This chapter is an overview of the current state of scholarly journals, not (just) as an activity to be described in terms of its changing business processes but more fundamentally as the pivot point in a broader knowledge system that is itself in a process of transformation. After locating journals in what we characterize as a process of knowledge design, the chapter goes on to discuss some of the deeply disruptive aspects of the contemporary moment. These not only portend potential transformations in the form of the journal, but possibly also in the knowledge systems that the journal in its heritage form has supported. These disruptive forces are represented by changing technological, economic, distributional, geographic, interdisciplinary and social relations to knowledge.The chapter goes on to examine three specific breaking points. The first breaking point is in business models - the unsustainable costs and inefficiencies of traditional commercial publishing, the rise of open access and the challenge of developing sustainable publishing models. The second potential breaking point is the credibility of the peer-review system: its accountability, its textual practices, the validity of its measures and its exclusionary network effects. The third breaking point is post-publication evaluation, centred primarily on citation analysis as a proxy for impact. We argue that the prevailing system of impact analysis is deeply flawed. Its validity as a measure of knowledge is questionable, as is the reliability of the data used as evidence.The chapter ends with suggestions intended to contribute to discussion about the transformation of the academic journal and the creation of new knowledge systems: sustainable publishing models, frameworks for guardianship of intellectual property, criterion-referenced peer review, greater reflexivity in the review process, incremental knowledge refinement, more widely distributed sites of knowledge production and inclusive knowledge cultures, new types of scholarly text, and more reliable impact metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Future of the Academic Journal
EditorsBill Cope, Angus Phillips
PublisherChandos Publishing
Number of pages75
ISBN (Electronic)9781780634647
ISBN (Print)9781843347835
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Academic journals
  • Citation analyses
  • Impact factor
  • Impact metrics
  • Journal publishing business models
  • Knowledge ecologies
  • Knowledge evaluation
  • Open access publishing
  • Peer review
  • Publishing technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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