The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: May 18, 2018
This week’s collection of articles from around the web begins with helpful advice on managing your writing time, your summer, and your academic career path from Masters to PhD. We then explore successful practices for crafting introductions, conducting a rapid evidence reviewing form of literature review, incorporating figures, understanding peer review, and writing successful grant applications. Finally, we review industry trends in writing discussions to journal papers, the evolution of the open access ecosystem, a new open access publishing platform for the social sciences, faculty presence in the open education movement, and the meaning of “inclusive” in digital textbook publishing.
James M. Cain suggests that “If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep anyone else up either.” As you write this week, focus on the things that keep you up at night – the ideas that burn the strongest on your mind even when you aren’t writing – so that your writing can inspire and awaken those who read it.
With writing time at a premium, authors who are committed to their craft know how important it is to focus on writing-related tasks and to avoid distractions. So you would never allow yourself to be tempted into binge-watching the latest Netflix series or using your sacred writing time to catch up on office emails. But there are things that can seem legitimately writing related, but they’re actually — gasp! — procrastination in disguise.
If you are an academic whose semester has recently ended and you are suddenly struggling in dealing with unstructured time, pull up a chair, I’ve got some advice based on my experience of trying to juggle simultaneous (but not necessarily complementary) careers in teaching and writing.
All universities want to know that you will be a good bet when you enroll for a PhD. The standard way to show that is to have done a good honours degree and/or a Masters. However, not everybody has gone down that route. Some have been in industry. Some haven’t had the opportunity due to socio-economic or other personal reasons. So some universities provide another route (sort of like mature aged entry into an undergrad degree).
Authors and editors in the humanities know that journals are more likely to accept scholarly essays with strong introductions and that such essays are more likely to influence academic conversations. Yet from our experiences as journal editors and authors, we also know that writers often struggle with introductions.
An RER is a form of literature review which is popular with policymakers and with organisations seeking to design and/or commission research. It aims to establish what research is available about a defined topic, as well as key results and major gaps. RERs are usually done by academics who already know a field of research well, as was the case with my colleague and me. When researchers bring existing knowledge of the field to an RER it makes for speedier work.
Figures– including diagrams, visual or geographic maps, graphs and other visualizations– can bring the narrative to life. As is the case with many things, good figures add meaning to the thesis or dissertation, article, chapter, book, while inadequate figures can seed confusion or distract from the text.
Ask a researcher what matters most to them in their work, and effective peer review will always be among their top three. At the recent STM conference in Philadelphia, Judy Verses, Senior Vice President, Research at Wiley, clearly articulated a vision for publishers. She focused on the need for publishers to recognize who we are in business to serve. She exhorted us to consider the researcher as our “North Star”, and that everything we do be directed to serve their needs. Publishers recognize that peer review is a paramount concern for researchers, and yet have not addressed some of the key concerns that authors and reviewers face. In this post, I suggest that publishers need to do more for researchers to help authors, and to help reviewers understand their role as a reviewer and be recognized for their work. We need to focus on our “North Star”.
Successful grant applications are the unicorn in the zoo of documents that one must write in research. Truly magical when you have one, but obtaining them in the first place can be a soul-destroying process. In this post, I share the key lessons I’ve learned from having broken into the system, fallen out for many years, and then broken back in again, reading many proposals along the way.
I recently ran a poll on Twitter to see if it is common to write discussions to journal papers. With this term, I meant to ask if researchers submit a written discussion of an interesting recently published paper. I’ve only done so once, and I have the impression that submitting discussions is now less common than it used to. I think researchers used to read the print copy of their favorite journal and then perhaps send a discussion, whereas nowadays we read mostly electronically, access PDFs and read across a variety of journals.
Open access (OA) is undergoing yet another metamorphosis. So far, the space has been dominated by author-pays (via Article Processing Charges – APCs) models, both hybrid and “pure”. And while funders like Wellcome and the German Research Foundation are reviewing their policies – many of them a decade old by now – it is becoming ever clearer that APCs will not be the future of OA, at least not uniquely. With their normative approach of flipping traditional acquisition budgets, Ralf Schimmer, Kai Geschuhn and Andreas Vogler have been advocating in principle that which is now becoming reality: i.e. that in order to really shake up the academic publishing market, other transactional models are necessary.
Today marks the official launch of LSE Press, the School’s new open access publishing platform. LSE Press will provide a platform for high-quality research in the social sciences, and – in line with LSE’s aim to lead in international, interdisciplinary, issue-oriented social science – will support the launch and development of academic-led publications that are innovative in their format, content, and reach. The Press platform is provided in partnership with Ubiquity Press.
Open educational resources (OER) are gaining increasing popularity. And as an active member in what advocates define as the “open education movement,” I frequently hear about the growing dissatisfaction of textbook costs and pedagogical concerns among faculty about outdated course materials. When I attend professional gatherings on open education, however, instructors like myself are often the minority. Yet open educational materials impact faculty and students alike, and many instructors are using these resources today. So why are there so few practitioners actively involved in increasing open education?
The scholarly communications community is very familiar with the many varied meanings of the word “free” and how those definitions help shape or derail discussions. With recent offerings of “inclusive access” textbooks, we now need to carefully distinguish between the varied meanings of the word “inclusive.”