Letters and articles

Letters and articles

Ordinarily waking very early, 4 am in the summer, 5 am in the winter, some pleasant routines have evolved for enjoying having the world in this area more or less to myself. I take myself to the front door, open it and smell the air; what sort of a day, weather-wise, is it going to be? Then a large cup of coffee while I look at email, read the BBC News app, and generally potter. Nothing is particularly mindful, it’s all low key and just looking at this and that, and it often involves looking up this or that and seeing what the plenitude of the web has to offer on it. This morning I started wondering why it is that the many people who are interested in letters don’t do more with this than simply investigate whatever particular kind of letters, or theories about letters, we are most interested in.

Then remembering that friends and colleagues in medicine, mathematics, chemistry and other areas have been publishing in the format of letters and in a completely open access context, Some of these journals were accessed. In searching them, up came a journal I hadn’t seen before, called Organic Letters. Being taken with the title, further investigation followed.

This is an organic chemistry journal with a high citation rate and is a leading publisher in the field. Its mission is rapid publication, in the form of brief reports on current hotspot topics, and it specialises in ‘cutting-edge research, creative approaches, and innovative ideas’. It is one among a large number of other science journals that are completely open access, and that means 100% available without charge. And when it says rapid, it means it, because it publishes in a web-only form, and none of this nine or twelve or even more weeks turnaround that social science journals go in for.

Why is it that people in the arts and humanities and social sciences are so behind the times? If the sciences are, as they are reputedly are, highly positivist and bent on very conventional ideas about science, then how come they beat hands down all the rest of us in being innovative in developing rapid publication outlets and are not controlled by publishers determined on making large profits? And on this, surely letters and electronic-only publishing are the way to go. Indeed letters were the origin of the journal article that has become the gold standard in so much of academia, so there would be a fine irony in this.

Last updated: 6 November 2020