Higher education, impact, and the Internet: Publishing, politics, and performativity

Peter Roberts

Abstract


This paper considers how and why scholarly publishing has changed over the last two decades. It discusses the role of the Internet in overcoming earlier barriers to the rapid circulation of ideas and in opening up new forms of academic communication. While we live in a world increasingly dominated by images, the written word remains vital to academic life, and more published scholarly material is being produced than ever before. The paper argues that the Internet provides only part of the explanation for this growth in the volume of written material; another key contributing factor is the use of performance-based research funding schemes in assessing scholarly work. Such schemes can exert a powerful influence over researchers, changing their views of themselves and the reasons for undertaking their activities. With their tendency to encourage the relentless, machine-like production and measurement of outputs, they can be dehumanizing. Of even greater concern, however, is the possibility of systems based entirely on metrics, ‘impact’, and revenue generation. The paper critiques these trends, makes a case for the continuing value of peer review, and comments briefly on the subversive potential of the Internet in resisting the dehumanization of scholarly work.


Keywords


higher education; impact; Internet; scholarly publishing; performativity; politics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i5.9474



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