The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: July 27, 2018

"It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition." ~Isaac AsimovIsaac Asimov said, “It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.” This week’s collection of articles from around the web are sure to have something to catch your imagination and plant a seed for the future.

We start with ways to develop your passion, understanding preprints and peer review, and the importance of conference presentations for early career researchers. We then look at the academic taboos associated with writing, some summer practices for graduate students seeking employment opportunities, and advice on how to choose the right journal. We close this week’s list with current noteworthy topics of discussion on transparency, discrimination, manuscript exchange, OER, and the impact of Amazon on the publishing economy.

Whatever your passion or discipline, write this week in a way that might catch the imagination of others and plant seeds for tomorrow’s ideas and practices. Happy writing!

Don’t find your passion — cultivate it, psychologists say

A new study suggests that the old adage may not be the best way for students to learn. How students are taught this lesson can affect how they learn, because those who believe the old adage — that passions are “fixed” — tend to give up on new interests when they get too difficult to learn, the study suggests.

The what, why, and how of preprints and peer review

Preprint servers were created to speed up scholarly publishing and allow authors to receive peer feedback on their preprint manuscripts before they submit it to a journal. Some journals don’t allow for this: they don’t want any version of a manuscript to have been printed elsewhere even as a preprint. Other journals, however, don’t mind or even welcome it.

How important is it to present at conferences early in one’s career? (Part 1)

Some great responses, starting with “It’s very discipline specific, even in the sciences. For example, computer science tends to publish mostly through conference proceedings these days, and they like the thesis by compilation/publication format, so they tend to encourage candidates to start early. Other science disciplines, like astrophysics, are big on posters as a conference entry point, with papers being something you get to in the middle years.”

Academic taboos #3: what cannot be written

Academic writing has powerful conventions that lecturers, doctoral supervisors, and published academics work to uphold. Proper academic writing should be correct in every detail of grammar, punctuation, spelling and structure. It should use the third person, for neutrality, and to remove any sign of personal bias. The author should be as specific and precise as possible, and careful not to over-claim. All this leads to some interesting linguistic contortions.

10 things to know this summer

Graduate candidates are often told the job market is random. A part certainly is — in fact, probably a large part — but good strategy can help as well. The following is a short collection of advice for any graduate student preparing materials for this year’s cycle.

Five clues – choosing the right journal

Journal editors often report that the major reason for desk rejecting papers – that is they send the papers back to the author rather than send them out to reviewers – is that the paper doesn’t fit their journal. The rejected paper is about something that the journal just isn’t interested in. So what does this ‘fit’ actually mean? And how can someone new to academic publishing make sure that they choose a journal that will be interested in what they have to say?

The wrong kind of transparency?

Higher ed groups in recent weeks have joined opposition to proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule they say would block good research from being used in drafting new regulations.

Meritocratic publishing: Open access and tackling discrimination in academia

Peer review is at the heart of scientific publishing. It is the process by which grants are allocated, papers published, academics promoted, and Nobel prizes won. Through the process of peer review, a manuscript is evaluated by experts in a specific field, revised and improved by the authors, and then finally accepted for publication. The problem with peer review is that, despite its rigor, it suffers from bias because reviewers are competing for the same recognition and resources.

Manuscript exchange – what MECA can do for the academic publishing world – and what it can’t

A new academic publishing initiative known as Manuscript Exchange Common Approach (MECA) was accepted by members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in May as a framework for best-practices development in manuscript transfer across systems. The idea behind the project is that the industry’s leading technology providers will work together on a more standardized approach to the transfer of manuscripts between and among systems, such as those in use by publishers and preprint servers.

OER shown to improve grades, not just cut costs

A University of Georgia study found that open educational resources improved end-of-course grades for undergraduates and lowered D, F and withdrawal rates.

The oligarchy of Amazon

One can argue for and against consumer choice. The issue for me here is that while the consumer clearly wants the best deal available, publishers risk losing the income they need to produce the books, forcing them to publish fewer, less diverse materials. The principle at stake here is that diversity of business across nations, and across retailers, is important for a thriving publishing economy, and yet Amazon does what it wants, where it wants, when it wants. Are we OK with this?