Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Interesting Recent Items on Research and Publishing in Academe.

Coates, Ken. "Knowledge Overload." Inside Higher Ed March 23, 2009:
There is a fundamental problem here that needs to be addressed. . . . A significant number of articles, including many published in small circulation periodicals, are never cited by anyone. Think, too, of the conferences papers that fail to attract meaningful audiences, the journals that have tiny circulations and very small readerships, and the fact that most academic books are published in press runs of under 1,000 copies, despite the growth in the number of academics and university and college libraries. Put bluntly, we are researching without having an impact, speaking without being heard and writing without being read. Furthermore, our tenure and promotion procedures reward publication more than they do awareness of the field, thus pushing up conference attendance, and journal and book submissions. New technologies certainly do find things faster and share them more broadly. Digitized materials are readily assembled and moved from producers to libraries to end-users. But there is a major impediment to improvement in this regard: the capacity to read. No one has yet found a system that will truly allow us to assimilate new research more effectively. And so, we read indexes rather than journals, abstracts rather than papers, review essays rather than books. Awash in a sea of academic discourse and analysis, we look desperately for an intellectual life-raft, all the while feverishly seeking to add to the accumulated scholarly wisdom ourselves. It is time to take a very deep breath and to step well back from our current approach to academic dissemination and publication. . . . (
"Farewell to the Printed Monograph." Inside Higher Ed March 23, 2009:
The University of Michigan Press is announcing today that it will shift its scholarly publishing from being primarily a traditional print operation to one that is primarily digital. Within two years, press officials expect well over 50 of the 60-plus monographs that the press publishes each year -- currently in book form -- to be released only in digital editions. Readers will still be able to use print-on-demand systems to produce versions that can be held in their hands, but the press will consider the digital monograph the norm. Many university presses are experimenting with digital publishing, but the Michigan announcement may be the most dramatic to date by a major university press. The shift by Michigan comes at a time that university presses are struggling. With libraries' budgets constrained, many presses have for years been struggling to sell significant numbers of monographs -- which many junior professors need to publish to earn tenure -- and those difficulties have only been exacerbated by the economic downturn. The University of Missouri Press and the State University of New York Press both have announced layoffs in recent months, while Utah State University Press is facing the possibility of a complete elimination of university support. Michigan officials say that their move reflects a belief that it's time to stop trying to make the old economics of scholarly publishing work. "I have been increasingly convinced that the business model based on printed monograph was not merely failing but broken," said Phil Pochoda, director of the Michigan press. "Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?". . . . (
"Unread Monographs, Uninspired Undergrads." Inside Higher Ed March 18, 2009:
Scholarly output rises; undergraduates are disengaged. “This is the real calamity of the research mandate -- 10,000 harried professors forced to labor on disregarded print, and 100,000 unwitting students missing out on rigorous face-to-face learning,” Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, writes in a new paper on relieving research expectations in the humanities. “I think these two trends -- to do more and more research and less academic engagement on the freshman level -- are not unrelated,” Bauerlein said in an interview about “Professors on the Production Line, Students on their Own." The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research released the paper Tuesday. “The incentives are obvious. If you’re a professor whose future depends on the amount of pages you produce, then all those hours you spend talking to freshmen about their majors, about their ideas, about their summer reading … really paying attention to these wayward 18-year-olds who are fresh out of high school, you’re hurting yourself," says Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Penguin, 2008). Bauerlein considers research on student engagement and data on trends in scholarly publishing -- and sales -- in arguing his case. He cites 2008 National Survey of Student Engagement figures showing that 38 percent of first-year students “never” discuss ideas from readings with their instructors outside of class, while 39 percent do "sometimes." Meanwhile, he writes that scholarly book output in literary studies has outpaced growth of the professoriate by a magnitude of three. Scholarly consumption has not kept up accordingly. Average sales for literature and language monographs are in the low to mid-hundreds, Bauerlein writes, and he cites Association of Research Libraries data finding that the number of monographs purchased by research libraries rose just 1 percent between 1986 and 2006. . . . (
"Style: MLA, Updated." Inside Higher Ed March 11, 2009:
Even in citations, print is the default no more. The seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, released Tuesday, states that the Modern Language Association no longer recognizes print as the default medium, and suggests that the medium of publication should be included in each works cited entry. Moreover, the MLA has ceased to recommend inclusion of URLs in citing Web-based works – unless the instructor requires it or a reader would likely be unable to locate the source otherwise. “Inclusion of URLs has proved to have limited value… for they often change, can be specific to a subscriber or a session of use, and can be so long and complex that typing them into a browser is cumbersome and prone to transcription errors. Readers are now more likely to find resources on the Web by searching for titles and authors' names than by typing URLs,” states the handbook. . . . (
"Universities Urged to Ensure 'Broadest Possible Access' to Scholarship." Chronicle of Higher Education February 12, 2009:
With digital technologies profoundly changing how researchers produce and share scholarship, universities must take a “much more active role” in disseminating that work. That is the central message of a “call to action” issued jointly today by the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American Universities, the Coalition for Networked Information, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. . . . (

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