From the perspective of OpenAccess and OpenScience it is remarkable that the society is divided. On one hand we have highly productive professors who are writing so called papers, which are published on Arxiv, in academic journals and as books, and on the other hand we have the normal population who has never published anything and won’t do in 100 years. Why is the gap between the academic industrial complex and the normal population so big, and what is the role of traditional universities in such a game?
Often the phenomena is explained with high entry barrier until a paper is published. For example, APC charges and quality control of incoming documents. So the better alternative would be to lowering the barriers. But is this really the problem? Let us not focus on academic publishing itself, but a small prestep to it: writing a blog.
A blog has much in common with an academic paper which is published in a journal, except that it works faster. No APC charges are needed, no quality control by the journal editor is done, and it isn’t even necessary to write about a scientific subject. In theory it is possible to write a blogpost about the meal in the cafeteria at the campus.
Let us take a look at the raw numbers. Around 2 billion people worldwide are using Facebook, 5 million blogposts were uploaded every day and the average blogger writes 1 blogpost per day. What does that mean? It means, that 99,75% of the population never writes a blogpost. Apart that blogging costs nothing and no formal infrastructure is needed, it is an elite activity which is done only by a minority. I would guess, that in the population of students, the number of bloggers is not higher than in normal population, so that only 0,25% of the students have their own blog.
That is remarkable few, because the general impression is, that students are intellectual motivated, and blogging seems normal. How can it be true, that students attending a university, writing exam papers, and get a degree but are not able or not motivated to write a simple blog which costs nothing and has lower standards, than a journal article? The answer is simple: studying is different, from what it looks like.
The activities of normal students has nothing in commons with education. Instead, the university life is more like a Facebook party, that means, reading books and writing articles is not necessary to get a degree. It seems surprisingly from the outside perspective, but most students are getting through their exam without ever visit the library or writing a paper. They get their credit points for something else: mostly for attending courses and socialize with other students. The reason, why the ordinary students doesn’t blog and doesn’t write a science-paper is because, he can’t. He has it never learned, and the qualification is not needed at the campus.
The only people who are regularly blog writers and who a publishing books are professors. This group is smaller than 0,1% of all students at a university. And here we have the dedicated problem: Campus life is divided in two parts. We have normal students on the one hand, which are consisting of 99% of the people, and we have Academia on the other hand with only 1% of the people. Both communities have nothing in common. They are living on the same campus, attending the same classes but their thinking is different.
Let me a bit more explicit. It is not possible to explain somebody how to write a science-paper, who has never written a blog before. If somebody is not able to create his own fashion, food or movie blog, he will fail in creating a formal paper which can be submitted elsewhere. The problem in Openscience is not, that PeerJ has an APC charge about 1000 US$ per paper, or that Nature is doing a strict quality control for every manuscript, the problem is, that most students are not able to write a blog-post.
But if they don’t write blogs, why are they are using the internet, how they are communicating with friends? The answer has something to do with 1:1 communication. If a student says he is using the internet because he is a nerd, that means only that he writes a letter to a friend, or that he make a videocall to a friend. He is logging into his E-Mail account or his Facebook account and selecting the opponent from the contact list. Some students have a long contact list, which consists of 100 or more entries. But in every case it is a 1:1 communication inside the social network.
But makes it sense to separate between an E-Mail and a blogpost? On a technical level, both textcategories consisting of 4 paragraphs, written in English and submitted over the Internet. From a media-standpoint it makes a huge difference. E-Mail is a 1:1 communication, while blogs are 1:many communication.
1:1 communication is, what most students are doing. According to the above mentioned numbers 99,75% of all students are doing that. But a 1:many communication in form of Blogs, papers and so forth is only done by 0,25% of the world-population.