“We Are the People We Are Waiting For”: Reflections on OpenCon 2018

Jacqueline Phillips and other attendees at OpenCon. Photograph courtesy of Erin McKiernan.

OpenCon is a unique conference that brings together leading early career academic professionals and students from across the world to catalyze action toward a more open system of research and education. This year, Temple University Libraries was proud to sponsor Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Kinesiology (College of Public Health) Jacqueline Phillips to attend OpenCon. The following is a guest post from Dr. Phillips about her experience.

This past weekend I participated in the 2018 OpenCon conference. Since this was my first OpenCon conference I wasn’t very sure of what to expect, but knew it was a gathering of early career professionals with a passion for open access (OA), so I was eager to take part. As a newcomer to the OA world this was my first exposure to an open community beyond my university. Overall, I was completely blown away by the programming and the passion of everyone there to collaborate and better their communities.

Open scholarly work was a new topic I was introduced to at this conference. Although I’ve known about open access journals and the concept of open data, I learned about other ways to make your work open such as posting preprints. Preprints are drafts of manuscripts that are posted online prior to being peer reviewed and formally published. Since a paper can sit in a purgatory-like state for a lengthy amount of time during the standard journal submission process, “pre-printing” enables the author(s) to share their work right away with those in their field. Readers can leave comments or questions, and the paper can be updated with revisions or with a final manuscript after it’s been published. By getting a DOI for a preprint, someone’s work is protected, and others are able to cite the paper. This format enables an early conversation to occur while also helping to connect individuals and advance their work.

As an instructor, my ears always perked up when the topic of open education resources (OER) arose. Strategies on finding already made resources were discussed along with troubleshooting areas of creating resources, like finding or making images (an issue commonly faced in the sciences). Some of the most useful bits of information that I’ll be taking home in this area came through networking and talking to others who have been through this process and were able to provide me with practical tips and wonderful sources. Beyond the making of or incorporation of OER, the discussion that most resonated with me in this area was the importance of student advocacy on campus for OER. A few students were in attendance at OpenCon who spoke about the clubs they were a part of whose mission it is to educate other students about what OER are and how they are impactful. Beyond educating their fellow peers on the subject, they also push for their administration to recognize the importance of the incorporation of OER on campus. This is the type of movement that can help to incentivize faculty to incorporate open materials into their classes, and encourage administration to change the metrics of success that faculty are graded upon for merit or promotion. Student advocacy was a different approach to fostering a cultural change on a campus that seemed to be very successful within these communities.

One particular aspect of the conference I was impressed by was the diversity. Not only the diversity of the attendees, but also presenters and organizers. By having people of different backgrounds and perspectives from around the world involved with all aspects of this event, it contributed to the depth and range of discussions that were held. A topic was presented about how sometimes our mainstream movement to advance OA can inadvertently perpetuate the marginalization of communities this movement aims to help. A lack of diversity at events such as this would only reinforce this oppression; however, I feel the organizers were sensitive to this concept and handled the conference in a way that will help to break down some of these barriers. There was even transparency about the demographics of the conference. The organizers informed us all about the numbers and breakdown of gender, ethnicity, profession etc. of everyone at and involved with the conference. This holds the conference to a higher standard and only helps to make the event even more productive. I hope that we’ll see other conferences begin to incorporate this presentation of the statistics into their events to show commitment to diversity and equity.

The last day of the conference featured a do-a-thon (similar to the concept of a hackathon) where attendees worked in groups to create solutions to particular issues that were brought to the table. All of our work and action plans are available online to the public so that anyone can help and contribute. Overall, I felt very productive at OpenCon. I learned how to use design thinking to solve issues, walked away with actionable items to promote the incorporation of OER, and most importantly, I made connections and became a member of a community that is inspired to collaborate to progress this movement. The conference was closed by Nicole Allen, from SPARC, who left us with the quote: “We are the people we are waiting for.” This perfectly sums of the message I hope to spread to others. We have the ability to break down barriers in education, and now after having attended OpenCon I feel I have more tools to help not only myself, but others accomplish this.

A Brief Introduction to Open Access Journal Publishers

“Types of OA Publishers” by Annie Johnson is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

This week is Open Access Week, a yearly international celebration that aims to increase awareness about open access (scholarship that is free to read and reuse). Most academic work is locked up behind a paywall, available only to those who are affiliated with a college or university. One way researchers can make their work more widely available to readers is by publishing in an open access journal.

Some of the largest publishers of open access journals are actually commercial publishers you’ve probably heard of, like Elsevier and Springer Nature. SAGE, De Gruyter, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley also publish open access journals.

Nonetheless, there are a growing number of exclusively open access journal publishers whose names may be less familiar to researchers. Here’s a brief run down of some of the major open access publishers you might encounter:

Exclusively Open Access Non-Profit Publishers

eLife
eLife is a non-profit OA publisher/journal that was founded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust is 2011. They publish scholarship in the life and biomedical sciences. Some articles published in eLife include ancillary materials, such as the decision letter from the editorial team with suggestions for improvement, as well as the authors’ response to that letter. Peer reviewers may also choose to reveal their identities to authors. In addition to traditional journal content eLife runs a magazine which includes editorials, interviews, and podcasts. eLife is one of the most prominent publishers to criticize the journal impact factor. As a result, they do not report on or promote this metric.

PLOS
Founded in 2001, PLOS (Public Library of Science) is a non-profit publisher that publishes seven journals. Its flagship journal, PLOS ONE is known as a “mega journal” because of the large number of articles it publishes (22,054 papers in 2016 alone). In 2014 PLOS implemented a new data policy, in which they require that all researchers make the data underlying their work fully available.

Exclusively Open Access Commercial Publishers

BioMed Central
Based in the United Kingdom, BioMed Central (BMC) was founded in 1999 and publishes over 300 journals. It is now owned by Springer Nature. Temple University Libraries is an institutional member of BMC, and automatically covers 50% of the total APC for all Temple researchers who submit.

F1000 Research
F1000 Research is a scholarly publication platform that was founded in 2000. It is known for its use of open peer review. F1000 Research publishes posters and slides in addition to scholarly articles.

Frontiers
Frontiers Media was founded in 2007 and is based in Switzerland. It currently publishes sixty-three open access journals in a range of disciplines.

Hindawi
Hindawi is an open access publisher based in London. It was founded in 1997, although it did not become an exclusive open access publisher until the 2000s. Hindawi currently publishes over 400 journals.

MDPI
Founded in 1996, the publisher MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) is based in Switzerland and publishes 203 open access journals, mostly in the sciences.

PeerJ
Launched in 2013, PeerJ is a publisher of two journals: PeerJ (which focuses on the biological, medical and environmental sciences) and PeerJ Computer Science. They also have a repository for preprints, called PeerJ Preprints. In the beginning, PeerJ relied on a membership model to make money, in which authors would pay one fee and they could publish for free in PeerJ for the rest of their careers. They have recently changed their model so that authors can pay an article processing charge (APC) instead of purchasing a lifetime membership.

One last note: all the publishers profiled here are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics, and their journals can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Temple Students Talk Textbooks

Photograph by Emily Toner.

At the start of each academic year, library staff set up a table in Paley to talk to Temple students about their textbooks. Most students don’t know that college textbook prices have risen 1,041 percent since 1977. They just know that textbooks are too expensive.

In order to save money, Temple students employ a number of different strategies. Many take advantage of interlibrary loan or read their textbook at the library on reserve. Some split the cost of the book with other friends in their class. Others look for a pirated version online.

This year, we heard from a neuroscience major who spent $300 on a textbook, and a political science major who spent $200 on a Spanish textbook. A sophomore told us how the textbook in her psychology class cost $200. On the first day of class, the professor asked, “How many of you have the textbook already?” and a number of people raised their hands. She felt embarrassed that she didn’t have the textbook yet, but she simply didn’t have the money to buy it. Several students told us that they ended up dropping a class once they found out the cost of the textbook.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a growing number of low and no-cost alternatives to commercial textbooks that can save students money while still providing them with the same or better learning outcomes.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning materials that are free to read and reuse. OER can take many different forms, but one of the most common are open textbooks. In many ways, open textbooks are just like regular textbooks: they are written by experts in the field and the content is subjected to rigorous peer review. Some even come with ancillary materials for instructors, such as homework problems or slides.

However, there are also some important differences. First, open textbooks are free to read. How is this possible you may be wondering? Well, instead of making money off of sales, authors of open textbooks are often paid a stipend upfront for their work. Open textbooks are funded by foundations, the federal government, universities, libraries, and other entities who want to ensure that all students have access to the learning materials they need in order to succeed. Second, because they are openly licensed, open textbooks can be revised, repurposed, or reused in order to fit the specifics of the class, all without seeking permission from the copyright holder.

Want to learn more about OER? Have questions about who is using open textbooks in their classes at Temple? Get in touch with your liaison librarian or sign up for one of our upcoming workshops:

“Integrating Open Access Resources Into Your Canvas Course” (10/23/18)

“Using Open Textbooks in the Classroom” (10/25/18)

Advice for First Time Book Authors: Tailoring Your Approach


Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash.

The following is a guest post from Aaron Javsicas, Temple University Press Editor-in-Chief.

“It depends.” That’s my advice for first time book authors. Maybe it doesn’t sound terribly helpful, but it’s true (and I do try not to leave it there). It depends who the author is and what her goals are. It depends who the press is and what its strengths are. It depends who the intended reader is.

Roughly speaking, book publishing is divided in two main categories: academic and trade. There are many shades in between these two poles, and also other categories — professional books, for example — that tend to fall outside this binary. But these are the main ones. Academic books include research monographs written for a relatively small audience of specialists, textbooks for course adoption, and books by academics that advance scholarship but are also written in an accessible, expansive way which can make them useful for upper level undergraduate courses and some general readers. “Trade books” means general interest books; these could be fiction or nonfiction, but they are aimed squarely at the general public.

Keeping the likely audience for the “Scholarly Communication @ Temple” blog in mind (see “audience,” below), my comments here apply mainly to academic book authors seeking an academic publisher.

Audience: Speaking of audience (see above), it’s important to decide who you think will really read your book. It’s not uncommon for scholars to believe their books will attract a wide readership beyond the academy, and to pitch their projects to editors in these terms. It’s certainly possible! And I would never discourage authors from seeking wider audiences — writing to be read is a good thing. But at the same time, targeting your core audience is crucial, and being realistic about this audience tends to build your credibility with editors considering your project. In your proposal, I recommend you identify your book’s primary audience and explain why you see it that way, and then describe and argue (with evidence) for any secondary audiences.

Main point: What is your main point? What questions are you asking? What arguments are you making? This probably all sounds painfully obvious. But I promise you, it is often painfully missing. Or buried on page 9 of the proposal. Try to wave a flag, right at the top of your proposal, making crystal clear what the purpose of your book is. This will go a long way toward smoothing your path with editors, peer reviewers, editorial boards, and even, when the time comes, marketing and publicity staff.

Short and long description: Related to this, editors and other press staff will very much appreciate it if you’re able to provide a brief, one paragraph capsule description right at the top of your proposal, before you get into your more in-depth project overview. Especially at this early stage, it’s helpful for press staff to have a short description easily at hand as they pass the project around within the office for initial feedback.

Method: What kind of evidence will you marshal to support your claims? Again, this is an obvious one, but it’s also an opportunity to shine. Academic editors tend to be fairly knowledgeable, and if you have used an interesting experimental design, or if you have generated a creative data set, or if you have managed to land an impressive batch of interviews or gain access to an important but under-used archive, make sure to highlight these and describe what’s special about them.

Approaching an editor: Just as it’s important to know your likely readership, it’s also important to approach presses that are most likely to be interested in your work. Not all presses publish in all disciplines. Ask colleagues in your field about their experiences with different presses. Look at your bookshelf and see which presses appear there most. Consult the AU Presses Subject Grid. Check out presses’ websites and look for the page that describes each editor’s list areas. Then, once you’ve identified the right editors, it’s ok to send a short initial inquiry via email to confirm whether your topic is of interest. Or, you can just go ahead and email your proposal. Hopefully you’ll hear back shortly.

Marketing: Will you be an active author on the sales and marketing front? What can you do to help sell the book? What mailing lists can you access or help the press access? Are you prepared to appear at book signings, to deliver lectures, and to promote the book at conferences as opportunities arise? Are you open to appearing on TV and podcasts, writing op-eds, and sitting for radio interviews, and do you have connections that can help make this happen? If the book is appropriate for classroom adoption, which specific course titles should sales and marketing staff target? Do you know specific instructors who you believe will adopt the book? An active author can make an enormous difference to book sales, so publishers will be interested to see what you can offer along these lines. I strongly suggest highlighting this in your proposal.

Best foot forward: You don’t have to be finished when you approach an editor. Editors expect see drafts, not a finished product. That said, it’s important to put effort into making your proposal and draft chapters as appealing and easy to read as possible. If you’re converting a published article into a book chapter, go ahead and convert it before you submit your project — don’t, for example, leave the article abstract at the top of the chapter. Get rid of typos from your proposal. More broadly, try to put yourself in the editor’s shoes, be respectful of his or her time, and make reading the proposal the smoothest and most enjoyable experience possible (see “short description” above).

Multiple submissions: If you’re going to submit to multiple presses, be transparent about it. Some presses require an exclusive first look, some don’t. But all will want you to be transparent about your plans.

Physical details: Have a sense of the physical properties of your book – what is the word count (including everything — main text, notes, bibliography, etc. — except for the index, which comes later and can’t be counted yet). Generally speaking, publishers think in terms of word counts, not manuscript page counts. How many illustrations will you include? Is black and white ok? Will your project need any special treatment from the production department – an unusual trim size, text set in a specific way, colors or symbols to avoid on the cover? All of these details can affect how much the book costs to make and for readers to buy, and are therefore important for the publisher to know.

Book publishers are busy people. So are authors. But the more effort you put into these initial stages of the project, the easier and more enjoyable the publishing process should be for all involved, including you. And always keep in mind that publishers want to publish books. We like books, we need books, and we don’t enjoy saying no to books. But we do need a clear reason to go forward with your book.

2018-2019 Open Access Publishing Fund

We are excited to announce that the Libraries will continue our Open Access Publishing Fund in 2018-2019. The fund is open to all current Temple faculty members. Current postdoctoral fellows, residents, and graduate students may also apply, as long as there is at least one faculty member listed as a co-author on the article.

Authors with a journal article that has been accepted or is under consideration by an open access publisher are encouraged to apply. Authors simply fill out a brief application with their information, a copy of the article, and a copy of the journal acceptance letter (if available). Funds will be available on a first come, first served basis. The Libraries will aim to make a final decision regarding the application within two weeks’ time. If the request is approved, Libraries will transfer funds to authors’ research fund or departmental account. The Libraries cannot reimburse authors or pay publishers directly.

Applicant Eligibility

  • Applicants must be a current Temple University faculty member OR a current postdoctoral fellow/resident/graduate student with a faculty member listed as a co-author.
  • Applicants with external grant funding that could cover, either in whole or in part, the cost of any publication and processing fees are ineligible.
  • Applicants must agree to deposit a copy of their publication in our Digital Library, or any future library repository.

Publication Eligibility

  • The publication must take the form of a peer-reviewed journal article.
  • Many subscription journals now offer an open access option in which authors can chose to pay a fee to make their article open access. These publications are sometimes called “hybrid” open access journals. Articles in “hybrid” journals are not supported.
  • The journal must be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.
  • The publisher must be a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), or clearly follow the membership criteria of the organization.
  • Because the Libraries already cover 50% of the APC for BioMed Central journals, these journals are not eligible.

Additional Limitations

  • Each applicant may request up to $1,500 total per fiscal year. This amount may be split across multiple applications so long as funds are available.
  • For articles with multiple Temple authors, the per article payment is capped at $3,000.
  • Funding will cover publication and processing fees only. Funds may not be used for reprints, color illustration fees, non-open access page charges, permissions fees, web hosting for self-archiving, or other expenses not directly related to open access fees.
  • For applicants who have not yet submitted for publication, requests will be conditionally approved awaiting official acceptance by the publisher. All conditional approvals will expire six months after notification. Applicants must provide a copy of the acceptance letter before the invoice is processed.
  • Fees are pro-rated for multi-authored articles. Co-authors from outside of Temple are not supported. If an article includes non-Temple authors, the APC will be divided equally among all authors and then the Temple authors’ portion will be funded. For example, if the APC is $2000, and there are four authors, two of whom are from Temple, the authors can apply for $1000 from the fund ($500 each).

Attribution Requirement

  • Authors who receive support must include the following statement in their acknowledgements: Publication of this article was funded in part by the Temple University Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Download a copy of the application form here.

Questions? Contact Mary Rose Muccie (maryrose.muccie@temple.edu) or Annie Johnson (annie.johnson@temple.edu).

Note: The image above, “Open Access Publishing Fund,” is a derivative of “Open Access at CC” by Amy Collier for Creative Commons, and is used under CC BY 4.0. “Open Access Publishing Fund” is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Annie Johnson.

2017-2018 Recipients of the OA Publishing Fund

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

We are pleased to announce the 2017-2018 recipients of the Open Access Publishing Fund. Congrats to all!

Janelle Bailey and Doug Lombardi (College of Education). “Meeting students halfway: Increasing self-efficacy and promoting knowledge change in astronomy.”

Eunice Chen (College of Liberal Arts, Psychology). “To a future where everyone can walk a dog even if they don’t own one.”

Konstantinos Drosatos and Matthew Hoffman (Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Pharmacology). “Krϋppel-like factors: Crippling and un-crippling metabolic pathways.”

Andrew Gassman, Edwin Acevedo, Catherine Kilmartin, Suresh Keshavamurthy, and Richard Tyrell (Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Surgery). “Is non-invasive indocyanine-green angiography a useful adjunct for the debridement of infected sternal wounds?”

Thomas Olino (College of Liberal Arts, Psychology). “Is Parent-Child Disagreement on Child Anxiety Explained by Differences in Measurement Properties? An Examination of Measurement Invariance Across Informants and Time.”

Jinsook Roh (College of Public Health, Kinesiology). “The effects of selective muscle weakness on muscle coordination in the human arm.”

Won Suh, Weili Ma, Geun-woo Jin, Paul M. Gehret, and Neil C. Chada (College of Engineering, Bioengineering). “A Novel Cell Penetrating Peptide for the Differentiation of Human Neural Stem Cells.”

Xiaoxing Xi, M. Golalikhani, Q. Lei, R. U. Chandrasena, L. Kasaei, B. A. Davidson, and A. X. Gray (College of Science and Technology, Physics).  “Nature of the metal-insulator transition in few-unit-cell-thick LaNiO3 films.”

From Blog Post to Book: An Interview with Kenneth Finkel

 

Kenneth Finkel is a Professor of History at Temple. His new book, Insight Philadelphia: Historical Essays Illustrated will be published this month by Rutgers University Press. The book is based on a series of blog posts he first wrote for PhillyHistory.org. He recently spoke with Scholarly Communications Specialist Annie Johnson about how he turned his blog posts into a scholarly book.

How did you get started writing for PhillyHistory.org? Did you know when you started blogging that you wanted to eventually write a book?

As I say in the acknowledgements: “In 2011, Deb Boyer, Azavea’s…project manager, asked if I’d write a letter to support PhillyHistory.org’s nomination for an award by the American Association of State and Local History. The blog won kudos, and a few months later, I wondered if I might join the team as a guest contributor. (No stranger to blogging about Philadelphia, I had published at two previous venues: WHYY’s first foray into the medium, The Sixth Square [2006–2008], and Brownstoner Philadelphia [2010].) My first entry at PhillyHistory was on August 11, 2011.” I always figured that if this worked out, I’d try and see if it would or could become a book. I remembered that [writer] Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and other books, once had a blog with a subtitle declaring that intention. It seemed like a good idea – to parse out the task of book writing over hundreds of weeks…

What do you like about blogging?

There’s a rawness and an independence in the approach to blog writing, especially as it’s not peer reviewed. (Still, I try and hold myself to higher standards.) I could have chosen to rework ground already covered, things I knew from past research. But what I like most is the challenge of doing research for each and every post and revealing and presenting previously unknown or previously unconnected facts. I’m not sure many others see blogging this way, or use it this way, but for me it has been an ongoing challenge with built-in rewards of discovery. I’d be bored otherwise and would have stopped posting a long time ago.

Another essential thing that has kept my interest alive is the choice of images from PhillyHistory.org. Hunting down compelling, viable images with stories to tell–images that in most cases have not been previously researched or published, has made this 7-year project a constant treasure hunt.

Has blogging made your academic writing better?

Hard for me to say. My writing has usually been aimed more for the public. I think blogging has had an impact on my writing, forcing me to choose and develop ideas and commit to conclusions sooner than later.

The amount of preparation and planning involved in developing and writing any post has always struck me as something shaped by academic-level commitment. To my mind, this is academic writing, not because of the format but because of the approach. I literally have lists with hundreds of ideas. (I always like working from a deep well.)

The question is: Have I said anything new about Philadelphia in this work? I like to think I have. As I say in the preface: “Philadelphia’s unique and persistent sense of past and place is captured and refreshed.” In this book, those sensibilities are newly informed and newly reshaped, providing grittier, more bottom up intersections with the past. That level of openness and honesty may be more appealing than some past histories. I like to believe we need meta narratives as much as we need narratives. Together, they make for a broader approach to understanding the past.

How did you find a publisher?

After one false start (see below), Micah Kleit of Rutgers came to me with the idea, which I was very pleased about. It started with email, then coffee with Kleit (formerly of Temple University Press, now director at Rutgers University Press). There’s nothing better than being wanted.

Were you concerned that publishers wouldn’t want to publish a collection of writings that was already available for free online?

My false start (mentioned above) with another publisher came after about 75 posts. I approached a publisher I had previously worked with and sent them links to what I thought were outstanding pieces. The response was something like: “Good posts, they read like a blog. It’s not a book.”

How did you choose which posts to put in the book?

Maybe the toughest aspect in the transition from blog to book was finding and then building narratives. I wanted the essays to flow and build to something greater than the sum of the parts. Some posts, often written years apart, fell in line with one another, providing a stronger basis for each other’s point. Other posts stood along the way didn’t make as much sense. It was painful to leave some treasures behind.

Did you revise any/all of them?

Every one was revised for one reason or another. I and others found more mistakes and inconsistencies than I am happy to admit. A few posts needed more work than others.

Was the book peer reviewed?

Yes, the university press held this to their usual high standards, and for that I am grateful.

Do you think blogging is becoming an important way for scholars to communicate?

Of course it is–and has been for some years. Blogging is the most conservative of the social media platforms.

What advice do you have for other scholars who are interested in starting a blog or writing for an existing blog?

Work with images, if at all possible. The blog medium is incredibly image friendly and can broaden your appeal. Expect to work harder than you imagine. Don’t worry about readership, but extend yours and build your own following by using other social media. I post links and images to my new work on Facebook and Twitter. And find your voice as you keep posting, month after month, year after year.

Thank you Professor Finkel!

All About Impact Factors

“Impact” by Dru! is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

This week, Clarivate Analytics released its annual Journal Citation Report, which includes new and updated Journal Impact Factors (JIF) for almost 12,000 academic journals. In case you’re not familiar, the JIF is based on the average number of times a journal’s articles were cited over a two year period.

Impact factors are a relatively recent phenomenon. The idea came about in the 1960s, when University of Pennsylvania linguist Eugene Garfield started compiling his Science Citation Index (now known as the Web of Science), and needed to decide which journals to include. He eventually published the numbers he had collected in a separate publication, called the Journal Citation Report (JCR), as a way for librarians to compare journals (JCR is now owned by Clarivate Analytics). Now, impact factors are so important that it is very difficult for new journals to attract submissions before they have one. And the number is being used not just to compare journals, but to assess scholars. JIF is the most prominent impact factor, but it is not the only one. In 2016, Elsevier launched CiteScore, which is based on citations from the past three years.

Academics have long taken issue with how impact factors are used to evaluate scholarship. They argue that administrators and even scholars themselves incorrectly believe that the higher the impact factor, the better the research. Many point out that publishing in a journal with a high impact factor does not mean that one’s own work will be highly cited. One recent study, for example, showed that 75% of articles receive fewer citations than the journal’s average number.

Critics also note that impact factors can be manipulated. Indeed, every year, Clarivate Analytics suspends journals who have tried to game the system. This year they suppressed the impact factors for 20 journals, including journals who cited themselves too often and journals who engaged in citation stacking. With citation stacking, authors are asked to cite papers from cooperating journals (which band together to form “citation cartels”). The 20 journals come from a number of different publishers, including major companies such as Elsevier and Taylor & Francis.

As a result of these criticisms, some journals and publishers have also started to emphasize article-level metrics or alternative metrics instead. Others, such as the open access publisher eLife, openly state on their website that they do not support the impact factor. eLife is one of thousands of organizations and individuals who have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which advocates for research assessment measures that do not include impact factors. Another recent project, HuMetricsHSS, is trying to get academic departments, particularly those in the humanities and social sciences, to measure scholars by how much they embody five core values: collegiality, quality, equity, openness, and community. While these developments are promising, it seems unlikely that the journal impact factor will go away anytime soon.

What do you think about the use of impact factors to measure academic performance? Let us know in the comments.

Can Podcasts Save the Academy?

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash.
 

The following is a guest post by English and Communication Librarian Kristina De Voe.

Amid the amid the volume of news and information in today’s 24-hour news cycle, how can scholars, researchers, and academic leaders share their knowledge and expertise outside the classroom, laboratory, or institution? More importantly, how can they make that message relevant for a wider public audience?

On Tuesday, February 27, the Libraries hosted a panel of local experts who discussed podcasting as a viable way for scholars, researchers, and academic leaders to amplify and share their work with a wider audience.

The panel included Tom McAllister and Mike Ingram, both Associate Professors of Instruction in the English Department at Temple University and Hosts of Book Fight! podcast; Matt Wray, Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University; and, Thea Chaloner, Associate Producer, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Each panelist brought unique perspectives regarding starting, producing, promoting, and participating in podcasts.

With extensive experience in public radio, Thea Chaloner initiated the conversation by highlighting the popularity of podcasts: over 66 million people are listening to podcasts monthly. With over 250,000 podcasts out there, how does one start a (good) podcast, rising above the noise? Chaloner discussed two kinds of podcasts: the two-way (e.g. a relaxed interview or conversation between hosts and guests) and storytelling (e.g. RadioLab, This American Life), pointing out that the two-way is often logistically easier to create as the storytelling podcast usually incorporates background music, sound effects, and additional editing which can be time consuming.

Chaloner indicated that regardless of type, a good podcast needs thematic and narrative structure. Clear connections between episodes help as well as engaging questions that permit guests to paint a picture with words, inviting listeners to lean in to the story as they are washing dishes, commuting to work, or doing something else. The podcast can be niche in scope, too — this can, in fact, help to determine a loyal audience. Chaloner mentioned three free tools to help podcast creators: GarageBand and/or audacity for editing as well as Freesound for accompanying sound effects.

Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister then discussed their motives and considerations for starting their own podcast, Book Fight!. As both are creative writers, they desired to create the kind of program that they would want to listen to — something relaxed with writers bantering about books. While there was a learning curve for them early on, and a need to upgrade their equipment for better sound quality, Mike and Tom eventually found their groove, incorporating various themes (e.g. “Winter of Wayback”) and segments into each 50-70 minute episode.

Both Mike and Tom recognized the value of audience feedback along with building and interacting with their audience via outside channels like Twitter. They have also experimented with different funding models, including small crowdfunding campaigns and, more recently, using Patreon which lets listeners become members and give regular monthly contributions. Contributors then receive a bonus episode each month.

The final panelist, Matt Wray, offered strategies for academics who are podcast guests. Likening the experience to giving interviews to journalists and radio show hosts, Wray noted, however, that the best feature of podcasts is the conversational back and forth between host and guest, highlighting the seeming intimacy with listeners as they’re literally in their audience’s heads.

Wray stressed the importance of doing homework prior to being a guest on a podcast. He noted that, when contacted, potential guests should ask the producer and/or host what role they’re looking for in a guest (e.g. someone to explain, to persuade, to observe, etc.). Based on this information, the guest can let the producer and/or host know what they are comfortable sharing. Further, the guest should also ask for a list of topics and/or questions ahead of time to prepare, in addition to listening to earlier episodes of the podcast so as to get a feel for the program. Prior to the recording of the podcast, the guest should review relevant research — including their own — to avoid embarrassment and ensure that they can summarize key findings succinctly. Wray emphasized the importance of explaining concepts and ideas as if chatting with a neighbor or the dentist. He recommended that academics stick to 1-3 talking points, avoid jargon, and keep all responses short and to the point.

Thanks to everyone who came out to this informative program!