Do you work in academic research? If so, you probably have a view on peer review. The system is at the heart of scholarly communication – and it elicits strong opinions from across the community. Many have concerns about the integrity of the process – as demonstrated by the popular hashtag #sixwordpeerreview, which mocks short, unhelpful feedback.
Our year-long research project set out to explore the best approaches to peer review, canvassing the opinions of academic authors, reviewers and the journal editors who oversee the process.
Researchers from across the sciences, social sciences, medicine and humanities were asked to complete a survey or take part in focus groups in China, the UK and South Africa. More than 7,400 responded, answering questions on the purpose of peer review, the prevalence of ethical issues, timeframes, and how comfortable (or not) they were with the different peer review models.
“We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance. No, I do not mean the global economic crisis….I mean a crisis that goes largely unnoticed, like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government: a world-wide crisis in education.” That’s the opening blast from Martha Nussbaum’s new book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities.
She starts by identifying a global trend. Policy-makers, universities, and even entire nations are discarding the humanities and focusing instead on academic subjects linked to economic growth. She then makes a case for a connection between liberal arts education, free-thinking citizens, and healthy democracy. Pull the plug on the liberal arts, and you no longer have the sort of people able to do the things required for democratic citizenship. Barely a page into the book and we’re warned that “nations all over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticise tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements. The future of the world’s democracies hangs in the balance.” Strong stuff. Are things really that bad?
“I don’t write in this alarmist way usually,” she says, “in fact in my book Cultivating Humanity the whole point was to say that insofar as higher education is concerned the changes that we’re seeing are on balance very positive. We’re confronting the new complexity of the world better. We’re educating ourselves about women, about race, about non-western cultures much better. But now, I feel, it’s not true any longer.”
Read more: http://www.philosophersmag.com/the-end
When someone asks you where you’re from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of “multi-local” people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. “How can I come from a country?” she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?”
About Taiye Selasi:
A writer and photographer of Nigerian and Ghanaian descent, born in London and raised in Boston, now living in Rome and Berlin, who has studied Latin and music, Taiye Selasi is herself a study in the modern meaning of identity. In 2005 she published the much-discussed (and controversial) essay “Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What Is an Afropolitan?),” offering an alternative vision of African identity for a transnational generation. Prompted by writer Toni Morrison, the following year she published the short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” in the literary magazine Granta.
Her first novel Ghana Must Go, published in 2013, is a tale of family drama and reconciliation, following six characters and spanning generations, continents, genders and classes.
On a night in 2006, a Cape Town’s night club, its floor littered with cigarette butts, plays host to an Afrikaner (sub)cultural gathering. Guys with seventies’ glam rock hairstyles, wearing old school uniform-like blazers decorated with a collection of pins and buttons and teamed up with tight jeans, sneakers and loose shoelaces keep one eagerly awaiting eye on the set stage and another on the short skirted girls. Before taking to the stage, the band, Fokofpolisiekar, entices the audience with the projection of their latest music video for the acoustic version of their debut hit single released two years before and entitled ‘Hemel op die platteland’.
In tune with the melancholy sound of an acoustic guitar, the music video kicks off with the winding of an old film reel revealing nostalgic stock footage of a long gone era. Well-known images make the audience feel a sense of estrangement by means of ironic disillusionment: the sun is setting in the Cape Town suburb of Bellville. Seemingly bored, the five members of Fokofpolisiekar hang around the Afrikaans Language Monument. Against the backdrop of a blue-grey sky, the well-known image of a Dutch Reformed church tower flashes in blinding sunlight. Smiling white children play next to swimming pools in the backyards of well-to-do suburbs and on white beaches while the voice of the lead singer asks:
can you tighten my bolts for me? / can you find my marbles for me? / can you stick your idea of normal up your ass? / can you spell apathy? can someone maybe phone a god / and tell him we don’t need him anymore / can you spell apathy? (kan jy my skroewe vir my vasdraai? / kan jy my albasters vir my vind? / kan jy jou idee van normaal by jou gat opdruk? / kan jy apatie spel? kan iemand dalk ’n god bel / en vir hom sê ons het hom nie meer nodig nie / kan jy apatie spel?)
And whilst the home video footage of a family eating supper in a green acred backyard is sharply contrasted with images of broken garden chairs in an otherwise empty run-down backyard, the theme of the song resonates ironically in the chorus: ‘it’s heaven on the platteland’ (‘dis hemel op die platteland’). On the dirty floor of the night club, a young white Afrikaans guy kills his Malboro cigarette and takes a sip of his lukewarm Black Label beer, watching more video images of morally grounded suburb, school and church and relates to the angry words of the vocalist:
‘regulate me […] place me in a box and mark it safe / then send me to where all the boxes/idiots go / send me to heaven I think it’s on the platteland’ (‘reguleer my, roetineer my / plaas my in ’n boks en merk dit veilig / stuur my dan waarheen al die dose gaan / stuur my hemel toe ek dink dis in die platteland / dis hemel op die platteland’).
As the video draws to a close, the young man sees the ironic use of the partly exposed motto engraved on the path to the Language Monument: ‘This is us’. He has never visited the Language Monument, but he agrees with what he just saw and because he feels as though he just paged through old photo albums (only to come to the disillusioned conclusion that everything has been all too burlesque) he puts his hands in the air when the band takes to the stage with the lead singer commanding:
‘Lift your hands to the burlesque […] We want the attention / of the brainless crowd / We want the famine the urgent lack of energy / We are in search of the search for something / We are empty, because we want to be’ (‘Rys jou hande vir die klug […] Ons soek die aandag / van die breinlose gehoor / Ons soek die hongersnood die dringende gebrek aan energie / Ons is op soek na die soeke na iets / Ons is leeg, want ons wil wees’. Read more
Recently, I found out that my work is mentioned in a book that has been banned, in effect, from the schools in Tucson, Arizona. The anti-ethnic studies law passed by the state prohibits teachings that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and/or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” I invite you to read the book in question, titled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, so that you can decide for yourselves whether it qualifies.
In fact, I invite you to take on as your summer reading the astonishingly lengthy list of books that have been removed from the Tucson public school system as part of this wholesale elimination of the Mexican-American studies curriculum. The authors and editors include Isabel Allende, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Kozol, Rudolfo Anaya, bell hooks, Sandra Cisneros, James Baldwin, Howard Zinn, Rodolfo Acuña, Ronald Takaki, Jerome Skolnick and Gloria Anzaldúa. Even Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Shakespeare’s The Tempest received the hatchet.
Nowadays, European universities pay publishers significant parts of their university budget. Hundreds of millions of euro’s. Money which is not directly spent on research and education, even though it is largely taxpayers´ money. As Harvard University already denounced in 2012, many large journal publishers have rendered the situation “fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive”, with some journals costing as much as $40,000 per year (and publishers drawing profits of 35% or more). If one of the wealthiest universities in the world can no longer afford it, who can? It is easy to picture the struggle of European universities with tighter budgets. In addition to subscription costs, academic research funding is also largely affected by “Article Processing Charges” (APC), which come at an additional cost of €2000/article, on average, when making individual articles Gold Open Access. Some publishers are in this way even being paid twice for the same content (“double dipping”)
Is this how the EU envisions access to the results of academic research?
“Christmas is over”, says Prof Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General LERU: “I call upon the European Commission and the forthcoming Dutch EU Presidency to work with all stakeholders and bodies involved, to bring sensible solutions to the fore.”
In the era of Open Science, Open Access to publications is one of the cornerstones of the new research paradigm and business models must support this transition. It should be one of the principal objectives of Commissioner Carlos Moedas and the Dutch EU Presidency (January-June 2016) to ensure that this transition happens. Further developing the EU´s leadership in research and innovation largely depends on it.
Read more & sign the petition: http://www.leru.org/signtheLERUstatement/