‘My University Is Dying’

Sheila Liming in a short essay for the Chronicle Review, on relentless budget cuts at the University of North Dakota:

I’m talking about the nonmaterial consequences of material resource depletion, which can last for generations and make earnest attempts at normalcy appear shot through with undercurrents of gloom. But the feeling isn’t unique to campuses like mine — campuses that have already met and locked horns with the new, ascetic order. If you build it, they will come; if you tear it down due to a maintenance backlog, they will go somewhere else — if they possibly can. But austerity is an infection. It spreads with those who run from it. As Karl Marx, writing in England but speaking to his native Germany, warns in the preface to his famous Capital, “De te fabula narratur!” The story is about you. 

The subhed to the “My University is Dying” headline is “And soon yours will be, too.” What the piece is missing is a theory of why we should all expect North Dakota-style austerity.

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‘Plan S: take Latin America’s long experience on board’

Humberto Debat and Dominique Babini, in letter published in Nature:

We share the spirit of Plan S to achieve full open access to scholarly publications (see go.nature.com/2hszsaf), but we disagree with its implementation guidelines. The plan’s design ignores more than 20 years of widespread experience in open-access publishing in many developing nations, as well as Latin America’s widespread ethos of free-to-publish and free-to-read research.

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‘Publication is not enough, to generate impact you need to campaign’

Toby Green, writing in the LSE Impact Blog:

In a recent case study, I describe how I drew attention to three of my papers published since 2017. This required a change to my normal routine in order to dedicate a little bit of time every day over a period of months to develop opportunities to engage using social media. I learned what worked and what didn’t by using two tracking and reporting tools: Kudos and Altmetric. However, getting hold of some data, especially download data, proved difficult and publishers could certainly up their game here. For me, these efforts paid off, both articles are among the journal’s most-downloaded and have Altmetric scores in the top 5% of all research outputs. As a result, I have received invitations to speak at conferences and write blog posts (like this one) which, in turn, develops my audience and increases my chance of making an impact.

Green is right that translating scholarship for the public—and working to make it visible—is worth our time. But that effort doesn’t need to be framed, as Green’s explicitly is, in terms of REF-style “impact”—with its top-down, metric-tide market ethos. The tools he recommends are also problematic for an open-scholarship future: Altmetric is owned by Springer Nature, and Kudos is an independent for-profit—a sitting duck for a bepress-like Elsevier acquisition.

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‘So What’s the DEAL?’

Springer Nature’s Dagmar Laging, in an inteview for the Scholarly Kitchen:

But with not only transformative deals but the need to secure sustainable funding for fully OA equally critical to supporting the transition to OA, it was important to us and Projekt DEAL that any solution encompassed both hybrid journals and fully OA journals.

There are a host of problems with read-and-publish deals like this, notably around North-South inequalities (even within Europe). But the effective lock-in of extortionate APC levels and the preservation of hybrid journals are terrible too.

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‘The Criminologist Accused of Cooking the Books’

Tom Bartlett, in his investigative piece for the Chronicle [paywall] on an apparent criminology research fraud case:

But in an interview, the editor in chief of Criminology, David McDowall, seemed less than eager about getting to the bottom of what might be wrong with this particular paper. He confirmed that he had seen the letter Pickett sent but says that he “didn’t read it in great depth.” As for the possibility of retraction, which Pickett has requested, McDowall was dubious about the concept. “I don’t even quite know what retraction is,” McDowall says. “I imagine that it could occur. I would think there would be legalistic implications.” 

This is the field’s flagship journal?

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‘Author discusses his book on the purpose of college’

Johann Neem, in an interview for Inside Higher Ed:

I also don’t think vocational and liberal education can be done well in the same course of study. First, they often have very different ethical orientations, so if part of what constitutes a good college education is a commitment to thinking as a worthy activity on its own terms, studying primarily to learn a trade does not develop students’ character in the right way. Second, often vocational/professional programs have courses that are narrowly tailored to train people for specific tasks, rather than broadly oriented to providing insight in the world for its own sake. In this sense, a good college education is foundational and general, and that is OK.

Neem’s right about this, but the whole liberal arts world is moving in the opposite direction.

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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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