The battle takes a new twist: mutiny

The rise and rise of the ‘openness’ movement in education is well documented, having gained momentum in the last few decades through open learning, open educational resources and other associated areas of endeavour. A particular hotbed of continual debate and conflict is the area of open publishing, well documented in Martin Weller’s The Battle For Open (2014).

The conflict is anything but surprising, given that

Generating profits for publishers and shareholders should be seen as a side effect of providing a useful service, but it should not be a goal. The goal is to effectively disseminate research. (Weller, p. 56)

A simple graph illustrates the progress that’s been made in open publishing:

Open access journals and articles. Source: reprinted in Weller (2014) under a CC-BY license.

Open access journals and articles. Source: reprinted in Weller (2014) under a CC-BY license.









Note that the graph has data points only until 2009. It would be interesting to see how the pattern has gone in the last five years. An indication is provided in a graph by Michael Eisen in his blog (he isn’t sure about the weird 2009 data):

oa papers









The battle rages and progress is of course anything but smooth. As Weller summarises after presenting well-founded arguments for openness in publishing academic work:

The combination of these practical and ethical arguments has made the existing practices and profits of academic publishers increasingly difficult to justify and maintain. As we shall see with other aspects of openness, the argument becomes irresistible. This is when the real battle for open begins … . (Weller, p. 54)

A newsworthy skirmish has emerged with respect to a particularly powerful publisher, Elsevier. Following some years of expressed disquiet,

In 2012 over 14,000 academics joined a boycott of publisher Elsevier, protesting about their ‘exorbitantly high’ charges and practices, which they saw as limiting the free exchange of knowledge (Cost of Knowledge 2012). In 2013 Elsevier sent ‘take- down notices’ to the academic social media site, demanding that copies of articles that were shared on academic profiles on the site be removed (Taylor 2013b). (Weller, p. 59)

It would have been interesting to eavesdrop on the subsequent discussions in the boardroom. mutinyNow amid Elsevier’s half-baked mutterings of change and progress comes a bombshell: Elsevier Mutiny: Cracks Are Widening in the Fortress of Academic Publishing.

Yes, “All six editors and the entire editorial board of the well-respected linguistics journal Lingua resigned en masse last week.” This is a gutsy move, and it is hard to imagine that it’s the end of the battle.

Given that academics are not usually beholden financially to the major publishing corporations, unlike the pharmaceutical industry with its financial tentacles into institutions of medical research, this is one that the academics should win.

photo credit: Mutiny! via photopin (license)

The Paris Message: Will anyone read it?

‘What Paris Message?’, you may ask.

Well, in June 2015, the Global High Level Policy Forum (UNESCO/ICDE) issued a “call for governments, higher education leaders, academic staff and students to take action now.” The document is titled Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education for the Future We Want, and presents 15 specific aims for practitioners at a variety of levels. Continue reading

It’s not so much what was said, but who said it!

… much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. …

The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. …

Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.

Continue reading