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Posts from the ‘Editorial and Opinion’ Category

Don’t Miss the Great Mathers Museum Building Debate

brutalism

Built in the early 1980s, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures building is an example of Brutalist architecture, a modernist style reviled by some and revered by others. Two Indiana University historians with a research expertise in architecture fall squarely into one camp or the other. Eric Sandweiss, the current chair of the Department of History, and Michael Dodson, the current chair of the Dhar India Studies Program and a faculty member in the Department of History, have agreed to participate in a spirited debate on the relative beauty (or lack thereof) of the Mathers Museum building. In doing so, they will provide general insights into contemporary architecture and the contrasting and competing ways that beauty has been embraced, complicated, or rejected as a criterion for the evaluation and understanding of the built environment. The debate will be free and open to the public, and is sponsored by Themester 2016: Beauty, an initiative of the IU College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the President.

See also the Themester and Museum events pages for this big event.

Tomorrow! Workshop on Social Media and Academic Freedom

Social media panel discussion flyer

Reflections and Reports on Open Access Published in the New Issue of Cultural Anthropology (@culanth)

The new, May 2014 issue of Cultural Anthropology is out now. It is the second issue of the journal to be made freely available online, which means anyone with internet access can read it. (Hurray.) In support of the journal’s commitment to understanding and pursuing open access approaches to scholarly communication, the new issue has a dedicated section of peer-reviewed contributions focused on open access in the journal publishing realm.

I am happy be one of the contributors to this section. Ryan Anderson and I revised and updated an earlier interview on open access that we did together. We calibrated the new version to contemporary circumstances, included specific discussions of the Cultural Anthropology case, and sketched a critical anthropology of contemporary scholarly communications practices. It was exciting not only to revise the interview but to improve it on the basis of appreciated peer-review. We think of the piece as an experiment in genre too, as the interview was a textual co-construction in which we revised and altered each others’ words with the goal of creating the most useful resource that we could. It began as a true interview, but did not end there. (In this, its inspiration was an earlier Cultural Anthropology piece on open access “Cultural Anthropology of/in Circulation.”) The interview’s primary function among the other pieces is as an introduction to open access practices. We hope that it is useful in this role. We appreciate everyone who has already expressed kind appreciation for the piece.

There are many great pieces in the open access section (see list below). I am only now reading the other articles in the issue. Charles’ Briggs’s “Dear Dr. Freud” is compelling.

A key thing about the way that the Society for Cultural Anthropology is doing its journal and website is that the site is a rich hub for content both in support of the journal and extending well beyond it. Articles are often richly supplemented with interviews, images, and media and there are also opinion pieces, shorter works, photo galleries and much additional content. While Chris Kelty is present in the open access section of the journal, I want to call attention to his even newer opinion piece, which was published today. In it, he makes a strong case for the adoption of Creative Commons licenses for Cultural Anthropology going forward. I share his views.

There is lots to read in the new issue. Here are the open access pieces.

I really like the Glossary. It allowed me to get a definition of FUD into the pages of Cultural Anthropology! (Learning the term was the only good thing about the PRISM fiasco, an episode that seems so long ago now.)

The issue is receiving a good bit of discussion on Twitter but, as so often happens, there will probably be only a tiny amount of commenting on the journal site–even though there is great infrastructure in place to allow for it. I invite everyone to prove me wrong. Be brave and leave a comment on any of the papers.

Thank you to @culanth editors Anne Allison and Charles Piot for their hard work and for including the piece that Ryan and I did. Thanks as well to @culanth Managing Editor Tim Elfenbein for his hard work on the issue.

Open Access at Indiana University Bloomington

Richard Poynder doesn’t miss a thing.

As reflected in Richard’s tweet and the Indiana Daily Student story that he pointed to, I–in my role as the chair of the Bloomington Faculty Council Library Committee–reported to the full council on Tuesday (April 29, 2014), summarizing the committee’s work deliberating during AY2013-2014 on two special charges relating to scholarly communications policy on Indiana University’s flagship Bloomington campus. This issues are complicated and understanding of them among faculty members remains low, motivating me to prepare formal remarks outlining the work of the committee and some of the contexts that motivated it. I also prepared a summary for circulation to the faculty via the regular reporting undertaken by the Council’s secretary. For those beyond Bloomington with an interest in the matter, I can report here a couple of points not raised in the IDS story. I will also present below my submitted summary text.

While the members of the Committee were divided on the desirability of continued efforts toward a Bloomington open access policy of the sort now in place at the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity University, the University of Kansas, Oberlin College, Rollins College, Duke University, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of North Texas, Lafayette College, Emory University, Princeton University, Bucknell University, Oregon State University, Utah State University, Rice University, Wellesley College, Amherst College, the College of Wooster, Rutgers, Drake University, Georgia Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Bryn Mawr College, Connecticut College, and other institutions around the world, the Executive Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council has announced that the matter will remain on the Council’s agenda in AY2014-2015. The Library Committee of the Indianapolis Faculty Council at IUPUI has recommended such a policy to its full campus council and the leadership groups on both campus intend to pursue educational and policy setting efforts around open access at the level of the university as a whole under the auspices of the University Faculty Council. Those watching open access policy work in Bloomington then should know that discussions on the issues are not concluded, despite the majority report of the Library Committee.

Those who know me and my commitments on these issues should know that I continue to believe what I have said that I believe on them and that my obligations as chair of the Library Committee were distinct from my commitments as a publisher, scholar, and public interest advocate.

The Summary

For AY2013-2014, the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) Library Committee was charged with deliberating on two specific issues [in addition to its standing obligations]. The BFC Executive Committee asked it to weigh a permanent change in committee charge to encompass work monitoring and formulating policy on scholarly publishing and scholarly communications issues. The committee was also asked to weigh options and to recommend (or not recommend) a specific proactive campus open access policy that could be considered and acted upon (after suitable campus consultation) by the Council. In response to the question of recommending a change in the committee’s standing charge, the committee recommended not making this change, instead recommending a mechanism by which the BFC Executive Committee would partner with the Provost in staffing the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Office of Scholarly Publishing. In response to the question of a normative open access policy for members of the Bloomington faculty, the committee recommended not pursuing such a policy, despite the growth of such policies at peer institutions. The committee’s motivations for adopting these positions are complex and different committee members arrived at different positions for varied reasons. Central to the recommendation to not expand or change the committee charge was concern that the committee as already inadequately addressing its ambitious existing charge, something than an expanded charge on a different set of issues would not ameliorate. Factors motivating member reservations about a campus open access policy defy categorization and are sometimes contradictory. A highly abstract summation of them is concern that such a policy could have various unintended negative consequences either as an outgrowth of achieving the stated goals of such a policy or in failing to do so.

Coda

My work as a member of the Bloomington Faculty Council ends officially at the end of the university fiscal year, but is effectively concluded now. I appreciated the opportunity to serve on, and learn as a member of, the Council. I have served as a member of the Library Committee on several occasions, including as its chair on multiple occasions. I am thankful for that opportunity. Outside of these roles in the years ahead, I look forward to new work advocating for progressive scholarly communications policies at Indiana University.

Check Out the New Anthropod Podcast on Open Access

I really enjoyed listening to the new Anthropod podcast on open access in anthropology. Focusing on the move of Cultural Anthropology to an open access model, hosts Bascom Guffin and Jonah S Rubin have done a great job with the podcast. I urge everyone to check out their well produced conversations with Sean Dowdy (of Hau), Alex Golub (of Savage Minds and many OA discussions), Brad Weiss (past SCA President), and Timothy Elfenbein (Cultural Anthropology Managing Editor).

Find it in context here: http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/492-8-can-scholarship-be-free-to-read-cultural-anthropology-goes-open-access

Debt and Graduate Admissions

From the end of Matthew Pratt Guterl’s essay “Debt“:

There are many major issues with higher education, but the solutions to most of them are well beyond the reach of tenure-stream faculty.  Chairs and department members can’t generally compel deans to do much of anything, because decisions about financial reallocation aren’t usually made by deans – they get made by Provosts and Presidents, by big donors, by trustees, and by students, who can always take their precious credit hours elsewhere.

There is, though, a metaphorical debt to be paid here. We owe graduate students a clear shot at a degree without an interest rate on the back end (so, a reasonable stipend, workshop space, and research support, but also financial counseling and informal support mechanisms).  We owe them some very straight talk early in their coursework about an exit strategy if they aren’t going to make it.  We owe them a direct path to the degree, and structures and cultures that make it possible for them to complete their work in decent time.  We owe them degrees with somewhat flexible career outcomes.  And we owe it to them to match the size of our incoming cohorts – as best as we possibly can – to the job market success of recent graduates, and not chiefly to the sometimes self-indulgent abstractions of graduate teaching.

These things are within reach.  These things can be done.

Matt’s essay is part of a larger ongoing conversation happening with extra vigor, and also extra despair, right now. (I am not going to provide a pile of links here. If you are involved in training graduate students, are a graduate student, or think you  want to be a graduate student, you should be plugged into this conversation. If you have not found it on your own, you should be reading Inside Higher Education and those parts of the Chronicle of Higher Education that you can access (it is not all freely accessible and not everyone has access to an institutional subscription). You should also be following the discussion on Twitter (@sarahkendzior and those whom she is in dialogue with would be a good start) and elsewhere on the open web.)

The timing of the debt discussion is particularly appropriate because right now, in research universities around the United States, academic departments with graduate programs are reviewing applications from would-be masters and doctoral students. Such departments face many hard to answer questions. Who to admit and why? How many students to admit? Of those admitted, how many will come? Will we provide financial support for some or all of those we admit? How long will it take for an admitted applicant to accomplish the learning and career goals that they are describing in their application? Can we adequately mentor and train the person we are learning about in a large but partial PDF file? What will the career prospects be for these applicants two or six or eight years from now? How is my university changing and how is the world changing and how will these changes shape the experiences of, and prospects for, these applicants?

In my own department, I am deeply involved in this process right now. No one can know exactly how to answer such questions or to perfectly do this work–and it is really work. When it is done and some of those applicants join us next fall, I will try my best to fulfill those obligations that Matt outlines in his essay. At least those things seem clear.

Conflation as Insult (On the Gold Open Access World I Live In)

On Savage Minds, Alex Golub very generously celebrates the recent publication of a large quantity of open access journal articles in anthropology and neighboring fields. I wish to add one point. I am talking to you under-informed, confusion-promulgating open access skeptics.

Not one of the journals that Alex highlights in his new post (to which we can add the remarkable Hau, the focus of other recent posts (1, 2) on Savage Minds) relies upon author fees to achieve this abundance. It is fair to say that the growing embrace of gold and hybrid open access by large commercial publishers (old and new) has very properly accelerated discussion of author-side charges and their very significant downsides. This shift has also erased older binaries and made it harder to talk about open access more broadly. But those wishing to advance the pro-/con- discussion of gold open access have an obligation to understand facts on the ground and to stop prematurely overgeneralizing on the basis of ignorance. The widespread conflation of all forms of gold open access with author-pays gold open access is not only unhelpful, it is an insult to all of those academics (and others) who take time out from their own work to help review and publish the writings of their colleagues in free-to-all-internet users and free-to-author ways. It is also unfair to those generous agencies and individuals in the world who are donating cash and services and attention and expertise to the building out of a progressive open access publishing ecosystem.

The community of people engaging with open access questions critically, and even skeptically, needs to grow and I want to welcome rather than discourage newcomers. But, if you cannot take the time to study the subject of open access in sufficient depth to make evidence-based pronouncements, then you should stop talking and start listening.

Coda: In my world, the conflation is most often an honest mistake by well-meaning people but it is also sometimes intentional FUD. One illustration of the rhetorical steps one takes to malign gold open access through conflation are illustrated by Konrad M. Lawson in today’s ProfHacker post. (See also Open Access: Six Myths to Put to Rest.)

On The Journal of Folklore Research in 2013

2013 was a very busy year for me. It was a great year, but it was overly full at work and so-called work-life balance thus was not much in evidence. I am hardly unique in this regard and I continue to count myself among the very lucky–fully employed doing (scholarly) things that I both love and that I am reasonably good at.

One opportunity that made 2013 overly full was my appointment as Interim Editor of the Journal of Folklore Research (JFR). My work on JFR actually began in fall 2012, when I had worked in the role of (this is a mouthful) Interim Editor-Designate. In fall 2012 I was asked to step in as interim editor to span the end of Moria Marsh’s long editorship and the start (in January 2014) of Michael Dylan Foster’s more permanent editorship. (Michael was committed overseas during 2013.) What was needed was a faculty member in the Indiana University (IU) Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology who already knew about journal editing and who could hit the ground running. That seemed to describe me and, although editing another journal was not something I was trying to do (I was already editing Museum Anthropology Review), it was clear that the team needed me. JFR is a key journal in folklore studies and I care about its future even if I had not anticipating having a direct role in that future.

(Parenthetical notes on JFR and open access… My advocacy for open access projects is pretty well known, thus observers may wonder about my having gotten entangled with a toll access journal. My work on JFR ran in parallel with my work on the Open Folklore project, my involvement in campus open access efforts at IU, and my role as a faculty advisory committee member for the IU Office of Scholarly Publishing (OSP), the new campus organization that encompasses the Indiana University Press alongside IU Library-based campus open access efforts. JFR is published by the IU Press and relies on Project Muse and JSTOR. While JFR did not magically become a gold OA journal during 2013, its alignment with OA goals did increase to a degree. In 2013 JFR got a new author agreement that allows JFR authors some self-archiving rights. More importantly, larger conversations relating to the OSP will, in time, impact JFR and other IU Press journals. We do not know what this will look like with much certainty, but it is clear that JFR will change to accommodate changing publishing norms and scholarly practices. Serving JFR for just a year, my main assignment was to hold things together under the inherited model. I think that this goal was accomplished, but I would not have undertaken this stewardship role if I did not believe that JFR has a promising–and more open–future ahead of it. How to accomplish this is a big task for the future. In the meantime, I was devoting labor to a journal that was (at least) operating on a not-for-profit basis and one that was, as I took it on, being published by a new campus unit that has open access aspirations at its core.)

I had the honor of serving as JFR’s editor during its 50th anniversary year. I did not work alone. JFR 51(1) will include a published appreciation from me. Here I will just note the wonderful support that JFR has enjoyed from outgoing editor Moria Marsh, former managing editor Danille Christensen, current managing editor Steve Stanzak, current editorial assistant Miriam Woods, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology (FOLK) chair Diane Goldstein, FOLK fiscal officer Sheri Sherrill, FOLK accounting associate Michelle Bright, the IU Press journals staff, and the IU ScholarWorks staff. Many people help make JFR a success. They deserve our collective thanks.

What got done on my watch as Interim Editor of JFR? When I took over the journal it was two issues behind schedule, thus two issues for 2012 needed to be published in 2013 alongside the three current numbers for 2013. (As journal publishers know, such a situation is dreaded but not uncommon.) This was accomplished and the first issue for 2014 also went to press during 2013. This means that the staff and I engaged with editing and production work on the following:

JFR 49(2)   132 published pages, six published items
JFR 49(3)   120 published pages, four published items
JFR 50(1-3)   299 published pages, eleven published items
JFR 51(1)   117 published pages five published items

In total this means that we did editorial work on 668 typeset pages of JFR content spread over 26 published items. During my interim editorship, JFR produced two years of content in the space of one year. The journal is now on track and on schedule to be handed off to its new editor in a few days.

On the editorial throughput side, JFR was somewhat challenged in 2012 due to a lack of accepted content. This contributed to (but not was not solely responsible for) the journal being behind when my work with it began in fall 2012. This difficulty was also addressed during my time as interim editor. During 2013, we read and processed fifty article manuscripts divided as follows.

20   Reviewed and Rejected in 2013
16   Reviewed and Accepted in 2013
14   Received in 2013 and Still in Process (ex: “revise and resubmit”)

At an average page length of 35 pages in manuscript form, this throughput for 2013 is approximately 1750 pages. Throughput is a very dynamic matter. It is easy for a journal to have too few submissions and too little accepted content and it is actually possible (especially, but not solely, with print journals with their fixed issue lengths) to have too many accepted articles (leading to long waits for authors). The sweet spot is hard to find and, once found, hard to stay in.

Every editor wants abundant submissions of excellent, field-defining quality, but even here it is possible to have too much. As in so many areas, attention is even more of a limiting factor than money. Authors of articles submitted to, but not accepted by, JFR during 2013 did not get from me the kind of careful feedback that JFR-submitting authors of the past benefitted from. I apologize here for this lack. Given other duties and the scale of the JFRs own work overall, it was not possible to provide meaningful developmental editing to all submitting authors. Given the changing scale, pace, and nature of scholarly publishing overall, I am doubtful that any medium scale journal will be able to consistently provide such feedback. On the smaller scale, it should remain possible for journals such as Museum Anthropology Review. On the larger scale, we see the rise of developmental editing as a fee-based, a la carte service. (We live in interesting times. Consider the example of Rubriq.)

Returning to words of thanks, I want to thank all of the authors who JFR worked with during 2013. Thank you for your engagement with the journal and the fields that it serves. Thank you for your patience and goodwill during a time of change. Thanks finally to the many peer-reviewers without whose labor and careful judgement the work of JFR would falter. Your contribution to the gift economy of academic publishing is priceless.

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (3): In This, I Support Elsevier

[Updated] This series began in the wake of an instance in which I, to the irritation of most observers, questioned a case of self-piracy. Soon thereafter, self-piracy was a big deal among publishing scholars for a higher education news cycle or two. I have stated my views previously and do not need to belabor them again here. I was busy with other things and thankfully Alex Golub and the Library Loon [and Barbara Fister] have each done a better job of writing about it [=Elsevier going after its agreement breaking authors] this time that I could ever do. Please read them.

Don’t blame Elsevier for exercising the rights you gave them by Alex Golub on Savage Minds.

Pig-ignorant entitlement and its uses by The Library Loon on Gavia Libraria

[When You Give Your Copyright Away by Barbara Fister in Inside Higher Education]

While I am a Elsevier boycott participant and cannot ever imagine publishing with them, I 100% support the rights of Elsevier and other publishers to fully and legally exercise the copyright that they legally hold and to protect their property from illegal misuse by third party firms and from their author agreement-disregarding authors who mistakenly believe that because their name is on the byline of an article that they can do whatever they wish with value-added property that, despite their authorship, they do not own. Self-piracy is wrong and it is not helping build a better scholarly communication system. Instead, it further confuses the already confused into believing that [pseudo] open access is easy and it leads to painful ironies such as scholarly society leaders setting publishing policies that they do not understand and that they, even as they make them, are out of compliance with. No open access advocate should be out of compliance with their own author agreements. (This is true all the more for those who are actively doubtful about open access.)  If a scholarly author wants to share their work freely online, there are many legal (and preservation-minded, and discovery-minded) ways to do this. Breaking contracts that one has already entered into so as to steal articles which one then hands off to a for-profit website (here today, gone when?) is not the way to do it.

Unfortunately, doing things the way we should do them is presently harder than doing things the way we want to do them. Reading and understanding (and knowing how to legally modify) author agreements is part of the hard work that thoughtful authors are obligated to pursue.

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (2): Tim Elfenbein on the *Why* of a la Carte Pricing in Route to a Multivariate Thoughtfulness

If you find value or interest in the discussion initiated in my post on pay per view journal article pricing and its relevance to scholarly authors and general readers, then do not miss Tim Elfenbein’s comment on that post.

Tim is the managing editor of Cultural Anthropology and an all around great person to keep up with. Among many other things, he is a knowledgeable, well-positioned reader for my post. He is a great interlocutor for many reasons, including (importantly for me) that he kindly saw that I was bracketing out a lot of important stuff. Rather than calling me out for that, he saw the opportunity to extend the conversation, adding another “note” toward a more holistic set of considerations. It should be in this slot as a guest post, but you can find his comment here. I recommend it.

Tim puts an important range of considerations on the agenda. Most directly he tackles the need to understand something about the “why” of a la carte (or pay per view) pricing, but he also points to the nature and impact of platform choices, human appreciation to those who are paying for our publishing, appreciation for those who are doing the labor behind our publishing, and recognition of the reputation (and tenure) economy and its effects. Even the ways that digital, legal, and financial transformations have devastated the old interlibrary loan model is lurking in there. All deserve revisiting or visiting. I am glad that Tim recognized that I was biting off one arbitrary chunk and that there were others lurking beneath the surface (or sitting on the surface, as with my repeated use of the word legal).

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