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Blog: How We Used To Publish

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You find me up to my NECK in Academical Activities this week, although this is at least an improvement over the past few months when I have been up to my very EYEBALLS in it. It's almost as if all academics set the same DEADLINES i.e. a week or two before they finish teaching for the year.

In order to avoid DEADLINE DOOM I have been following a radical and revolutionary plan i.e. I started doing things EARLY so I'd have plenty of time to get them done in. This has been GRATE in that it means I've been able to get a whole load of things sent off without MASS PANIC and ALL-NIGHTERS, but also a bit fatiguing in that it feels like there is a never ending procession of STUFF to write. Still, I am now down to one (1) grant bid, one (1) article to re-write and one (1) book to proof read before Christmas. NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!

The aforesaid article is my first one in an PRINT journal for about twenty years, and it has made me think about how very far it has all come since those days of glory spent co-writing (NB usually spellchecking) STATS articles at the University of Leicester. These days if you want to read an article or a book or whatnot it is DEAD EASY, especially if you WORK at a University because you can just go into your library systems and order something or indeed just GET it online. For example, the re-writes for this particular article involve getting references from another book and article, and so on Monday I went downstairs from my desk (NB in the office, sadly there is not a library in my building - WHICH IS WRONG), wandered along a book shelf and GOT the book, then went online and DOWNLOADED the article. It was peasy!

Things were VERY different back in the previous century, when access to articles was a PRIZED TREAT. I vividly remember my first proper job as Administrative Assistant in Psychiatry for the Elderly at Leicester General Hospital, where one of my Daily Duties was to open deliveries of new journals and stack them on the massive bookshelf in the entrance hall. We used to get LOADS of journals, including one that always had HIDEOUS and GRAPHIC images of some awful GENITAL INFECTION on the cover, but mainly standard ones like the BMJ. The shelf was handily and deliberately placed opposite the entrance to the LOO so people were forever wandering over to get something to READ whilst on the lav. My desk faced the shelf so I would look JUDGEMENTAL at those who chose THE ANNALS OF GENITAL INFECTION.

Then as now, research departments in medicine wrote a LOT of papers with a LOT of authors on them. If you could get one or more Famous Professors to be a co-author it would help get you published in a fancy journal, so my aforesaid boss was involved in LOADS. That meant that having access to previous research was important, but sometimes it was really hard to get hold of. We didn't have the interweb AT ALL back then - when I started we were still using black and white monitors! - so the only way to GET stuff was to write a LETTER to the person who wrote it, asking for a copy!

I was thinking about that all of a sudden the other night because my brain went "HEY! If I have an article in a print journal maybe they'll send me FIVE COPIES of the article!" I can't remember what these were called, but it was a whole THING when the journal used to send the lead author five (i think it was five anyway) copies of their article as a special little leaflet so that they could send it to people who asked. It was my job to reply to these article requests, enclosed the paper with a pre-printed University of Leicester compliment slip, and also to monitor how many we had left - POPULAR ones would run out really quickly and I'd need to make a trip down the corridor to the photocopier under the stairs to do some more.

It's weird that all of those memories should suddenly come dashing back, but CRUMBS it doesn't half make me appreciate how much EASIER all of this sort of thing is nowadays. If I'd had to write off for every article I needed for my PhD I would have been RUINED by the cost of stamps!

posted 28/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett

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You will be very lucky to get free copies from any publisher these days…
posted 29/11/2023 by Merman

Dr Kneel has informed me that the papers you got were called "Offprints". That was it!
posted 30/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett

I had an actual LIBRARIAN I could go to during my masters project, who would organise getting copies of the research papers. She was French and charming. My PhD was heavily influenced by What Was Available Online, which no doubt skewed its focus and content immensely. But kids these days -- you're lucky if they've read or cited anything before 2010.
posted 30/11/2023 by ah, memories

the blog link should be at the top of the homepage, because it has NEW FRESH CONTENT. Fresh at top, mountain of stale underneath! That's how we do the inverted pyramid of piffle on a webpage!
posted 3/12/2023 by the bastard child of Jakob Nielsen and Jeffrey Zeldman.

there's actually a 'Blog' link in the subheading just under the M of MJ? at... the top of the page?
posted 8/12/2023 by Is it easy to miss?

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