‘The datafication in transformative agreements for open access publishing’

Samuel Moore, in a post on the researcher data clauses increasingly tied into transformative agreements:

The datafication embedded within transformative agreements is worrying not just because of the increased surveillance it will entail, it also illustrates more general misdirection of the transition to open access and the potential danger of universities to use researcher data as part of negotiations. Open access was initially premised on the idea that publishers are extracting from the free labour of academics and privatising the gains through closed-access publications. But through transformative agreements, publishers are still parasitic on this labour in addition to their new strategies of extractivism.

‘How to Stop the Cuts’

A sharp and unflinching call from Sara Matthiesen for faculty to not just analyze and critique, but organize against higher-ed’s never-let-a-crisis-go-to-wasters:

As the labor negotiator, strategist, and scholar Jane McAlevey has explained, the ability to create a crisis for their employer is what gives workers the power to improve their conditions. While the strike is McAlevey’s preferred example, we have seen from our own administration that there are a variety of ways one can induce crisis. If professors are going to keep administrators from capitalizing on this crisis, we need to turn the tables and become skilled, savvy, relentless organizers hell-bent on making crises work for us, in service of and in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our ranks. We have the evidence. Now we need the courage to act.

The piece is worth reading alongside Adam Kotsko’s complementary plea from May.

The SHAPE Disciplines

From this morning’s wince-inducing LSE Impact post:

Social sciences research is not only important for the development of effective policies, but it is equally crucial in terms of the direct contribution it can make to the private sector in stimulating growth and improving productivity, as well as in achieving the goal of a wider prosperity scorecard. 

It’s an index of the unblushing norm-erosion (in the UK more than anywhere, possibly) that the counterpoint to commercialism is policy advice—that there’s no felt need to pay even lip-service to advancing knowledge for its own or critique’s sake.

The piece includes an embarrassing acronym proposal—one that apparently designates an existing coalition:

An aim of this initiative is that these disciplines become known as the ‘SHAPE’ subjects – ‘Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy’.

‘Higher education has much to learn from the world of work’

Dangerous gibberish from an Inside Higher Ed commentary, on never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste grounds:

Before, [colleges and universities] represented only a relatively small cohort that recognized the importance — and potential — of providing flexible learning pathways that can help their students acquire the skills they need to find a good job in a turbulent economy. That cohort will only grow as higher education and employers begin to navigate a landscape that has been dramatically altered by COVID-19 — and as more colleges and universities realize they have much to learn from the world of work.

The piece‘s author, Maria Flynn, is president and CEO of JFF. JFF describes itself as “a national nonprofit that drives change in the American workforce and education systems to achieve economic advancement for all.” Its core values? “Mission-Driven,” “Bold,” Transformative,” “Rigorous,” and “Passionate.”

Among its “partners” are Google and Walmart, a fact that goes unmentioneded in the IHE tagline.

This feels a lot like astroturf.

‘University Presses in the Age of COVID-19’

Some mid-COVID changes at university presses, as collected by Ithaka S+R in its latest press directors’ summary:

A move away from print wherever possible, including converting to online submission and contract systems; electronic proofs, review and exam copies; and eliminating the print catalog. 

A pivot to virtual exhibits and disciplinary conferences.   Putting more books into print on demand (POD). One director claimed they moved 2,000 already digitized books into POD in 12 days by remapping their supply chain and changing all of their workflows. Another said they were eliminating all short run printing and going straight to POD.  

The press directors are reporting, unsurprisingly, savage revenue hits:

According to their latest projections for the 2020 close this month, most are expecting to miss budgeted revenue by 5-15 percent, mostly due to poor fourth quarter print sales during the pandemic lockdown.

And they expect worse for FY 2021:

Projections of 20-40 percent decreases in revenue are the norm for the presses we spoke with. All presses expect cuts to library collection budgets and drastic cuts to library book budgets, especially print.

‘Why Rich College Students Are Getting More Financial Aid Than Poor Ones’

Martin Kurzweil and Josh Wyner, in a Times opinion piece decrying the decades-long drift toward “merit” aid (i.e., not based on need) in U.S. higher ed:

Some leaders of colleges have wanted to end this competition by collaborating with other colleges to reserve the vast majority of aid to students who clearly have the need. But these leaders haven’t so far because they fear it would run afoul of federal antitrust law.

We have the discipline of economics to thank for the antitrust orthodoxy of the last 50 years—that consumer prices are the one and only yardstick. This myopic, self-undermining approach—in the name of consumer welfare—has led to all kinds of perverse outcomes. In higher ed, there’s this boost to merit-aid, and, more recently, the gutting of admissions officers’ anti-poaching ethics code.


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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A non-profit, scholar-led publisher of open-access books and journals in the media studies fields
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