The southern hemisphere’s cold weather is a certain signal that winter conference season is upon us.
In the coming weeks academics – from many disciplines – will be spending freezing nights in student dorms and days exchanging disciplinary gossip on the plight of the universities and on what is new in their chosen field.
But after these issues, the single most important conversation between them will be how to negotiate the regime of publication that pervades contemporary academic life not only in South Africa but across the world.
The obligation that academic staff must publish is invariably presented as a virtuous thing. It is right and proper for academics to expand and extend the boundaries of their respective disciplines by publishing in outlets, as approved by their peers.
Moreover, a public that is often sceptical of the usefulness of universities is often told that academics publish in “the public good”.
But if academic publishing is so significant in the profession, why is it that the young and talented in the academy increasingly resist it, calling it formulaic, at best, and, at worst, a sweatshop? And why is it that old academic hands are simply no longer interested in contributing to the peer-review system that is at the heart of the system and without which the standing of the entire industry will falter?
On the morning of Tom Marshall’s PhD defence, he put on the suit he had bought for the occasion and climbed onto the stage in front of a 50-strong audience, including his parents and 6 examiners. He gave a 15-minute-long presentation, then faced an hour of cross-examination about his past 5 years of neuroscience research at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. A lot was at stake: this oral examination would determine whether he passed or failed. “At the one-hour mark someone came in, banged a stick on the floor and said ‘hora est‘,” says Marshall — the ceremonial call that his time was up. “But I couldn’t. I had enjoyed the whole experience far too much, and ended up talking for a few extra minutes.”
Read more: http://www.nature.com/phd-thesis
Recalling dead white men with sincere gratitude
Many dead white men play an incredibly important role in my life. I can, without needing to waste one precious second on a superfluous grammatical pause, cite countless examples of these dead white men, and recall their continued presence in my life.
In the first few weeks of my first year of studies here at Rhodes University in 1997, I was introduced to the ideas of Plato, even if that introduction was mediated by a secondary text, Seven Theories of Human Nature, written by another white man, Leslie Stevenson, and taught to me by one of the most important not-dead white men I had met at Rhodes University, Francis Williamson, my very first philosophy lecturer.
Later, with the shortcuts of undergraduate philosophy studies behind me, I had to read and engage some of the primary writings of Plato, taught to me by another not-dead white man, Marius Vermaak, who was easily the most important and influential philosophy teacher I have had – ever – with all due respect to all the amazing white men in my philosophical life that I had encountered here at Rhodes University, and, later, during health-challenging winters of discontent, at that strange place called Oxford University.
Studying The Republic in my honours year of philosophy here at Rhodes challenged my intuitive commitment to a basic conception of democracy, and instilled in me an early conviction – and one that I only revised much later when I was less childish than a drunk student dancing on the tables at The Vic – that not all epistemic agents are to be trusted, let alone to be regarded as equally capable of being the leaders of a democratic society that could govern us in a manner conducive to serving the interests of all citizens, equally and maximally.
Al het wetenschappelijk onderzoek dat uit publiek geld is gefinancierd moet voor iedereen gratis toegankelijk worden. Die doelstelling stelden Europese ministers en de Europese Commissie vrijdag.
In the mid-2000s, Facebook, Bebo and Myspace were neck and neck in a frenzied race to attract the most users to their fledgling social networks. A decade later, Bebo and Myspace were moribund while Facebook boasted more than 1.5 billion monthly active users and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had become the fourth-richest man in the world.
Zuckerberg’s position is unlikely to be challenged by anyone founding a social network focusing specifically on academics. One of those people – Richard Price, founder and chief executive of Academia.edu – estimates there to be about 6 million academics globally, plus 11 million graduate students: a mere drop in the ocean of humanity that Facebook is fishing in. Nevertheless, there is serious cash riding on Academia.edu’s struggle with the likes of ResearchGate and Mendeley to be the biggest fish in that relatively small sea.
One of the perks of holding the rotating presidency of the European Union is that it gives a member state a 6-month megaphone to promote its favorite policy ideas. For the Netherlands, which took over the presidency on 1 January, one surprising priority is open access (OA) to the scientific literature. Last week, the Dutch government held a 2-day meeting here in which European policymakers, research funders, librarians, and publishers discussed how to advance OA. The meeting produced an Amsterdam Call to Action that included the ambition to make all new papers published in the European Union freely available by 2020.
Given the slow pace with which OA has gained ground the past 10 years, few believe that’s actually possible, but the document is rallying support. Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner for research, science, and innovation, favors an ambitious approach; OA will also be a key discussion point at a meeting of Europe’s ministers of research, innovation, industry, and trade in Brussels in late May. “This is an orchestrated push on the European level that we have not seen before,” says Ralf Schimmer of the Max Planck Digital Library in Munich, Germany.