The past few years have seen a massive proliferation of scholarly journals. The number of ‘‘management’’ journals indexed by the Web of Knowledge has tripled in the past dozen years, and new non-standard journals seem to emerge daily, providing readers with a continuously expanding inventory of new articles. Authors face a kaleidoscopic array of publication outlets, including traditional journals, research annuals, and online-only journals. Some formats take advantage of the Web to communicate scientific findings in new ways and with great speed, creating new possibilities for dialogue among scholars. In principle, new methods of distribution could greatly accelerate the advance of social science beyond what is possible with traditional journals published at traditional intervals.
In this essay, I argue that the core technology of journals is not their distribution but their review process. The organization of the review process reflects assumptions about what a contribution is and how it should be evaluated. Different review processes thereby create incentives for different kinds of work. Yet the shape of this incentive system and the kinds of work it promotes receive little discussion, beyond clichés about ‘‘publish or perish.’’ It’s time for a broader dialogue about how we connect the aims of the social science enterprise to the incentive systems embodied in our system of journals. This essay aims to open that dialogue.