.

Is blogging acceptable as a substitute for a printed technical journal? We probably need to convene a group, such as the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), to declare that it is accepting blogged papers as accomplishments as long as they are certified to have gone through the proper publishing pipeline and received appropriate review and editorial care from competent people.

What about the ISI / Web of Science international seal of quality? That can be arranged with Thomson Reuters.

Here are the joys of the art & science of blogging:

(1) You don't need funds!
(2) If we act fast, the Philippines will be the first blogging country in the world.
(3) Now you can publish weekly. Because now you can publish paper by paper, not necessarily the whole issue at once.
(4) Your office or group can publish 2 or more journals simultaneously, same editorial staff.
(5) The whole University like UP Los Baños can publish 10 journals all at the same time.
(6) You can correct your mistakes even after the papers have been published online.
(7) Forgotten manuscripts (project reports, theses and dissertations) will now be remembered and be made useful as they are turned into ed and be made useful as they are tuicr own.the manuscripts for publication.
(8) Editing manuscripts will be a delight because exchanges between authors and editors will be very fast and friendly (an office policy).
(9) Reviewing manuscripts will be a breeze because only those who know their software will be asked to do the reviews, employing user-friendly software tools like Track Changes.
(10) The impact will be instantly worldwide, because when you upload a paper, it's available almost immediately anywhere in the world.
(11) If you are a fast worker, you can publish more and faster than the other scientists, and nobody can blame you.
(12) Anyone can learn to blog. Look, I was already 66 when I began blogging. My son Jomar inspired me but didn't instruct me; I learned to blog on my own. You can too.

Blogging was invented in 1994 by Justin Hall, a student of Swarthmore College; he referred to his website as simply his personal homepage (links.net). In 1997, Jorn Barger coined the word weblog to refer to the act of "logging the web" as he browsed. In 1999, programmer Peter Merholz shortened it to blog; in 2004, Merriam-Webster declared it the Word of the Year. In 1999, Blogger was started by Evan Williams & Meg Hourihan at Pyra Labs (webdesignerdepot.com). In 1999, according to Jesse James Garrett, there were 23 blogs on the Internet. By the middle of 2006, there were already 50 million blogs according to Technorati. I began earnestly blogging in 2006, in Blogger.

The blog is now the universal publishing platform; it's easy to adapt blogging to science, or science to blogging. Unfortunately, the scientists are still in their Rip Van Winkle stupor. Wake up, UP!

Assuming intellectual competence and manual dexterity in publishing, government offices in the Philippines have one common constraint: No budget. If you were paying attention, now you know that blogging takes care of the problem of budget: No need. That goes with all the communication projects of government from scientists to farmers: Blog, don't print.

But there is a need for a competent staff; you cannot rely on a one-man band, as he is only one in a million!

Can we really blog for the farmers? Yes. But we are not going to ask the farmer to read blogs; we are going to target his son or daughter in high school who will then gladly pass on the information to him via a smartphone or a tablet.

So why had we not adopted (or adapted) blogging as the platform for publishing papers in science, with specific knowledge as the subject of blogging? I can think of 2 reasons. One, we were literal-minded: "Blogging is for bloggers, not scientists." Two, blogging was hijacked by programmers who made it difficult or forbidding for all beginners to use. I remember in those early years I had to hand-code commands, something like typing an .i  before and an .i after a word, to be interpreted by the app as "set this word in italics." If I wanted to italicize 10 separate words, I had to type 20 .i separately. I wanted to blog, I had to follow the rules.

Today, I simply format my article in Word 2013, select all (Ctrl+A), copy (Ctrl+C), migrate to Windows Live Writer 2012, paste (Ctrl+V), make sure the target location is the name of the correct blog (I have many blogs), click Publish – I'm done! It is published in my blog exactly like it looks on my Word 2013 window. (Like this one.)

Now easy as ABC, blogging can assume its historically aborted role as the easy access public platform for scientific reporting: Publishing for science, publishing for people.

At 76 years of age, I find blogging is easy now that I have discovered how to short-circuit and/or get around all those rigmaroles and razzmatazz that programmers have made integral parts of the blogging platform. You don't want to know them. You just want to know, for instance, how I make my text bold in an instant, or italicized with only one click of the mouse. Or how I make 2 columns on a page and have the texts aligned perfectly and automatically using only Word 2013.

Yes, publishing your journal by blogging is easy – This alumnus can show you in a free 4-hour demo, your place not mine.

Here now is my ultimate challenge to my alma mater:

UP, pick up your mouse and publish!
Workers of sciences, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

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