I am reminded of a puzzle I used to put to students in a graduate level marketing class. Every year people like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy each pay a large chunk of money to go to a conference where the keynote speaker is Esther Dyson. These are the CEOs of major corporations; they are not paying for information of which they have plenty and the resources to rapidly acquire more. What, then, are they paying for?
The answer to the puzzle is “insight,” with a pointer to a maxim for the networked world: “Information is cheap; insight is scarce.”
I could be wrong, but my sense of what most peer-reviewed academic journals are about is branding information. If it makes it into a journal, the information in question is deemed worthy to appear in the literature reviews of people doing research on similar topics. But what if, as the maxim noted above suggests, meeting standards for academic credibility is no longer enough? Demanding a “Wow!” factor for production of normal science/scholarship may be too much; but for readers looking for guidance on what has to be read, even if you’re not a specialist in the area under discussion, what else is there?