Holly Else ~ Radical Open-Access Plan Could Spell End To Journal Subscriptions

Research funders from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and eight other European nations have unveiled a radical open-access initiative that could change the face of science publishing in two years — and which has instantly provoked protest from publishers.

The 11 agencies, who together spend €7.6 billion (US$8.8 billion) in research grants annually, say they will mandate that, from 2020, the scientists they fund must make resulting papers free to read immediately on publication (see ‘Plan S players’). The papers would have a liberal publishing licence that would allow anyone else to download, translate or otherwise reuse the work. “No science should be locked behind paywalls!” says a preamble document that accompanies the pledge, called Plan S, released on 4 September.

“It is a very powerful declaration. It will be contentious and stir up strong feelings,” says Stephen Curry, a structural biologist and open-access advocate at Imperial College London. The policy, he says, appears to mark a “significant shift” in the open-access publishing movement, which has seen slow progress in its bid to make scientific literature freely available online.

Read more: https://www.nature.com/

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Mieke Bal: Let’s Abolish The Peer-Review System

In this short commentary, Mieke Bal sets out her ten objections to the peer-review system in academic publishing.

When the academy turned “neo-liberal” world-wide, rules were established that have become a “system”, no longer debatable. No consultation, no trial period, revision, or reconsidering. Rules rule, overruling people. One of those rules is the unquestioned system that all respectable, serious academic journals and book series have to obey the requirement to have all submissions for publication “peer-reviewed”. This seemed a good idea at the beginning – to get feedback to optimize quality – but became problematic when generalized into a rule. It has become a term, even part of ordinary language, and I have had it thrown at me many times in totally wrong contexts. I would like to offer no fewer than ten arguments, intricately related yet distinguishable, that make the peer-review system (PRS) highly problematic, and, in my view, ready for abolition. Only when the rule is reregulated – stripped of its rule-character – can alternatives be considered that preserve the positive aspects but eliminate the ten objections I am highlighting here.

The peer-review system is deeply wrong, firstly, because it entails a heavy burden on scholars who should spend the little time they have to do their own work. Their available research and writing time is under pressure by all the new rules anyway, which increase the administrative workload uselessly. As a result, only the less active and less brilliant scholars will be willing to do this, and this has consequences for the quality of the reviews. Sometimes the colleagues who take the job on do make the sacrifice and offer excellent criticism, helpful for the author. But many times, the critique is superficial and routine. I can’t blame this on the reviewers, who get no credit whatsoever for this labour.

A second drawback is that the procedure and its formalism and duration win over quality discussions involving the coherence and originality of a journal issue, collective volume, or book series. This situation diminishes the quality of the end product, which can become meagre, incoherent, and belated in terms of both the subject, if this is contemporary, and other scholarship.

Read more: http://mediatheoryjournal.org/mieke-bal-lets-abolish-the-peer-review-system/

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Anna Moro ~ The Humanities Are Becoming More Important. Here’s Why

I don’t know why we call them “soft skills.”

They’re certainly not easy to learn, although they are as valuable and necessary as the skills doctors use in surgery, bankers use to assess risk and physicists use to split atoms.
Communication, observation, empathy and logical thinking: These precious and frequently undervalued skills have everyday names.

I prefer to call them “essential skills,” because we all need them every day, though we don’t always use them well. They are the foundational skills that allow us to learn and live and work productively with other people. They are the skills that determine our chances of succeeding. They are the skills of leadership.
These essential skills are the ones most sought by some of the largest, most successful organizations. Those blue-chip employers recognize that their future leaders are people who can understand and communicate about the world around them, who can see the whole picture and find ways to fit into it.
People learn to do this by studying the humanities, the academic fields that have somehow fallen from the nest of subjects considered most worth studying.

Read more: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/how-a-humanities-degree-will-serve-you-in-a-disruptive-economy/

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Pablo Markin ~ French Academic And Research Institutions Refuse To Pay Climbing Journal Subscription Fees, Opt For De Facto Open Access

In France, circa 100 research organizations close ranks by putting their journal subscription negotiations with Springer in abeyance, while insisting on Open Access policies and retaining access to its journal titles, as no agreement between the publisher and these French scholarly institutions was reached.

rench higher education institutions and research centers claim to gain multi-million journal subscription savings after refusing a sign toll-based journal access deal with Springer Nature, according to a news item by David Matthews appearing on April 9, 2018. In the meanwhile, the publisher has refrained from cutting off the access of these institutions to its journal titles, which indicates the increasing collective bargaining power of French academic organizations that balk at rising subscription fees, have article access alternatives and clamor for rapidly transitioning to Open Access. This development is similar to the standoff between Elsevier and German research universities and institutes. It has put pressure on the publisher to maintain their access to its paywall-protected titles, as the inconclusive negotiations amble along.

Couperin, an umbrella body representing over 250 French higher education and research bodies, has been citing the growing prevalence of Open Access journals and policies as the ground for reducing the subscription fees paid to Springer. Should the deal with Springer fall through, despite continued, but fragile negotiations, French institutions may be availing themselves of article sharing opportunities. At the same time, the majority of the French organizations represented, which amounts to about 150 institutions, have renewed their contracts with Springer that publishes more than 2,900 titles. This stalemate, however, can also be precipitated by the growing adoption of Open Access by French researchers that by publishing in Open Access journals draw on university and national budgets to cover Article Processing Charges (APCs).

Read more: http://openscience.com/french-academic-and-research-institutions-refuse-to-pay

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Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi ~ Why Are There So Few Black Professors?

Ahead of the budget vote for 2017-2018 of the department of higher education and training, Minister Blade Nzimande expressed concern about the scarcity of black professors.

It has been reported that he will set up a ministerial task team to find out “what is holding black academics back”. Last month, when he tabled the higher education and training budget in Parliament, he said it was important to “address the paucity of black South African academics in our institutions, which manifests in 66% [in 2015] of all university professors still being white”.

“What is holding black academics back?” is the wrong question for the higher education sector to be asking. The right question is: Where do African, coloured and Indian South Africans with PhD degrees from the universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal go to?

Before we answer this question, statistical proof that the universities have been producing black people with doctoral degrees is available in the higher education management information systems (Hemis) data. This data has been available since at least 1994.

Read more: https://mg.co.za/why-are-there-so-few-black-professors/

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Stephen Buranyi ~ Is The Staggeringly Profitable Business Of Scientific Publishing Bad For Science

In 2011, Claudio Aspesi, a senior investment analyst at Bernstein Research in London, made a bet that the dominant firm in one of the most lucrative industries in the world was headed for a crash. Reed-Elsevier, a multinational publishing giant with annual revenues exceeding £6bn, was an investor’s darling. It was one of the few publishers that had successfully managed the transition to the internet, and a recent company report was predicting yet another year of growth. Aspesi, though, had reason to believe that that prediction – along with those of every other major financial analyst – was wrong.

The core of Elsevier’s operation is in scientific journals, the weekly or monthly publications in which scientists share their results. Despite the narrow audience, scientific publishing is a remarkably big business. With total global revenues of more than £19bn, it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable. In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year.

But Elsevier’s business model seemed a truly puzzling thing. In order to make money, a traditional publisher – say, a magazine – first has to cover a multitude of costs: it pays writers for the articles; it employs editors to commission, shape and check the articles; and it pays to distribute the finished product to subscribers and retailers. All of this is expensive, and successful magazines typically make profits of around 12-15%.

The Guardian Long Read:

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