Academic publishing describes a system of publishing that is necessary in order for academic scholars to review work and make it available for a wider audience. The "system," which is probably disorganized enough not to merit the title, varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form.
Most established academic fields have their own journals and other outlets for publication, though many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. The kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions of knowledge or research vary greatly between fields. In the publishing trade, this field of publishing is generally referred to as scientific, technical and medical publishing, "STM publishing".
Main article: Peer review
Peer review is a central concept for most academic publishing; other scholars in a field must find a work sufficiently high in quality for it to merit publication. The process also guards against plagiarism. Failures in peer review, while they are probably common, are sometimes scandalous (the Sokal Affair is arguably one example, though this controversy also involved many other issues).
Publishing in the sciences
Main article: Scientific literature
Alternative forms of publication in the sciences include Tech Notes, for minor research results and engineering and design work (including computer software), and books for large projects, broad arguments, or compilations of articles.
Publishing in the social sciences is very different in different fields. Some fields, like economics, may have very "hard" or highly quantitative standards for publication, much like the natural sciences. Others, like anthropology or sociology, emphasize field work and reporting on first-hand observation as well as quantitative work. Some social-science fields, such as public health or demographics, have significant shared interests with professions like law and medicine, and scholars in these fields often also publish in professional journals.
Publishing in the humanities
Publishing in the humanities is in principle similar to publishing elsewhere in the academy; a range of journals, from general to extremely specialized, are available, and university presses print many new humanities books every year.
However, scholarly publishing requirements in the humanities (as well as some social sciences) are currently a subject of significant controversy within the academy. In many fields, such as literature and history, several published articles are typically required for a first tenure-track job, and a published or forthcoming book is now often required before tenure. Some critics complain that this de facto system has emerged without thought to its consequences; they claim that the predictable result is the publication of much shoddy work, as well as unreasonable demands on the already limited research time of young scholars. To make matters worse, the circulation of many humanities journals in the 1990s declined to almost untenable levels, as many libraries cancelled subscriptions, leaving fewer and fewer peer-reviewed outlets for publication; and many humanities professors' first books sell only a few hundred copies, which often does not pay for the cost of their printing. Some scholars have called for a publication subvention of a few thousand dollars to be associated with each graduate student fellowship or new tenure-track hire, in order to alleviate the financial pressure on journals.
- William Germano. Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious About Serious Books. ISBN 0-226-28844-7.
- John A. Goldsmith et al. "Teaching and Research" in The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career. ISBN 0-226-30151-6.
- Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt. "Scholarly Books" and "Peer Review" in Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education. ISBN 0-415-92203-8.