‘Student tracking, secret scores’

The Washington Post, in a story on prospective student tracking at U.S. colleges and universities:

The admissions officer also received a link to a private profile of the student, listing all 27 pages she had viewed on the school’s website and how long she spent on each one. A map on this page showed her geographical location, and an “affinity index” estimated her level of interest in attending the school. Her score of 91 out of 100 predicted she was highly likely to accept an admission offer from UW-Stout, the records showed.

The piece hints at this, but the most pernicious aspect of the tracking–in theory, and almost certainly in practice–is feeding the data into financial aid algorithms. The yield management software in use by most admissions offices can spit back financial aid recommendations that, in many cases, offers multiples of demonstrated need–and in others nothing close.

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‘An expensive but possible way to do Society OA’

Martin Eve, on a professional association’s struggle to go OA:

A Learned Society spoke to me last week about what they could do to move to an open-access model. They currently receive about 100,000 EUR per year from their subscription/hybrid-OA publisher but were willing to jettison this (!) if they could go OA with no author fees.

The problem was that implementing a new business model was a total pain. They did not have the resources on the ground to change from their current model to a new way of doing things, although they had thought about it extensively.

I then pointed out that the 100,000 EUR that they receive from their publisher – and that they were going to lose – was enough to cover APCs for everything published in a single year of the journal. They could simply use this to cover the APCs and they would have a gold OA journal with no author-facing charges.

This is, basically, subscribe-to-open through the back door.

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‘Why Scholarly Societies Are Vitally Important to the Academic Ecosystem’

Robert Harington, in a new Scholarly Kitchen post:

The Plan S transformative agreements have essentially created institutional lock-in businesses on a grand scale. Only publishers who have significant publishing scale may effectively form transformative Publish and Read agreements with institutions (a category that can include governments). This is a problem, not just for societies looking to be as open as possible, but even for fully open access publishers such as PLOS. As Alison Mudditt (CEO of PLOS) recently pointed out, if you are already in full compliance with Plan S you are essentially shut out of the monies attached to transformative deals as publishers move from subscription to gold open access.

It’s a good point about scale and read-and-publish deals. The reference to PLOS, though, raises an even bigger problem, one that plagues the various subscribe-to-open initiatives too: If current library budgets are diverted to flip the existing gated content to open, where will funds come from to support existing OA initiatives like PLOS? The answer can’t be APCs.

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The MIT Press monograph grant

From the press release announcing a three-year, $850,000 grant to MIT Press from Arcadia:

Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press and principal investigator for the grant, sees it as an opportunity to explore alternatives to the traditional market-based business model for professional and scholarly monographs. “Until the mid-1990s, most U.S. university presses could count on sales of 1,300–1,700 units, but today monograph sales are typically in the range of 300–500 units,” says Brand “Many presses make up this difference with internal subsidies or subventions from institutional or philanthropic sources, but this is not sustainable and oftenfunde unpredictable. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, this generous award from Arcadia will allow us to develop and test a flexible OA sustainability model that can then be adapted to the needs of our peers.”

The sheer scale of the sales drop-off is startling.

MIT Press, with its PubPub parternship and long OA track record, is the right place to experiment. There are other like-minded projects in the works: the ARL’s Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem, the Mellon-supported Sustainable History Monograph Pilot, and the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs, funded by Research England.

The two key issues are cost and author access. The scholarly monograph can’t survive the current $30 to $50 thousand per title spending (the estimate range from a 2016 Ithaka S+R study). Nor can university presses adopt the ruinous APC practice from the OA journal article economy—$15,000, to take the UC Press example, is an egregious nonstarter, excluding all the world’s scholars beyond a handful of wealthy Western institutions.

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‘The Research Data Sharing Business Landscape’

Roger Schonfeld, in a Scholarly Kitchen post on the emerging data sharing “business landscape”:

On July 17, Dryad and Zenodo, two leading generalist not-for-profit data repositories built on open source platforms, announced a partnership supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The partnership focuses on “supporting researcher and publisher workflows as well as best practices in data and software curation” via new open source code and “integrations between our systems.” 

Schonfeld’s neutral overview contrasts the nonprofits—Dryad and Zenodo—with the for-profit offerings from Springer Nature and Elsevier. The stakes are high in what really is a battle for the future of infrastructure. The Dryad-Zenodo cooperation agreement is a very promising development.

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‘Leaving behind the silly arguments about what is an acceptable profit margin or surplus’

Angela Chochran, in a new post on the Scholarly Kitchen:

Leaving behind the silly arguments about what is an acceptable profit margin or surplus, and who decides what kinds of activities one is allowed to do with those surpluses, I want to explore a bit about what I see as “publisher added value,” look at some numbers that are complicating the issues, and imagine a future world in which these services or activities cease to exist as we collectively race to the bottom in order to cut expenses.

Silly arguments? That 37 percent Elsevier profit margin is our congealed labor. The whole premise of the post—that “downward pressure on pricing” threatens scholarly communication—is absurd given the contrast between the whale-blubber of prices and the membrane of “value” added.

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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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mediastudies.press

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

An open access, refereed academic journal
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MediArXiv

The open archive for media, film, & communication studies
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Open Access in Media Studies

Topromote open access publishing in the field of media studies
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Annenberg School for Communication Library Archives

Archives consulting, Communication Scholars Oral History Project, and History of Communication Research Bibliography & Archival Directory
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