SELF-PUBLICATION AND THE ‘NO CUENTA’ MANTRA

Since I managed to open my website –despite the little technical help we get and the odd quirks of the DRUPAL programme– I’ve been wondering about its possibilities for self-publication. My institution insists that self-published work should go to its digital depository, yet where the actual file is placed is ultimately quite irrelevant. What matters is that I finally have the instrument to self-publish (I’m not sure this can be used as a verb…).

I have already set up a space for self-publication in the web, so far empty, though not for long. I’ve taken out of my digital drawer about a dozen documents that were there doing nothing except occupy space in my computer. What are these documents? Essentially unpublished academic stuff: conference papers presented at events generating no subsequent publication, rejected articles (ouch!), pieces accepted for publication in projects that never materialised. Why not simply update them and try publishing them in academic journals, books, etc? Because I know from experience that revising an article, given the enormous amount of bibliography published every year, is often more taxing than writing a new one. Also, because, typically, an article written for a specific conference, journal, or book will not easily fit a different kind of publication. Or just plain laziness (not really…).

I have now finished the process of editing with a certain homogeneity these dozen pieces and it’s been a very strange trip down memory lane, as some of these articles go back to the late 1990s. It’s been funny. I have gone again through the frustration of the rejection of some of the pieces, sometimes for reasons I totally disagree with, sometimes with good reasons. Also, although I fancy that one grows intellectually as time passes, I realise that the same bees have been in residence in my bonnet for quite a long time, albeit the amount of theoretical background I now surround them with is much larger. As requested today, since we seem to have got a collective high fever for massive numbers of quotations in each piece.

Why publish these documents? The answer is: why not? They’re neither better nor worse than most of my legitimately published academic work and if someone finds in them an idea worth considering, then I’ll be satisfied. They may simply gather digital (or virtual) dust, as one of my student says, but, then, I’m afraid that so do most of our publications anyway. It hurts really nobody to have the stuff online. Only perhaps my own reputation (if I have one).

By the way, most of these articles, not to say all, are peer reviewed, even though some may have been negatively so. My publishing them online is not, mind you, a little revenge against my less sympathetic reviewers. It cannot be, since –I know what you, my academic colleague, are thinking– self-publication does not count for official research assessment. Not even if I found five colleagues who would put their signature to my articles as peer-reviewed would they count since, as we all know, only work published in certain periodical publications and collective volumes really ‘counts.’ Ah, the famous ‘no cuenta’ mantra.

Now, to my surprise, this blog counts as a legitimate instrument for ‘knowledge transfer’ for the corresponding assessment which my Department passes regularly (these are the activities in which we academics take part to publicise what we do but which are not academic –in Spanish it used to be known as ‘divulgación’). Well, I’m happy to contribute to the Department’s kudos but also a bit annoyed at the arbitrary criteria by which some things count and others do not and for what.

Some other day I’ll tell you the story of why among the documents I’ll soon upload you can also find my book Monstruos al final del milenio (which I’ll be giving away for free) but not any of the others I have published so far.

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2 thoughts on “SELF-PUBLICATION AND THE ‘NO CUENTA’ MANTRA

  1. Sara, I’m very happy you are deciding to upload your documents to the internet. Actually the publishing world is quite strange, perhaps especially so in the case of academic publishing, but in any case, I am sure I am not the only one who is utterly thankful when researchers decide to share their articles with the rest of the world… I could tell you horror stories of well-established researchers who almost insulted me when I approached them asking for a specific article that I physically cannot access.

    And by the way, Monstruos al final del milenio is a book that I bought, if I’m not wrong, even before beginning my first degree and getting to know you, and I never asked you to sign it for me out of embarassment…

  2. Sara: really? I don’t understand how can put off anyone interested in the research we publish. I’m actually quite annoyed that I cannot share ALL I have published as I must respect the rights of the publishing houses over my own copyright – and that’s the truth. So, I’m sharing all I can, always with permission…
    I’ve signed a few ‘Monstruos’ over the years and I always feel horribly embarrassed… 🙂

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