The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: May 4, 2018

"Sometimes writing is like playing with trying to tame an uncontrollable beast." ~A.D. PoseyA.D. Posey once said, “Sometimes writing is like playing with fire…like trying to tame an uncontrollable beast.” Each year as May arrives, bringing with it the end of an academic school year for many, things can often feel out of control. This week’s collection of articles addresses some of the common issues faced by academics and authors.

For starters, concerns of overwhelm, contribution, speed, soft skills, and academic behavior are highlighted in the posts. We then found articles that discussed relationships both with other researchers, and with family during times of research. Finally, our list looks at topics of interest including the role of book editors, open access, copyright piracy, indexing in digital publishing, and the supercontinent of scholarly publishing.

As you write this week, don’t seek to tame an uncontrollable beast. Instead, focus on making meaningful contributions to your discipline – one word at a time.

Feeling overwhelmed by academia? You are not alone

Five researchers share their stories and advice on how to maintain good mental health in the hyper-competitive environment of science.

Research deluge – Are researchers writing more yet contributing less?

Is there such a thing as too much science? The volume of global scientific output has increased exponentially. In 2016, close to three million papers were published by researchers all around the globe, as per the recently published report by the U.S. National Science Foundation. We are witnessing a boom in science publications that is both exciting and concerning. Is the deluge of scientific publications taking us closer to unraveling unanswered questions? Or is it adding to the noise that makes identifying the really significant publications difficult?

Slow Academia is for the privileged – but then, isn’t all academia?

The pressures of academic life are by no means exclusive to top-notch institutions, nor to the PhD experience. Far from it. And so, almost inevitably, people have begun calling for a “Slow Academia”. Something akin to its cousins in the Slow Movement, like Slow Food or Slow Travel or Slow Parenting. But recently, critics have come out of the woodwork. Slow academia represents privilege, they say:  it’s for those who can afford it, who have already reached the scholarly summit, and it comes at a cost to those below them on the academic food chain.

PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: How to develop soft skills during your PhD studies

If we leave out all the external causes for leaving a PhD program, we are left with internal causes. In some cases, a candidate has the analytical skills to do the research, but lacks the soft skills to deliver a dissertation and defend. A good technical student can perhaps still need to do some effort to manage his/her project, or to write a sound conference paper. The good news is: you can learn these soft skills.

Academics behaving badly – calling out the Cleverclogs

The Drs Cleverclog are well known in academic circles. A very large extended family of know-it-alls. At least one of them makes their presence known at every conference, meeting and large academic gathering you go to. Even if you don’t recognise them by sight, you know them by their behaviour.

If ResearchGate is where authors connect and collaborate…

Scholarly research is by its nature collaborative. Teams of researchers and scientists in the academic and not-for-profit sectors share experience, expertise, and facilities in order to advance human knowledge and understanding. Nowhere is this more evident than in the sharing of scholarly articles.

Family and fieldwork: on longing and commitment in knowledge production

Relationships are at the foundation of what and how we know. But collecting this “data” requires commitment because relationships cannot be determined beforehand — neither its form nor changing nature — because the other, just like myself, is dynamic and unpredictable. If a commitment is made, what responsibility do we have towards those we meet in research?

Scholars talk writing: Do book editors do much editing?

As a former book editor in a previous life, I already know “what editors do.” But I learned a lot more from a new collection of essays by 27 of the smartest editors in the publishing business. It’s useful reading for anyone who wants to work in the book business, and essential for anyone who wants to be published.

How open is open access?

Truly open access will involve a two-way exchange of – and respect for – knowledge and the epistemological positions on which it is based. Obviously this is beyond the power of a single organisation, such as Jisc, or a single individual, such as you or I. However, all Euro-Western researchers, and those who work with them, need to be aware of the difference between open access as we tend to purvey it, and genuinely open access.

Is copyright piracy morally wrong or merely illegal? The malum prohibitum/malum in se conundrum

In the context of scholarly communication, one of the most interesting areas of dispute right now is around the question of copyright infringement, and the degree to which it’s something worth worrying about. Is copyright piracy a relatively harmless example of malum prohibitum, one that doesn’t actually hurt anyone even though it’s technically illegal? Or does it represent a crime that does real damage to innocent parties?

Cengage explores indexing in digital publishing

New digital-first production workflows at Cengage combined with new user experiences with Cengage products mean that some things need to be reconsidered. This includes the traditional back-of-the-book index. Should it be retained or adapted?

The supercontinent of scholarly publishing?

The formula for stabilizing a sector facing rampant piracy is the combination of legal action and seamless central access to content that allowed the music industry to find a future after Napster. Thus far, for scholarly publishers, legal action is not working, with cross-border enforcement challenging in this geopolitical moment. But what about the seamless centralized access to content? How is this sector going to accept the tectonic shift necessary to establish the supercontinent?