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  • Mark 4:01 pm on November 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , scholarly publishing   

    An accessible introduction to the (post-capitalist) future of scholarly publishing – Thursday afternoon in Cambridge 

    If you’re anywhere near Cambridge this week, consider coming to this masterclass I’m organising: register here. What I find so inspiring about Gary Hall is the relationship between his theoretical work and his institutional interventions. He’s been a key figure in an enormous range of projects which have pushed the boundaries of scholarly publishing and helped map out its post-capitalist future. The masterclass will offer an accessible introduction to these issues and run through the aforementioned projects and what they embody about the potential of scholarly publishing. Everyone is welcome and the Faculty of Education is only a short walk from Cambridge train station.


  • Mark 1:55 pm on January 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , scholarly publishing, Strielkowski,   

    The Sociology of Predatory Publishing 

    In a recent article on Derivace, Luděk Brož, Tereza Stöckelová and Filip Vostal reflect on the case of Wadim Strielkowski, whose over-enthusiastic game playing was the subject of extensive debate within the Czech academy. There are many factors which have, as a whole, led his prolific rate of publication to be regarded with deep suspicion, such as the self-publication of his monographs, typos in his journal articles, extensive recycling between papers and a continuously rotating cast of co-authors:

    Strielkowski, then a junior lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague, first attracted the attention of colleagues in early 2015, when it was discovered that he had published 17 monographs and more than 60 journal articles in just three years. It is probably not surprising that a number of these texts were published in a rather unconventional way: Strielkowski’s monographs, with one exception, were in fact self-published and self-illustrated, even though each appeared to have been published by the Faculty of Social Sciences. A substantial amount of his articles were published in journals that could be described, following Beall’s terminology, as “potentially, possibly or probably predatory”. Since many of his articles were skilfully placed in dubious journals that were featured in SCOPUS or even in the Web of Science’s databases, they were recognised by the Czech evaluation system as research outputs. As a result, Strielkowski’s employer was awarded the appropriate amount of funding, and Strielkowski himself, according to the Czech media, received bonuses to his salary as a result.


    What makes his case interesting is how skilfully these articles were placed. As the authors note, a substantial number of his articles were placed in journals that could be described as “potentially, possibly or probably predatory” while nonetheless being included in relevant indexes which meant they counted as research outputs for formal evaluation, with all the advantages that entails. Not only was he skilfully navigating the publishing environment to facilitate his own rapid ascent, he made a business out of helping others do the same thing:

    In addition to being a prolific author, Strielkowski also happens to be a globetrotting entrepreneur. Through his companies, he has offered courses on how to publish in academic journals, with special emphasis on SCOPUS and the Web of Science. Participants primarily hailed from the countries of the former USSR; if they paid conference fees, they were guaranteed publication of their text(s) in one of the journals that Strielkowski himself (used to) publish and which Beall monitored until January 2017 (such as Czech Journal of Social Sciences, Business and Economics, and International Economics Letters). For those ready to pay €3,000, Strielkowski, referring to himself as “professor” and “Vice-Chancellor”, even offered academic degrees. His Prague University of Social Sciences and Humanities Ltd. offered not only MBAs (apparently without an accreditation in the Czech Republic) and postdoctoral positions one had to pay for, but also a “MAW” degree, which stood for “Master of Academic Writing”.


    The case is a fascinating one because it illustrates how metricised evaluation and predatory publishing cannot simply be regarded as imposed from outside, leaving academic victims with no choice but to adapt or be left behind. Strielkowski is an extreme example but his case illustrates how the opportunities these systems create for advancement are drawn upon and engaged with knowingly by scholars, in a way that is always implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) orientated to the others embedded within them.

    We do not simply ‘internalise’ these imperatives or find ourselves moulded to become ‘neoliberal subjects’. The exercise of agency to be found here is varied, complex and confusing. Denunciations of individual cases, which I don’t think Luděk et al are doing in this case, doesn’t help matters. I’d argue that what often understands itself to be theorisations of such cases, invoking the idea of the neoliberal subject etc, in reality more often represents a thematisation of them.

    How do we counter this though? At one point, the authors write of Strielkowski’s papers that “they have hardly any readership to speak of to notice such a statement in the first place”. Similarly, when I read this article, the second thing I looked at after Strielkowski’s personal website was his Google Scholar profile, immediately noting that he has relatively few citations for someone who has published so prolifically, with a majority seeming to be self-citations. I wonder if there is an element of bad faith in finding reassurance in such things, an invocation of readership and citation as a quality threshold, when we know that the systemic problems preclude the reliability of such standards? I wonder if this represents a unacknowledged attempt to evade the vertigo of the accelerated academy:

    I feel like I am drowning in knowledge, and the idea of further production is daunting. Libraries and bookstores produce a sense of anxiety: the number of books and journals to read is overwhelming, with tens of thousands more issuing from the presses each day. Moreover, there is no real criterion other than whim for selecting one book or article over another. To dive into one area rather than another becomes a willful act of blindness, when other areas are just as worthwhile and when every topic connects to others in any number of ways. The continual press of new knowledge becomes an invitation to forgetfulness, to lose the forest for the trees.

    From Sustainable Knowledge by Robert Frodeman, loc 1257:

    We have more room for manoeuvre then we acknowledge. Strielkowski’s game playing represents what Ruth Müller calls anticipatory acceleration taken to an unprecedented extreme: mindlessly speeding up the rate of publication in pursuit of competitive advantage within an overcrowded field. But if Trump academics are in the ascendancy, we’re liable to see more of this. The system is fucked and all the evidence suggests it is becoming more so with each passing year.

    We need a honest account of our investments within the system of scholarly communication, building from the basic constraints which the requirements of pursuing an academic career impose. Looking at extreme cases like Strielkowski can help us doing this, by providing prompts to elucidate our assumptions and concerns about scholarly publishing that we might not otherwise feel the need to put into words.

    On a related note:
    (click through for the whole thread)

  • Mark 11:32 am on December 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , scholarly publishing, , ,   

    What are ‘recognition triggers’ in scholarly publishing? 

    An interesting concept from John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture which I think has important implications for scholarly publishing. From pg 276-277:

    Oprah and Richard and Judy are prime examples of what I shall call ‘recognition triggers’. I use the term ‘recognition trigger’ to refer to those drivers of sales that have three characteristics. First, they are triggers based on a form of recognition that endows the work with an accredited visibility . Thanks to this recognition, the work is now both visible , picked out from an ocean of competing titles and brought into the consciousness of consumers, and deemed to be worthy of being read , that is, worth not only the money that the consumer would have to pay to buy it but, just as importantly, the time they would have to spend to read it. Visible and worthy: a form of recognition that kills two birds with one stone.

    The second characteristic is that the recognition is bestowed by individuals or organizations other than the agents and organizations that are directly involved in creating, producing and selling the work. Literary agents, publishers and booksellers cannot produce the kind of recognition upon which recognition triggers depend. They can produce other things, like the buzz and excitement that surround an author or a book, and these forms of laudatory talk can have real consequences, as we have seen. But recognition triggers presuppose that those individuals or organizations who bestow the recognition are, and are seen to be, independent in some way and to some extent from the parties that have a direct economic interest in the book’s success. It is this independence and perception of independence that enables recognition triggers to grant worthiness and explains in part why they can have such dramatic effects.

    The third characteristic is that, precisely because recognition is bestowed by individuals and organizations that are independent and seen to be so, it follows that publishers themselves have only a limited ability to influence the decisions that result in the bestowal of recognition, and hence a limited ability to control their effects. They certainly try to influence these decisions where they can, or to second-guess the decision-makers where they can’t directly or indirectly influence them, but at the end of the day the decisions are not theirs. So recognition triggers introduce yet another element of unpredictability into a field that is already heavily laden with serendipity.

    Do these recognition triggers exist in scholarly publishing? The obvious example is the journal system itself. The anonymity of peer review is understood to ensure independence and negotiating the peer review process is understand as a marker of quality signifying the paper is worthy of being read.

    But the over abundance that characterises scholarly publishing has complicated this, as has the growing functional imperative to self-promote one’s own papers. People will be searching for more ‘recognition triggers’, despite not using the concept, leading to all sorts of competitive dynamics which I think we’ll begin to see over the coming years. I suspect many of them will involve social media.

  • Mark 1:31 pm on May 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , reading list, scholarly publishing, ,   

    Using social media to map scholarly literatures 

    At a time when there are more than 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals publishing around 1.8-1.9 million articles per year, finding ways to navigate scholarly literatures are more important than ever. This is one of the most exciting ways in which social media can be used to directly enhance scholarly practice.

    There are many forms this can take, from the indirect (e.g. writing accessible blog posts which someone else uses as a guide to a literature) to the direct (e.g. tweeting about what you think are the most important papers on a given topic). But perhaps the most useful is sharing comprehensive reading lists.

    Here’s a wonderful example of what this could look like, produced by members of the Social Media Collective at Microsoft:

    • Irene Hames (@irenehames) 3:05 pm on May 7, 2016 Permalink

      Hi, there’s a more recent version of the STM overview of scientific and scholarly journal publishing report referenced in first line – March 2015 http://www.stm-assoc.org/2015_02_20_STM_Report_2015.pdf – and updated figures from Ulrich’s Web Directory can be found on p27: were about 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed English-language journals in 2014, collectively publishing approaching 2.5 million articles a year. 34,585 journals if non-English-language journals included.

    • Mark 9:04 pm on May 9, 2016 Permalink

      Oh that’s really helpful, thank you

  • Mark 7:29 am on July 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: scholarly publishing,   

    The future of scholarly publishing 

    Is anyone else getting these e-mails with ever greater frequency? And if so could you point me towards an explanation of what’s driving this?

    Dear Mark Carrigan,

    I am Vernon Thompson, the editor of World Journal of Social Science Research (ISSN 2332-5534). I have had an opportunity to read your paper “There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexual community” which is published in Sexualities: Studies in Culture and Society, and can tell from your work that you are an expert in this field.

    World Journal of Social Science Research is a new peer-reviewed open access journal which focuses on scholarly research and practical experience in the field of social science, which includes, but is not limited to the following field: anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

    We are calling for submission of papers. Please find the journal’s profile at: http://www.scholink.org/ojs/index.php/wjssr and submit your manuscripts online. If you have any questions, please contact with the editor at: wjssr@scholink.org

    We are also recruiting reviewers for the journal. If you are interested in becoming a reviewer, we welcome you to join us.

    Please find the details at http://www.scholink.org/ForReviewer.html

    Download the application form http://www.scholink.org/doc/APPLICATIONG%20FORM%20FOR%20REVIEWER%20.doc

    After that, e-mail the completed the application form to wjssr@scholink.org

    It is appreciated if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates. Thank you.

    • Tim Elfenbein 3:46 pm on July 3, 2014 Permalink

      These solicitations are likely coming from preditory OA journals, which are set up to harvest author processing charges while providing few of the services of legitimate publishers. Preditory publishers are taking advantage of (1) the desperation of scholars to be published, (2) a shifted business model that extracts payment up front for services instead of selling a quality product to end users, and (3) the positive moral charge of “open access.” There has been a huge amount of discussion of preditory OA publishers: you should be able to search for more info. Beall’s List (http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/) is the attempt by one librarian to provide a list of questionable publishers (although the list and the librarian are not without controversy).

      I started receiving solicitations from these publishers as soon as I published my first article.

    • Mark 10:41 am on July 5, 2014 Permalink

      thanks Tim! have you looked at the website though? I’m not convinced this is an instance of that, unless the potential costs are buried away. I should have said “I’m not convinced this is predatory OA but if it isn’t, I’m not sure what the business model is & it’s clearly dodgy”.

    • Cristina Puga, UNAM, Mexico 4:42 am on July 11, 2014 Permalink

      I get one of those almost every week. The first one, about two years ago, came from a Business Review with an impressive board. I sent a paper I had just presented in a congress with a friend and they replied (from China!!) accepting it and charging us 500 dlls. to publish it. Never again…

    • Mark 7:16 pm on July 11, 2014 Permalink

      ah maybe that would be true in this case, if I were to e-mail and offer a paper…

    • Geraldine 10:54 pm on July 13, 2014 Permalink

      There will definitely be a fee – it’s quite deeply buried in the author guidelines: “Ø Publication fee: Scholink is an independent organization which has no financial support. All the journals published by Scholink are open access. In order to operation our journals without difficulty, the publication cost should be covered by the author’s institution or research funds. The author should pay the publication fee after receiving the acceptance letter.” http://www.scholink.org/ojs/index.php/wjssr/about/submissions#authorGuidelines

      And this journal does not seem to be registered with DOAJ http://doaj.org and the lack of clarity and use of language in their information pages should ring a few alarms bells …

    • Mark 7:38 am on July 14, 2014 Permalink

      the whole thing rang alarm bells! my point was that the question of a fee wasn’t immediately apparent so I wasn’t sure if it fell into the same category as predatory OA publishers who mention the fee explicitly from the outset.

    • jp 4:55 pm on August 20, 2014 Permalink

      I just got the exact same letter today. They couldn’t even get the title of my paper right… Their website looks unprofessional and has a bunch of typos/grammatical errors. Their little flowchart makes it pretty obvious there is a fee (where it says “payment”) and that there is no peer review except that by the editorial board (who are obviously interested in publishing, because of the fee…). I never saw a flowchart like this for serious journals…

      Good luck dealing with this new kind of spam…

    • Mark 10:49 am on August 21, 2014 Permalink

      to be fair I’ve seen a few flow charts recently in very legitimate places, it seems like a good thing to do to simplify open access to those who are confused by it. otherwise I completely agree though.

    • Jen 1:53 pm on January 5, 2016 Permalink

      Thanks to those of you who responded to Mark. I have just been contacted by the same journal and wanted to check it’s legitimacy before replying. Everyone’s comments have been most helpful.

    • Jeanne Hersant 2:13 pm on January 12, 2016 Permalink

      The same for me!! Thanks everyone!

    • Carlo 10:27 am on February 2, 2016 Permalink

      I have just received a similar Email. I’ve checked their website, there is indeed a fee:

      “This journal charges the following author fees.
      Article Publication: 200.00 (USD)
      If this paper is accepted for publication, you will be asked to pay an Article Publication Fee to cover publications costs.”

    • Mark 11:54 am on February 2, 2016 Permalink

      interesting, thanks

    • Mark Malmin 2:35 am on March 24, 2016 Permalink

      I’ve been getting scores of these after having a couple journal articles published. There are some flaky so-called journals that lack professional excellence, and they might be more inclined to publish marginal work for the author fees, but nothing is completely black and white. My first journal article got published in a highly esteemed journal from the Springer publishing corporation, and I have since leaned that Springer is a highly ranked publishing company. I did’t pay any author fees to Springer because I waived copyrights of the article to the publisher in exchange for the honor of having my paper published with them. Had I elected to retain copyright infringement of my paper Springer would have charged me $3,000! Wow! If you are a graduate student in a university, the school usually pays the publication fees, but I’m unaffiliated with any institution.

      With potentially high fees in mind my second paper got published with a less prestigious publishing company but I only paid $300 for author fees, and I was such a pain in the ass, the company deserved every dollar I gave them. The paper is doing very well and leading with downloads.

      There is a middle ground to all of this. Some journals are so pedantic and elitist that they take great pride in rejecting legitimate work that other journals might be willing to publish. Elite Journals may tend to be rigid, picky, and dare I say, a bit condescending, and very sensitive to political correctness. Conversely, I suppose you would not want to publish a paper in a journal that has no community respect, ranking, or standards of excellence. I am currently working on a paper that top journals have rejected several times because of political correctness to the subject matter, and not because the paper was poorly written. If I send it to one of the fly by night outfits it will be published immediately (I would guess) but I don’t want to stoop to the bottom of the barrel either. I’m trying to find a middle ranked journal I respect that has been in business for awhile, not on the verge of bankruptcy, and that is willing to publish my work, which is currently a very politically incorrect paper… Wish me good luck!

    • Sara N. 3:09 am on January 26, 2017 Permalink

      It is a SCAM. They charge hundreds to publish. Do not take the hustling bait for these OA joker “journals.” Must take a lesson from americans and their endless hustling and huckstering. Anything for a buck.

    • danielkavish 2:11 am on March 30, 2017 Permalink

      They are still sending these out. I just received one that is nearly identical to your original post. Also Beall’s list of predatory journals and publishers was taken down, but you can still find screenshots of the original lists on other websites. If they are not registered with the DOAJ, or affiliated with a respected institution, then I see that as a huge red flag.

    • Mark 10:22 am on March 30, 2017 Permalink

      I see why you’d say that but I’m a bit worried about using that as a heuristic.

    • Ulf Persson 7:12 am on May 25, 2017 Permalink

      I just got a mail from WJSSR with more or less the same wordings as in the examples above, no doubt automatically generated, thus not coming from an individual who has actually have had the honor of reading your cited article, let alone being very impressed by it. I had my suspicions, although I have to admit that my first reaction was one of feeling flattered? Who can you trust ‘out there’. The comments above have been very helpful. The only good thing I can say is that the payment issue is clearly indicated on the flow-chart, although I could find no information on the actual charges, but I guess it will be waived for distinguished contributors for a slight fee……..

  • Mark 7:26 am on December 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , impact factors, , , scholarly publishing,   

    Perverse Incentives in Scholarly Publishing 

    These luxury journals are supposed to be the epitome of quality, publishing only the best research. Because funding and appointment panels often use place of publication as a proxy for quality of science, appearing in these titles often leads to grants and professorships. But the big journals’ reputations are only partly warranted. While they publish many outstanding papers, they do not publish only outstanding papers. Neither are they the only publishers of outstanding research.

    These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called “impact factor” – a score for each journal, measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. Better papers, the theory goes, are cited more often, so better journals boast higher scores. Yet it is a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself – and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking.

    It is common, and encouraged by many journals, for research to be judged by the impact factor of the journal that publishes it. But as a journal’s score is an average, it says little about the quality of any individual piece of research. What is more, citation is sometimes, but not always, linked to quality. A paper can become highly cited because it is good science – or because it is eye-catching, provocative or wrong. Luxury-journal editors know this, so they accept papers that will make waves because they explore sexy subjects or make challenging claims. This influences the science that scientists do. It builds bubbles in fashionable fields where researchers can make the bold claims these journals want, while discouraging other important work, such as replication studies.

    In extreme cases, the lure of the luxury journal can encourage the cutting of corners, and contribute to the escalating number of papers that are retracted as flawed or fraudulent. Science alone has recently retracted high-profile papers reporting cloned human embryos, links between littering and violence, and the genetic profiles of centenarians. Perhaps worse, it has not retracted claims that a microbe is able to use arsenic in its DNA instead of phosphorus, despite overwhelming scientific criticism.


  • Mark 2:31 pm on October 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , scholarly publishing,   

    The Future of Scholarship 

    The LSE Impact Blog co-hosted a conference about Open Access last week which I’m now wishing I’d gone to. I really liked the talk given by Jonathan Gray, director of policy at the Open Knowledge Foundation, which offered an adept diagnosis of the present crisis in scholarly publishing and its implications for the future of scholarship:

    If sheer quantity is a measure of success then things aren’t going too badly. The amount of research being published is growing at an astonishing rate. Recent studies estimate that around 50 million journal articles have been published since their first appearance in the mid 17th century (Jinha). This colossus is estimated to be expanding at around 1.5 to 2 million articles per year, which is roughly 3 to 4% annually. (Scopus lists about 1.6 million in 2012. The UK Publishers Association suggested global output is around 2 million per year, quoting 120,000 articles as around 6% in evidence to UK parliament. This is up from an estimated 1.3 million in 2006.)

    But more people publishing more words does not necessarily mean that our system of scholarly communication is serving us well. Scholarship is not just about publication, but about interaction, interpretation, exchange, deliberation, discourse, debate, and controversy. Plato writes of understanding as being a kind of flash that occurs between two people trying to come to terms with something from different viewpoints, a flash that arises from the friction of discussion and momentarily floods everything with light.

    Scholarship is, of course, not just about the production of text – text which has been processed, reviewed, and packaged up in the right way, in accordance with the dictates of style manuals and in keeping with the appropriate theoretical or methodological genre. Scholarship is about the way in which constellations of people and objects produce meaning, understanding and insight, through interaction, acts of interpretation. The value of a journal article is not the stated impact factor of the journal, any more than the value of a scholar is the aggregate of his or her publishing record. The value of a piece of scholarly text is in the interaction it has with its readers, in the sparks it generates, the friction and light that it produces – whether tomorrow, or in a hundred years time.

    Unfortunately our current system of scholarly communication has often developed with other priorities in mind. For a start it echoes our broader cultural and social attitudes towards sharing the fruits of our creative and intellectual labour more generally: our disproportionate focus on protection and compensation, commodification and control. The default is still that our creations cannot be shared without payment or explicit permission. Even though they are unlikely to receive a penny for it, scholars are often inclined to be more guarded than generous about sharing their published work. This social and cultural hostility to sharing in turn reflects the state of the law, which is profoundly imbalanced towards protecting and rewarding rights-holders rather than recognising that copyright is an instrument which should strike a balance between protecting private interests and providing the public with access to the fruits of our collective intellectual labour.

    Furthermore, the academic career structures in many disciplines are heavily focused around and driven by publication. Not even on scholarly output, but very specific forms and genres of publication, with a strong focus on certain journals and publishers. Journal articles and monographs have become the de facto currency of scholarship, and certain venues are worth more than others. Other forms of engagement – from collaborative projects to conferences – are often not recognised, or only recognised insofar as they result in publication.

    If publishing operations such as journal titles and monograph series are the stars which structure the orbits of scholarly communication, then we may forget that what gives them their gravitational force is ultimately the scholars and scholarly communities associated with them. Hence we may conflate the trust, reputation and authority that derives from the scrutiny, energy and attention of a particular group of scholars, with the avenue through which this is manifested: namely the title of a particular publication or series. So entangled are the reputations of scholars and publishing operations that sometimes we may find it hard to wrench them apart and to recall that ultimately it is publications which are dependent on scholars, and not the other way around.

    The result of all of these things is the lamentable situation we find ourselves in today, whereby a huge amount of the intellectual energy and attention of researchers is funnelled into the creation of products for the publishing industry which are then locked up and sold back to the institutions which employ them: the very same institutions which effectively subsidise the creation, editorial and peer review of said products. In 1999 a scholar and a librarian wrote a report unpacking the implications of this situation, which they called the ‘crisis in scholarly publishing’, which they described as: “a vicious cycle of increasing prices and decreasing distribution, straining (or breaking) library budgets, and leading to cancellations of journals and cuts in other acquisitions, as well as dangerous erosion in confidence in the integrity of peer review”. “Ultimately”, they concluded, “the flow of scholarly communication is at stake, eroding the academic mission.”


  • Mark 8:58 am on July 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , scholarly publishing, ,   

    The lessons of music culture for scholarly communication 

    Dave Beer makes some interesting points in this short article which frames current debates about open access in terms of trends within music culture, which have been driven by broadly similar structural processes and have been playing themselves out for much longer. Some people argue that rendering academic publishing more ‘open’ could prove hugely problematic, as unrestricted access to the means of ‘making public’ could lead to an even more confusing mass of literature than exists at present:

     Kirby points out that the ‘footprint’ of academic publishing has grown ‘exponentially’ since the 1960s. His point appears to be that even in the current system we are already faced with an unwieldy mass of journals and journal articles. This, as the statistics indicate, already represents an unfathomable amount of published resource. Anecdotally we can probably reflect here on how hard it is to keep up with the articles published in our own specialist areas let alone across entire disciplines and cognate disciplines. The point, it would seem, is that this situation could very well get even worse if we adopt an unlimited open model of publishing. The implicit observation is that academic publishers limit and classify the output of academics and thus filter and order the content. Kirby’s suggestion is that with open access we will be opening the floodgates whilst also losing some of these ordering mechanisms. As such we might well end up, Kirby (2012, p. 259) claims, with even more material and with ‘no obvious means to make any sense of it’.

    There’s a certain plausibility to this argument though I think it, as well as Dave’s response, ignores the significance of network filtering (as happens through social media) and correspondingly overestimates the significance of bureaucratic filtering (as happens through publishing corporations). Journals are becoming less important to discovery and perhaps less important as cyphers of quality, at least in terms of the reading decisions individuals make (clearly this is untrue in terms of institutional use of prestige as a cypher for quality and associated decisions about the distribution of scarce resources). Nonetheless, it’s unrealistic to imagine that a socially networked academia could, as an unintended emergent effect of sustained online communication, “limit and classify the output of academics and thus filter and order the content”. Which is why the mechanisms being deployed within the music industry to filter content and aid discoverability are potentially so relevant:

    Against this backdrop of cultural cacophony, music cultures have found ways to organise content so that it might find an audience. The broadcast model, despite the recent changes, remains relatively powerful in music. And so we still have large organisations shaping consumption at the top end of the market through TV shows like The X Factor. Amongst the chaos in music we also have systems that enable people to locate new music that they might like to listen to. Here predictive analytics are increasingly beginning to rule. Music fans are often told what music they are likely to want to listen to by machines. Software applications built in to iTunes, Last.fm and the like are predictive of tastes. These predictive systems provide a means for managing the chaos as the music automatically ‘finds’ its audience. This is an era in which, as Scott Lash (2006) has put it, the data ‘find us’. The practices of tagging music with metadata and the accumulation of personal profiles combine to enable this form of ‘knowing capitalism’ (Thrift, 2005) to operate. If this were to happen in academic research then one of the solutions to the intellectual din of open access might be apps that enable research articles to ‘find’ their desired audiences. This app might well predict what type of thing you might want to read and recommend it to you. An early version of this type of recommendation system, although based just on links with individual articles rather than one’s comprehensive browsing history, is provided by Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform. It sounds nice and convenient, but as with music we are forced to question the underlying algorithmic infrastructures that will then be so powerful in shaping the formation of knowledge (Beer, 2009Hayles, 2006). These algorithms will shape the knowledge we encounter and will in turn then impact upon our ideas.

    • Emmanuelle 9:30 am on July 13, 2013 Permalink

      I have to say I still can’t quite get my head around the whole thing! Interestingly enough RAE contributed to the proliferation of academic publishing. Anyway, filtering will become much more necessary. I guess that in the past publishers and peer review were the guarantor of quality. Cliques might become more important (sorry networks!). I wonder what will happen to things like special issues etc.

      Academics will have to be well supported by universities to help with publication and marketing. Given that workloads are increasing this is poorly timed! I think universities will have to increase marketing support and people to manage repositories.

      I think academics, rather than resist beyond useful critique, should push their institutions for creative forms of support. I get the sense that everybody is waiting and hoping for the best.

  • Mark 6:59 pm on July 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , scholarly publishing, ,   

    Open research and ‘self-promotion’ 

    I just read an interesting (though slightly depressing!) post from Nick Hopwood giving useful advice to PhDs and ECRs. I’m not quibbling with his advice per se and I genuinely enjoy his blog but I took issue with this paragraph:

    I had vague ideas that academics, with a few obvious exceptions, get on in their careers by doing good, solid research, teaching effectively, and making quiet contributions to institutional and disciplinary life. The quality of their ideas, discoveries, pedagogy and colleagueship would ensure that their recognition. If that was ever true (which it may not have been) it certainly isn’t now. You get, and get on in, an academic career by actively (perhaps aggressively at times) peddling your ideas, your effectiveness as a teacher, and your value to the uni or your field. You have to push. This comes from having the vision and courage to apply for grants when you’ll probably get rejected, to aim for top journals, to try out new teaching approaches, and to step up in working groups, push new ideas through committees, take on roles in your disciplinary organisation. But it also comes from capitalising on those achievements when you make them. An academic life is pretty much a constant sales pitch (see below). Here, I mean you’re selling your work to others.

    I completely see what he’s getting at. But I’d like to make a (potentially naive) argument against it. His case rests on the suggestion that, in the contemporary academy, people won’t receive recognition through the intrinsic virtue of their scholarship. There’s a certain plausibility about this claim. But does it hold for open scholarship? I suspect not but I don’t wish to suggest that ‘openness’ somehow ameliorates all that is wrong with higher education. However I do think that when the development of ideas becomes, via social media, an open process then Nick’s argument largely ceases to be true. This could be construed cynically: perhaps social media is intrinsically self-promotive? Or more positively: genuine openness in academic life would make it much more likely that people receive recognition in virtue of “the quality of their ideas, discoveries, pedagogy and colleagueship”. Thoughts on this  would be much appreciated, as I’m not entirely sure whether I’m convinced by my own argument. I guess the intuition underlying it is that ‘doing work in the open’ cannot be equated to self-promotion even if, in practice, the former leads to the latter.

    • Terry McGlynn 7:05 pm on July 12, 2013 Permalink

      Being genuinely open and interactive helps sell your ideas, but also strategic self-promotion makes a huge difference. Many of my colleagues are top-notch scholars, but the subset of them that have identified the way to market themselves have more recognition and the booty that comes with it.

    • Roy Wilson 7:09 pm on July 12, 2013 Permalink

      I also wonder if Nick’s ideas apply most, at least in the US, to top-tier institutions rather than those focused primarily on teaching at the undergraduate (perhaps also Master’s) level.

    • Andy Coverdale 9:53 am on July 13, 2013 Permalink

      You make an interesting agreement here Mark, but I wonder if you’ve fallen into a bit of a media-determinist trap. Perhaps recognition through engaging in social media / open scholarship is just as dependent on the type of ‘aggressive’ activity Nick advocates in traditional academic environments.

    • Mark 9:17 am on July 18, 2013 Permalink

      I guess I’m proposing a specific mechanism: social media makes it more likely that work will be recognised regardless of whether the individual concerned aggressively markets themselves in the way Nick discusses. There’s still contingent conditions which need to be in place (the blog still has to be promoted, it has to be discoverable etc) but I think the activity is distinguishable from the sort of things which Nick talks about. Or at least my argument falls apart if this distinction isn’t accepted or sustainable.

  • Mark 7:30 am on June 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , scholarly publishing,   

    Seeing scholarly publishing with fresh eyes 

    A research student of mine was thinking about submitting his first paper to an academic journal. He casually asked how much he would be paid for his contribution, acknowledging it probably wouldn’t be much. I explained that not only would he not be paid but that for some journals the authors were themselves expected to pay for the article to be published. He was shocked by this revelation, ‘but, they sell the journals don’t they?’

    • Martin Weller in the Digital Scholar
  • Mark 8:59 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , academic spring, , , scholarly publishing, science communication,   

    ‘Academic spring’ or media hype? The open acccess debate and what it means for researchers 

    This session will explore the profound changes currently taking place within academic publishing and address their implications for researchers. Debates around ‘open access’ have recently entered mainstream debate, with the Guardian talking of an ‘academic spring’ building around the world. However the issues at stake go beyond open access and a focus on the technical details of particular proposals can often obscure the broader questions which the academic community, scholarly publishers and funding bodies are currently attempting to address. By putting currents debates in context, as well as exploring their practical consequences for those either undertaking or seeking an academic career, this talk aims to help move beyond headlines and bring some more clarity to the debate.

    Iad talk from Mark Carrigan
    • Dale Reardon 3:16 am on July 17, 2012 Permalink


      Do you have a word doc or some other format of this presentation? I am vision impaired and use a screen reader to “view” the screen and it just doesn’t work with these presentation services.

      Twitter: @DaleReardon

    • Mark 7:03 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink

      Nope, I don’t sorry. I’ll probably record the talk as a podcast in the next couple of weeks though. If I do, I’ll post it on here 🙂

  • Mark 11:08 pm on July 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , scholarly publishing, , ,   

    What about the authors who can’t pay? Why the government’s embrace of gold open access isn’t something to celebrate 

    Sometimes I worry that Twitter is an echo chamber, reflecting my own prejudices back at me and shielding me from contrasting views. On other occasions though, I find this same characteristic immensely comforting. Such as when reading that the government has officially embraced the recommendations of the Finch report and finding that other PhD students and early career researchers were just as dismayed by this news as I was. Leaving aside the broader issues pertaining to gold open access, which in practice simply redistributes costs within a broken system without challenging the underlying commercial premise, there’s one particular question posed by this chain of events which is the cause of my current dread about the future of academic publishing: what about the authors who can’t pay?

    I fear that academic publishing could come to resemble the perilous landscape that PhDs and ECRs are only too familiar with at present. The competition for post doctoral funding is ever increasing, leading to continual inflation of the things you need on your CV to stand a chance, yet without funding it’s very difficult to actually achieve these prerequisites. Or in other words: the best way to get post doctoral funding is to already have it. Could we see something similar happening with publications? If authors are dependent on their institutions and/or funding bodies to pay the substantial fees required under gold open access then those who already have a job and funding will find it easier to publish and thereby increase their chances of getting another job and more funding. Much as the post doctoral funding climate creates virtuous cycles, so too will the publishing climate, as a whole swathe of early career academics will find themselves untroubled by article processing charges. From their perspective, open access of this form will be great: it doesn’t pose problems and it means their research is freely available. On the other hand, what of those who find themselves excluded? If your funding is patchy or non-existent how can you compete? Is it even going to be possible to be an independent researcher in any meaningful sense?

    In a climate where freelance, part-time and fixed term contracts are increasingly the norm within academia, the extent to which the government’s announcement is retrograde cannot be overstated. Such a radical increase in the dependence of researchers upon their institution has profound consequences for those who do ‘make it’, leaving aside the many who seem likely to be wholly or partially swept aside for the reasons discussed above. With funding bodies increasingly focused around narrow priority areas, often tied to short term political whims to a truly abominable degree, themselves falling into homology with priority areas within universities, naturally aiming to increase their success in winning funding from these bodies, what becomes of research that falls into a non-priority area? What becomes of independent research full stop? Will their be funding available to cover author fees? Will their be conditions attached to it? How will the inevitable rationing work? Even assuming the best will and highest managerial accumen in the world, these yet unanswered questions paint a picture of the future university which I find far from appealing. What of the willingness to dissent and speak up at a time when economic instability looks set to continue indefinitely? With academics even more reliant on universities, as one of the two potential sources of author fees, will they be willing to resist? Or will the disciplining of academic labour, already entrenched in multifaceted ways with many personal consequences, simply continue?

    • claytonbingham 3:01 am on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You have hit on something very important that I worry about a lot…I think that the near-term solution is ensuring that either libraries don’t lose their budgets or it is reallocated to departments via research departments…This will ensure that some funding is available for authors publishing in OA journals.

      It is interesting to speculate on how this may augment the politics on campus and make various departments even more top-heavy politically than they already are…

    • claytonbingham 3:02 am on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      Reblogged this on and commented:
      You have hit on something very important that I worry about a lot…I think that the near-term solution is ensuring that either libraries don’t lose their budgets or it is reallocated to departments via research departments…This will ensure that some funding is available for authors publishing in OA journals.

      It is interesting to speculate on how this may augment the politics on campus and make various departments even more top-heavy politically than they already are…

    • Mike Taylor 4:46 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You haven’t done your research. There are lots of OA venues that are free to authors as well as to readers; and among those that ask a publication fee many (such as the PLoS journals) offer a no-questions-asked waiver to authors who do not have funds for publication.

      This is a non-issue.

    • Mark 9:10 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      You say ‘many’ but could you cite some examples beyond PLoS? Furthermore could you offer some examples specifically relevant to the social sciences and the humanities? I’m aware that some gold open access journals offer waivers, I’m just sceptical about how generalisable this will be as the model expands and becomes more integral to the economics of scholarly publishing. The fact you seem to think both that I’m unaware that open access extends beyond author pays models and against open access in principles makes me think that you either didn’t read my post and/or are reading it through a pretty narrow ideological prism. My problem may very well be a “non-issue” but the evidence and argument you’ve cited to this end amounts to nothing more than observing that not all open access involves fees (I know and not really the point here) and observing that PLoS offers waivers. I’m very worried about the impact this will have on early career researchers in humanities & social sciences and I’d LOVE to be convinced I’m wrong about this. But you’ve not really come close to doing this, just said some largely irrelevant stuff and then declared it a ‘non-issue’.

    • Mark 9:14 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      I think it’s the politics of this that fundamentally concerns me. It’s impossible to predict the technical details at this stage but given the general trajectory of higher education, particularly for social science and humanities, over the last decade, increasing the dependence of academics on institutions and funding bodies (while living commercial publishing, in principle, untouched) is a glaringly obviously bad thing.

    • Mike Taylor 9:29 pm on July 16, 2012 Permalink

      Mark, I beg your pardon — I am a scientist and am writing from a scientist’s perspective, where fee waivers really are widely available: see for example the BMC journals as well as PLoS. I’d not realised you’re in the humanities, and concluded you’d “not done your research” on the basis that you didn’t mention PLoS — which of course is not really relevant to you.

      I don’t know much about humanities, but IIRC SAGE Open is the main open-access megajournal in that area — correct? If so, their current gold-OA fee of $195 seems very reasonably, and they say Authors who do not have the means to cover the publication fee may request a waiver [click on “Submission Guidelines”].

    • Mark 7:06 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink

      Thanks for apology, I thought your initial post was unnecessarily dismissive and I realise now it wasn’t intended to be 🙂 I’ve been obsessing over this for the last 2 days (I gave a lecture on scholarly publishing & open access today) and I’m a bit tired of talking/thinking about it at this stage to be honest…

    • Seb Schmoller 7:30 pm on July 17, 2012 Permalink

      ALT’s peer-reviewed journal Research in Learning Technology – a niche field, I guess – is Gold Open Access, with no article processing fees for the moment. [We switched it from traditional to Open Access in January this year.] This is not to dismiss the issues that Mark raises.

    • dratarrant 2:43 pm on October 16, 2012 Permalink

      “If so, their current gold-OA fee of $195 seems very reasonably, and they say Authors who do not have the means to cover the publication fee may request a waiver [click on “Submission Guidelines”]”.

      Excuse my ignorance of this but is this $195 a personal contribution by the author i.e. from their wage packet? And who judges whether or not someone is worthy of a fee waiver? As an employed ECR (for now!) I am by no means struggling financially but to have to pay even the apparently ‘reasonable’ (I don’t consider this reasonable when I want to publish just one paper, let alone more, so I can be competitive in this job market!), $195 from my own money seems ludicrous to me. In essence I am returning the wage I got to write the paper in the first place for my work to be public, which should be a right anyway! It seems wrong that any author should have to pay out of their personal finance to have work published when they have already worked hard on it. Maybe I am wrong on this, but I think Mark makes very important points relevant to science and humanities more generally.
      Any correction to y points or constructive development on these ideas appreciated.

    • Mike Taylor 10:31 am on October 18, 2012 Permalink

      Excuse my ignorance of this but is this $195 a personal contribution by the author i.e. from their wage packet?

      That is a possibility, but I imagine it’s extremely rare. The general expectation of Gold OA journals is that publication is part of the cost of doing research (just as library subscriptions are) and that the money comes from the same pool that’s used to buy lab equipment or other necessities of research.

      And who judges whether or not someone is worthy of a fee waiver?

      That’s down the the publisher. But in my experience “I have no institutional funds to cover this publication” has always been sufficient reason to obtain a waiver. To return to the example of PLoS, it’s explicitly part of their philosophy that no-one should be prevented from publishing with them by financial issues. (I don’t know whether the same is true of SAGE Open, but we can reasonably hope it would be so.)

      $195 from my own money seems ludicrous to me. In essence I am returning the wage I got to write the paper in the first place for my work to be public, which should be a right anyway!

      I whole heartedly agree.

  • Mark 4:20 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , epresses, , scholarly publishing, , sydney university, , university presses   

    Scholarly Publishing and ePresses – Interview with @agatamontoya about the new university presses in Australia 

    A podcast I did with Agata Montoya, an editor at Sydney University Press, as part of my Digital Change research. If you want to find out more about these issues, you should check out these articles by Agata: here and here.

    • Dale Reardon 2:04 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      The player doesn’t appear to be present for the podcast.

      Can I download the file as an alternative?

    • Mark 9:47 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      fixed 🙂

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