What is the next step for those boycotting Elsevier’s journals? Neil Stewart writes that one thing academics can do to bring about open access publishing immediately is to take the ‘Green’ road to open access and enjoy higher citations counts by placing their work in institutional repositories.
"I am in favor of removing anonymity of reviewers, but because of the second concern mentioned at the outset - that of potential retaliation by angry authors - I think the change should be made at several levels and that as a community we should embrace the following principle: No academic scientific reviewer should have anonymity, regardless of whether the review addresses a manuscript, a grant proposal or a promotion or tenure decision. All academic scientists should be willing to stand behind their opinions regarding manuscripts, proposals and performance appraisals. Transparency should be the order of the day!"
When the history of the Research Works Act, and the reaction against it, is written that history will point at the factors that allowed smart people with significant marketing experience to walk with their eyes wide open into the teeth of a storm that thousands of people would have predicted with complete confidence. That story will detail two utterly incompatible world views of scholarly communication. The interesting thing is that with the benefit of hindsight both will be totally incomprehensible to the observer from five or ten years in the future. It seems worthwhile therefore to try and detail those world views as I understand them.
In 1971 in Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich predicted that learners of the future would find each other and use information technologies to form "learning webs" and "networks" - prescient terms, considering that the ARPAnet was only two years old at the time. Did we finally get there?
"Attention is now the really scarce resource in our information economy and competition for it is much fiercer than it was in the heyday of broadcast TV. What's more, it's a zero-sum game. So if YouTube does indeed manage to increase its share of our attention by producing more compelling content, then something else will have less. Television executives, please note."
Blogger now supports threaded commenting, which means that it is now much easier to differentiate between whether someone is making a general comment on the thread, or responding to another comment on the thread.
The latest figures out from the Higher Education Statistics Agency may fuel fears that grade inflation is rife in UK universities. The statistics show the proportion of undergraduates being awarded first-class degrees has risen rapidly in the last four years. The latest figures, from 2010-2011, reveal that almost one in six undergraduates at UK universities achieved a first (15.5%). This compares to one in eight (12.6%) in 2006-07.
"Consider Gutenberg time. The printed book did not begin to take on its own form until 50 years after its invention. At first, printers mimicked scribes, with fonts designed to look like handwriting, while printing itself was promoted as automated writing... They simply didn’t see the possibilities. Nor do today’s media companies – not fully, not yet. Look at how they’re using the web and new platforms such as the tablet. They’re still attempting to replicate legacy forms, content, business models, industrial structures, and control: Old wine in new casks. Newspapers, magazines, and books all remain recognizable as such online."
"For a fleeting moment, CD-ROMs were the future of books. If I had decided to abandon print books and publish my books only on CD-ROMs, I would have imprisoned them in obscurity. Sneer at printed books if you will, but you can't deny that their operating system will never expire."
"I’m not alone, and you might find people like Peter Murry-Rust have things to say about repository managers slavishly following their directives ... Like the author’s who on mass are currently making a stand against one of the bigger publishers, should we repository managers likewise plug ourselves into a proverbial electric fence, wipe the directives and throw caution to the wind and build our repositories’ contents as a true counter to the paywall fenced off journals of publishers? It seems this may be one of the few ways that we’ll even come close to reaching the critical mass of open access publications we need make an impact, and what could stop us?"
"Ultimately the wider global public is for the most part convinced that research is something worth investing in, but in turn they expect to see outcomes of that research, jobs, economic activity, excitement, prestige, better public health, improved standards of living. The wider public are remarkably sophisticated when it comes to understanding that research may take a long time to bear fruit. But they are not particularly interested in papers. And when they become aware of academia’s obsession with papers they tend to be deeply unimpressed. We ignore that at our peril."
Sometimes it takes but a single pebble to start an avalanche. On January 21st Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, wrote a blog post outlining the reasons for his longstanding boycott of research journals published by Elsevier. This firm, which is based in the Netherlands, owns more than 2,000 journals, including such top-ranking titles as Cell and the Lancet. However Dr Gowers, who won the Fields medal, mathematics’s equivalent of a Nobel prize, in 1998, is not happy with it, and he hoped his post might embolden others to do something similar. It did. More than 2,700 researchers from around the world have so far signed an online pledge set up by Tyler Neylon, a fellow-mathematician who was inspired by Dr Gowers’s post, promising not to submit their work to Elsevier’s journals, or to referee or edit papers appearing in them. That number seems, to borrow a mathematical term, to be growing exponentially. If it really takes off, established academic publishers might find they have a revolution on their hands.
Since 2005, the global production of oil has remained relatively flat, peaking in 2008 and declining since, even as demand for petroleum has continued to increase. The result has been wild fluctuations in the price of oil as small changes in demand set off large shocks in the system. In today's issue of Nature, two authors (the University of Washington's James Murray and Oxford's David King) argue that this sort of volatility will be all we can expect from here on out—and we're likely to face it with other fossil fuels, as well.
"A new online service is aiming to revolutionize the way scientific research is peer-reviewed. Rather than a journal editor sending the paper to potential reviewers and requesting feedback, the new site—called Peerage of Science—allows researchers to upload their manuscripts, which will be made anonymous and posted on a site accessible only to members. Keywords in the paper will then alert relevant experts, who can assign the paper a grade from 1 to 5. Those papers that receive enough high marks will be forwarded to journals associated with the site. The journal editors can then decide to reach out to the authors with publication opportunities, rather than the other way around. Authors, of course, are free to decline any offers they may receive."
"Nature magazine’s publishing arm is releasing Principles of Biology, a 200-module Web-based college textbook that incorporates text, figures, video, and simulation—and works on all desktop operating systems and mobile platforms in contrast to Apple’s current locked-to-the-iPad approach. Nature has committed to constant updates (it’s a Web app, remember? no new downloads), and it’s $49 per student for a lifetime subscription. Nature isn’t making such a big deal out of the interactive parts, either; that’s part of the bigger picture and bigger package. It’s a multi-course set of curriculum enhancement for university-level teaching. Apple’s 1.0 approach on digital textbooks seems so much less ambitious..."
Students enrolling at university in 2012-13 will have to earn salaries of £50,000 a year immediately after graduating if they are to pay off their student loan debt before the 30-year government write-off threshold, a new analysis suggests. This is over £30,000 more than the average first-year salary for a university graduate.
"Complaints of sub-standard teaching and overcrowding have led the University of Manchester to cut student numbers by more than 1,000, The Sunday Times claimed. The Russell Group university, which has more than 28,000 undergraduates, will lower its intake from 8,736 in 2010 to 7,544 by 2014 - a 14 per cent fall, the newspaper reported on 8 January. More than 100 academics will also be hired to improve staff-to-student ratios."
"This was a small study that examined the association between brain structure and the diagnosis of internet addiction disorder. The results of the study should be interpreted cautiously, as the small number of participants increases the likelihood that the findings were due to chance. Additionally, the study cannot tell us anything about whether obsessive internet use causes changes to the brain, as some headlines have suggested. From this study we cannot rule out the possibility that the participants’ brains were structured this way before their heavy internet usage. If this were the case it would raise the possibility that their brain structure was responsible for their actions rather than their actions altering their brain structure. Of course, there is also the question of whether the participants’ behaviour actually constitutes a medical condition."
Most commentary on social media ignores an obvious truth—that the value of things is largely determined by their rarity. The more people tweet, the less attention people will pay to any individual tweet. The more people “friend” even passing acquaintances, the less meaning such connections have. As communication grows ever easier, the important thing is detecting whispers of useful information in a howling hurricane of noise. For speakers, the new world will be expensive. Companies will have to invest in ever more channels to capture the same number of ears. For listeners, it will be baffling. Everyone will need better filters—editors, analysts, middle managers and so on—to help them extract meaning from the blizzard of buzz.