Cancel ResearchGate

DARIAH’s Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, urging scholars to shun the VC-backed for-profit sites Academia.edu and ResearchGate:

What we need to realize is that ‘the “everybody” factor’ (as Kathleen Fitzpatrick calls it) that makes ResearchGate and Academia.edu success stories is in fact our own presence. Going against such community practices both one by one and collectively to give rise to and flourish other, more sustainable author-sharing mechanisms is extremely challenging and takes a great deal of courage. But only this will enable us to move away from platforms that do not do any good for fair sharing of our scholarship and replace them to publicly maintained environments/the population of the development of collectively maintained public services, where scholarly communities have a say in which roads should be paved.

There’s an excellent chart and list of alternatives.

‘How the Coronavirus Crisis Makes the Best Case Yet for Free College Tuition’

Claire Potter, in a Times op-ed on rethinking U.S. higher ed for the post-pandemic era:

So what must change? To start, public colleges and universities should be truly public and tuition-free; private ones, a crucial and longstanding resource, should be discounted by the cost of a public education. Federal loans should be generous, interest-free and forgivable, perhaps in exchange for national service. To paraphrase my late friend, the historian Jesse Lemisch, we need a federal New Deal for higher education, supported by tax dollars, that breaks the stranglehold tuition has on American families.

Potter, like Simon Torracinta and Corey Robin, has the crucial point that our current system is anything but natural—the result, instead, of a series of regressive choices over the last fifty years, reversible given the political will.

‘Extinction Event’

Simon Torracinta, writing for n+1 on the impending carnage in U.S. higher ed:

The tsunami wave of the pandemic—genuine threats to the life of staff and students, skittish financial markets, massive revenue shortfall—is bearing down on a rickety edifice. […] Under the cover of the crisis, university administrators will finally undertake the massive restructuring they have dreamed of for years.

The Torracinta piece is the best-informed (and best-written) prognosis of our post-pandemic future thus far. He goes into the weeds, for example, on debt, ratings agencies, and the campus building boom—part of a broader “financialization” of higher ed. And he’s keenly aware that the shock waves will worsen the U.S. system’s already savage inequalities:

The true believers in creative destruction will revel in the carnage that is to come: this is a necessary shakeout in a bloated industry, they will say. But there is no evidence to suggest that a better outcome for anyone will follow from the incalculable damage to hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, and staff, and to the communities that rely on local campuses as economic anchors. The most likely outcome will be further stratification of an already radically unequal landscape.

Like Corey Robin (in the second-best essay to appear on this topic), Torracinta writes that the system’s stratified precariousness is the product of choices we’ve made—bad ones—over the decades. Another system, they both say, is possible.

‘College at a Crossroads: Closures and Mergers’

A chilling, backstage read from Trusteeship, a magazine for university and college trustees:

Sometimes even when an institution is not in financial distress, its long-term prospects for survival are so unpromising that a dignified closure is the best option.

The piece went to press before the full COVID fallout was clear, but it’s getting read by trustees—mostly drawn from the world of business— now charting our post-pandemic future.

Price-Gouging by Frontiers

Heather Morrison, on the for-profit OA publishing group Frontiersmid-crisis price hikes:

A third of the journals published by Frontiers in 2019 and 2020 (20 / 61 journals) have increased in price by 18% or more (up to 55%). This is quite a contrast with the .4% Swiss inflation rate for 2019 according to Worlddata.info ; 18% is 45 times the inflation rate. This is an even more marked contrast with the current and anticipated economic impact of COVID; according to Le News, “A team of economic experts working for the Swiss government forecasts a 6.7% fall in GDP”. (Frontiers’ headquarters is in Switzerland).

Frontiers is controlled by SpringerNature’s parent company.

‘Building Resilient Learned Societies in an Age of Pandemic and Fear’

Trevor Parry-Giles, in a Scholarly Kitchen guest post on learned societies in the age of coronavirus:

For the new normalcy to be truly adaptive and transformative, learned societies must be flexible even as we conserve. The learned society must be self-reflective in its determination of the new normal — making long-term, programmatic decisions in the midst of a medium or short-term crisis is arguably not the wisest plan of action. Crafting a new normalcy must be deliberate, careful, and prudent.

Parry-Giles is executive director of the National Communication Association (NCA)—one of the big associations in my home discipline, communication.

It’s nice to see Parry-Giles call for the conversation, but I was surprised that the post makes no mention of journals or open access.

Like many scholarly societies, NCA has a stable of paywalled journals outsourced to one of the commercial oligopolists—complete with a 18-month preprint embargo.

A transition to OA should be a central aim of any new normal for professional societies.


Jeff Pooley is professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College and director of mediastudies.press, an open access scholarly publisher.

pooley@muhlenberg.edu | press@mediastudies.press

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