And finally from the Editor….

The dramatic growth in scientific publishing during 2020 has lead to a number of discussions about open access publishing and open access to research services. A recent paper in Science provides a good introduction to the topic of open access if you are not entirely familiar with it. In my view there is a barrier to publication that is not discussed at all, and that is the requirement to submit a manuscript in a standard format for eventual publication in the proceedings of the conference or in a research journal.  The guidance provided by Springer (just as an example) runs to 10 pages and there is a strong (though not compulsory) requirement to use LaTeX2e, the handbook [download] for which is 30 pages long.

If you are in academic research then I have no doubt you become familiar with this format early in your career but for a practitioner (i.e. search, rather than IIR) I sense it may be a major barrier to contributing a paper that presents practitioner issues and solutions in a less formal (and certainly less detailed) manner than a research paper. Last August I presented a paper at a Microsoft conference on the New Future of Work because all they wanted was basically a tidy paper and in particular did not care if it was single column or double column.

When it comes to citations then there are at least four frameworks, APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, and the IEEE style. Whether the ACM style (predominant in the IR sector) is the same or different is beyond my comprehension. What I do know is that ACM Communications does not use the ACM style, and when I raised that with the Editor-in-Chief I did not get a reply. Microsoft did ask for Chicago if possible.

I then decided to write a paper for Business Information Review which took a different slant on my Microsoft contribution but Sage, the publishers of BIR, have their own style!  It took me most of a morning to convert 40 of the 60 references in the Microsoft paper into Sage speak. I can absolutely understand the requirements for non-ambiguous citations but again for a practitioner it is a substantial amount of work that needs a significant amount of experience and an acute eye for detail.

I constantly hear conference organisers and journal editors bemoan the lack of papers from practitioners. Perhaps we need a Practitioner Format, along the lines of a Short Communication, which has a far less pedantic view on structure, format and citation style?

Martin White

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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