The Trucker Tale

I love to create stories to teach otherwise difficult to understand concepts. The Polo Parable has proven to be an effective way to help people see the madness involved in trying to “move” classroom teaching practices online and help them understand that different contexts call for different strategies. In the spirit of the Polo Parable, here is the “Trucker Tale.”

Once upon a time there was an inventor. She was brilliant. All through the night and all during the day she dreamed, she schemed, she thought, she imagined. Then one day she had a “Eureka!” moment. She sketched out the design of her breakthrough product, and worked and reworked the design by showing it to friends and getting their feedback.

When she was satisfied that the design was ready to take to production, she began contacting venture capital organizations and banks. It was a long, painful process, but finally she acquired the funding she needed to put her ideas to work.


Money in hand she began searching for employees – production specialists, designers, marketing experts, and others. Finding the right people for the enterprise was almost as difficult as finding the money to start the enterprise, but at last she succeeded in finding and hiring the right people for the job.

They all set to work. It was alternately glorious and tedious, fulfilling and demoralizing. There were false starts and breakthroughs; there was tension and laughter; there were tears of frustration and tears of joy. They persevered through it all, and at length the day arrived when they had a product ready to ship!

Relieved, the inventor began contacting shipping companies. But she could not believe what she heard. The truckers would deliver her goods, but only subject to the most unbelievable conditions:

  • the inventor had to agree to ship her product via the one trucking company exclusively,
  • this exclusive shipping deal had to be a perpetual deal, never subject to review or cancelation, and
  • the truckers would be the ones who would sell her product to the public and the truckers would keep all the profits.

Every shipping company she contacted gave the same response. Dejected, but unwilling to see the fruits of all her labor go to waste, she eventually relented and signed a contract with one of the companies.

This is, of course, actually a story about a researcher and her interactions with the journal publishing industry. Why do more faculty not see that, as researchers, we come up with ideas for research, find grant funding for the research, identify and hire graduate students and other professionals to perform the research with us, carry out the research, write up the results of the research in a clear and concise manner, and then are forced to surrender all our rights in the written results of our research to a publisher who sells them for his own profit? Unfortunately, this lunacy is the water in which all academic fish swim, making it difficult to recognize. The purpose of the Trucker Tale is to help people see the insanity in academic publishing.