Could Open Access Disrupt Traditional Scholarly Publishing

It’s not often that the mainstream media takes up relatively unpopular higher education issues, so it comes with some surprise that U.S. News & World Report published a rather extensive article on the debate about the future of scholarly publishing. The article, titled “Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?” provides a balanced look at both sides of the push for open access journal publishing.

Using interviews with both open access advocates such as Heather Josephs of SPARC and representatives from scholarly publishers such as the American Institute of Physics, the article provides an excellent overview of the current challenges of traditional scholarly journal publishing. It covers new business models for open access publishing and current and proposed government policies aimed at promoting the sharing of scholarly research funded by taxpayer dollars.

If you’d like to learn more about the current issues confronting traditional scholarly publishing, the challenges that both libraries and scholarly publishers face, and new models and ideas for a better scholarly publishing system, then give this article a read. If you do, let us know what you think (use the comments) by sharing your thoughts about scholarly communications, open access, and its impact on higher education. Do you believe that the traditional system is ripe for disruption, and if so, will open access be the disruptive factor?

Take the Open Access Quiz for Open Access Week

Open Access Week is celebrated each year in late October. It is an opportunity to both create more awareness about the importance of creating more open access options in the world of academic and scholarly publishing, as well as celebrating the many accomplishments achieved so far, such as an expanding universe of open access scholarly journals, open access resolutions at a growing number of research universities and even successful efforts to promote open access sharing of federally-funded research. Here is a just-for-fun open access quiz to test your own knowledge of why there is an open access movement in academia. If you would like to learn more about open access, author rights or copyright issues and how individual faculty might make a difference email your librarians.

Fair Use – Separating the Myth From the Reality

In this useful advice column published at Inside Higher Ed, well-known copyright expert Patricia Aufderheide shares her seven Myths About Fair Use. This is helpful to all faculty who use copyrighted materials in their teaching, and have uncertainties about when fair use applies to their incorporation or distribution of copyrighted works. Temple University’s academic librarians can also help when there are questions or concerns about copyright and fair use. We both understand the copyright law, and have mechanisims to help faculty avoid violating copyright. We are here to help, so get it touch with us. Start by contacting your departmental library liaison.

Google Scholar Introduces New Citations Metrics Tool

Faculty members and researchers are always interested in how many times their articles are cited. Temple University Libraries provides access to the Web of Science, a useful database for obtaining citation counts. Now Google Scholar is offering a service called Google Scholar Citations that will provide scholars with a profile page that monitors their articles’ citation counts. It appears to be based on institutional affiliation, so if a scholar has published at several instituitons it may be necessary to have multiple profiles on the service. Right now the service is available in limited supply. If you are not able to obtain a profile you can sign up to be notified when the service is officially launched for general consumption. But you can take a look at the profiles created by others to get a sense of what it will offer. That’s right. You can make your profile (the list of your articles and their citation counts – along with a few metrics) public – and then share it with your friends. Won’t they be thrilled to see how many citations you’ve amassed.

Should Students Form Their Own Course Work Groups?

The following research summary comes courtesy of the publication The Teaching Professor. The Temple University Libraries has acquired a site license so that any instructor can access this always helpful resource for finding solutions to teaching challenges. We also have access to the entire archive of issues so that instructors can search for past articles on a multitude of teaching issues and tips. This link will lead you to the latest issue. Instructors can subscribe to receive an email alert for each new issue.

Now, on to the summary: If the course involves a graded group project, should instructors let students form their own groups or should the instructor create the groups? This decision is not always easy or obvious. Some students lobby hard to form their own groups, arguing that knowing each other ensures that they will be able to work together productively. On the other hand, in the world of work, most of the time employees do not get to pick their collaborators. There’s a task, and those with knowledge and relevant skills are formed into a group and assigned to complete the project, solve the problem, or develop the product.

The qualitative data revealed one significant but predictable difference between the groups. Self-selected groups got off to a much quicker start on the project. Members already knew each other and could start to work immediately. In the instructor-formed groups, there was a period of getting to know one another before they could work productively on the task. The qualitative data uncovered another less obvious difference. Self-selected groups valued their similarities. What they shared from previous interactions helped them work together and made it less likely that any individual would let the group down. Students in the instructor-formed groups valued their differences. They saw each other as making different contributions to the group and felt that these differences enabled the group to produce a better product.

Interestingly, “although student-selected groups perceived they produced higher-quality work, the actual grades assigned to the group projects did not differ between group formation conditions.” (p. 26) Despite this, these faculty researchers stop short of recommending that faculty always let students form their own groups. “Although we found that student-selected groups generally had a more positive experience than instructor-formed groups, we resist the temptation to conclude that student-selection is the superior method for forming groups. Read more at:

Preventive Education Reduces Plagiarism

According to a new research study, exposing students to an educational tutorial about what constitutes plagiarism and how to prevent it is an effective mechanism for reducing student plagiarism. The study divided hundreds of students into two groups. he first group of students received no special instructions or information about plagiarism. Students in other randomly selected courses, however, were required to take a short online tutorial on plagiarism and were required to complete the exercise before they could hand in any papers. The results indicated that the students who were exposed to the online tutorial showed significant improvement in reducing the occurrence of plagiarism, especially among students with low SAT scores who typically are most likely to plagiarize.

These findings suggest that faculty concerned about student plagiarism should consider preventive educational approaches over enforcement approaches (e.g., using detection software to catch plagiarizers). While enforcement approaches may be effective at catching or detecting plagiarizers, they do little to attack the root causes of plagiarism. One of the challenges for students is not realizing they have access to tools that can help them to avoid plagiariasm and that can help them create and gather proper citations. Temple University librarians have expertise with tools such as RefWorks, a personal bibliographic software that is free to all Temple faculty and students, that can help students to better manage the citations they collect for their research project – and assist in integrating those citations into a research paper. Librarians can also show faculty the many research databases that enable students to create citations while doing their research. Consult our list of subject specialists to contact the librarian that serves your department.

Scientific American price up 650%

Librarians across the country have expressed concern and even outrage at the impending increase in subscription price of the popular journal Scientific American. While a personal subscription will remain $39 per year, the cost for just one print subscription for college and university libraries will rise from $39 to $300 on January 1. The increase was announced shortly after Scientific American was bought by the Nature Publishing Group. Many librarians and faculty see this as an egregious example of predatory pricing strategies adopted by for-profit publishers who re-sell research results generated by colleges and universities. In this case, NPG is attempting to raise the price of a rather slim general interest magazine to the level of more scholarly journals publishing original research. Libraries from Penn State to Oberlin College to the University of Maryland Baltimore County are canceling their print subscriptions in protest of NPG’s effort and to save precious subscription dollars. Across all Temple University Libraries we have had five (5) print subscriptions to Scientific American as well as a university wide electronic subscription, but like other institutions we plan now to drop most existing print subscriptions in protest and to spare our subscription budget the impact of such an increase. We will retain -– at least for a year — the print subscription in Paley Library although it appears to have been read less than a dozen times last year according to our reshelving data. Those concerned at such predatory pricing might consider emailing the editors of Scientific American.

Web Service Makes Corrupted Files Easy to Send

In this day and age it is often surprising to receive a corrupted document from a student or colleague. Most of us know how to properly save our documents and either send them as e-mail attachments or upload them to an external site, such as a Blackboard course. But a new web business sells corrupted files that can then be sent in order to meet a deadline, but which the receiver won’t be able to use. The site, charges $3.95 for a corrupted file. The information on the site makes it clear that it is intended for students who need to buy more time to complete their work. The idea is that the student submits the corrupted file to meet the assignment deadline. Then, after a few days, when the professor is unable to read the garbled document he or she e-mails the student to request a working version of the file. The student feigns surprise about the corrupted file and then proceeds, several days later, to send a working file. Thus the student technically meets the assignment deadline yet actually has extra time to complete the work.

News about was originally reported in InsideHigher Ed, and it was interesting to read that the site creator just set up the service as a joke and really didn’t expect anyone to take it seriously. Yet when he started getting requests from students and others for corrupted files he decided to make a profit off the service. It is worthwhile to review the comments to the story from faculty, some who are amazed that any student would go to such efforts to avoid an assignment deadline to others who offer advice on how to prevent getting duped this way, and yet others who point out that Microsoft products aren’t perfect and that sometimes files really do get corrupted. While the site is still up and appears to be doing business as usual, the “secret” the site asks you not to share is now out of the bag. It now is just a question of time as to whether or not students will realize their professors are going to be a bit more wary about the old “corrupted file” excuse.

Feeling Students’ Research Anxiety

Did you know that when students were asked to associate one word with the way they feel when assigned a research project the responses included angst, tired, dread, fear, anxious, annoyed, stressed, disgusted, intrigued, excited, confused, and overwhelmed? That’s according to a new report titled “What Today’s College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age.” The report comes from an organization called Project Information Literacy. They conducted focus groups and one-on-one interviews with students to find out what it is like to be a college student these days. Their major finding is this: Research seems to be far more difficult to conduct in the digital age than it did in previous times.

Perhaps that is not completely unexpected. But this finding and many of the other insights in this valuable report can help those who assign research papers and projects to better understand the feelings and experiences of today’s student as he or she navigates their way through the electronic information landscape. For example, students report their growing dependence on Wikipedia because it provides them with the context they need to begin a research project; many students report not knowing where to begin their research. This is where the librarians at the Temple University Libraries can help.

They are experts on not only how to begin a research project, but how to acquire the necessary information and skills to finish it as well. They can help students to identify the appropriate resources, to select good research terminology, to structure a working search strategy and even how to capture and organize the content. That’s why librarians are now engaged in meeting every section of English 0802 (Analytical Reading & Writing) for two sessions in every semester. This is the perfect opportunity to learn how to conduct research in the digital age without the anxiety. Librarians are also available to developed customized research instruction sessions for any course – and many Temple faculty already take advantage of this. If you would like to do more to reduce your students’ research anxiety – to reduce their dependence on Wikipedia – and to start seeing better research papers – contact your department’s liaison librarian or contact Steven Bell for more information.

Faculty Place High Value On TOC Alerts

A new report discusses the different ways in which scholars find articles and other materials of interest. “How Readers Navigate to Scholarly Content” is published by Simon Inger and Tracy Gardner for a consortium of scholarly publishers, including the Nature Publishing Group. It examines how scholars start their search for content and how they navigate different search resources. Current articles are extremely important to scholars in helping them keep up with the latest research in their field, and faculty use different strategies to do this. For keeping up with those journals for which they have no personal subscription many faculty rely on Table of Contents (TOC) alerts. Many faculty may not be aware that nearly every major aggregator database and e-journal collection to which the Temple University Libraries subscribe has this feature. It is fairly easy to create a TOC alert for any one of the thousands of journals accessible electronically through the Libraries.

Among the survey questions faculty were asked I found “How often do you follow links to a publisher’s e-journal web site from these starting points” of particular interest. Figure 5 (pg. 18 of 32) shows a number of strategies to get to the e-journal and TOC alerts is far and away the top starting point. tocalert.jpg Temple Universities librarians are well versed on the many different databases and e-journal collections that offer TOC alert services, and can advise faculty on how to efficiently register for and set up the alerts. We encourage our faculty to take advantage of this valuable feature. As the study shows, TOC alerts are not only a great way to access scholarly content, but are also the much preferred way that faculty have discovered as the starting point for their “keeping up” regimen. For more information about getting started with TOC alerts please contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services.