Blog



David C. Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

Homage to Founding Editor Gene V Glass

The social sciences, in general, and educational research in particular, owe a debt of gratitude to Regents’ Professor Emeritus Gene V. Glass of Arizona Sate University. This is a debt beyond that which we owe him for his many methodological and substantive contributions, for which he is justly well respected. The debt I refer to is for starting, nurturing, promoting, and finally bringing to eminence an open source educational policy journal.

As computer usage, email, and the world wide web became widespread, Gene saw the potential of a most unusual idea. He believed that scholars ought to have their scholarship quickly reviewed by peers, then quickly have their ideas and findings published, and all without some scholarly organization or private press making money from the sale of the knowledge offered.  Educational Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA) was his way to challenge the scholarly models that had been in practice for over a century. His ideas have now spread beyond EPAA, where he demonstrated for education and other scholarly fields how to build a successful open source journal.

As I remember it Gene formalized EPAA in 1993 after running a list-serve for a number of years to facilitate scholarly communication (although sometimes there were some very non-scholarly and biting commentaries on the list, as well). The list-serve allowed a select group of folks interested in evaluation and policy to exchange ideas, papers, and critiques, while providing support for quality research and each other. Gene became the central node in the communication channels, the hub of communications: sending, receiving, and forwarding all the information on the list-serve. Although enormously time-consuming, I think Gene really liked to be in that central position, a position he maintained as the list-serve morphed into EPAA.

I had presented a paper in 1992 on the lies being told by critics of public schools. It was not written for a journal, but was quite popular and passed around the country via Xerox copies. Gene thought it deserved more visibility and that it even might be publishable in the new journal he was founding. After a rapid review I published Educational Reform in an Era of Disinformation in Volume 1 of EPAA, the second paper published in what we referred to then as “Gene’s journal.” Because it was open source, my article was downloaded thousands of times. It made my ideas known, literally, worldwide. The article received considerable feedback, not all positive, but all of which made for more immediate dialogue than was ever possible in the regular journals. The paper journals required months to publish articles and months more to get responses from its readers, and still more months for printing the responses of readers and those of the authors. What took years, suddenly took months. My experience with EPAA ultimately led me to extend my paper/article into the best selling and award-winning book I did with Bruce J. Biddle, The Manufactured Crisis.

So Gene’s editorial policies greatly influenced my career, the field of educational policy and the industry associated with scholarly publication. For the first of these effects I am personally very grateful. For the other two, I join with colleagues throughout the world in thanking Gene for his hard work and dedication.

Gary Natriello, Teachers College, Columbia University

An Anniversary Salute to Risk-Takers

On this the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Education Policy Analysis Archives I am reminded of nothing so much as the greeting my then mother-in-law to-be offered many years ago upon “welcoming” me to the family: “let’s see how long this lasts.”  Much the same was often heard in the early days of EPAA from a variety of observers.  Such early doubters were the first clear signal that something innovative might be afoot.

To appreciate the scope of the innovation that became EPAA it is necessary to consider the time of its founding. It is getting difficult to recall just how unusual Gene Glass’s efforts in creating an electronic publication available at no cost were in the early nineties.  There were no open access journals in education at that time; there were no online journals; and many researchers in education were still getting accustomed to email.

When word spread that Gene was receiving papers, having them reviewed, and then making them available, all via email, eyebrows were raised more than usual, and questions were thrown in all directions.  A short tour of the questions raised over the years provides an interesting history of the journal.

Early questions reflected true puzzlement.  How was Gene getting people to submit papers? How could he possibly convince others to review them?  How was he getting reviews done so quickly? How did he get papers out so fast?  Was this really publishing?  What would happen when Gene got tired of doing all of this?

A bit later the questions changed.  How many papers were published in EPAA in a given year?  Who was submitting? How did Gene find enough reviewers?  Did he really ask a dozen people to review each paper?  What happened to the papers from earlier years?  Would they still be available? And what would happen when Gene got tired of doing all of this?

More recently the questions have matured as times have changed and EPAA has endured and grown.  How many people are reading papers in EPAA?  Would it always remain open access?  How did Gene expand the team of editors?  How did the journal become multi-lingual?  Did he really start another open access journal?  And how is everything running now that Gene has stepped away from leading the effort?

Well, the questions seem to have matured along with the journal.  The early doubts have been replaced with appreciation and respect as the journal and the larger publishing effort has achieved remarkable growth and, perhaps even more important, a track record of continuity and stability.  But on this anniversary we would do well to remember that Gene and all of the editorial board members, reviewers, and authors who participated in the early years of EPAA took a risk that something totally new would be worth their time and commitment.  Time has proven these risk-takers right.  And, oh yes, after twenty years, even my mother-in-law stopped saying “let’s see how long this lasts.”

Leave a Reply