Why do scientists submit their papers to journals instead of publishing them online, which would be both cheaper and allow everyone to access the paper? The answer is here, in an interesting piece at The Economist’s Free Exchange Blog. According to the author, journals are not read but journal publications are a proxy for quality and facilitate making decisions about tenure.
I agree. What journals effectively do is to establish a quality standard. In peer review the aim is to establish a high quality journal by accepting good and rejecting bad papers. The high quality of science is beneficial for everyone since a scientist’s finding serves as an input for another scientist’s paper or eventually translates into a new product sold on the market. In effect, quality of research is a public good. The question is: who should pay for its provision? Taxpayers, readers of the journals, universities, or the authors of the papers themselves?