Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: May 3, 2019

"You fail only if you stop writing." ~Ray BradburyThis week’s collection of articles from around the web is full of opportunities. Opportunities to improve your academic reading practice, to tell your story, to make your writing more interesting, to broadcast your research, or to go freelance. It’s also filled with challenges and uncertainty. Challenges of parenting and academia, predatory journals, the uncertain future of university presses, neurodiversity in scholarly publishing, and the affect of the planned merger between Cengage and McGraw-Hill on the textbook market.

With each opportunity comes challenge and uncertainty. Equally so, with each challenge or uncertainty comes opportunity. As Ray Bradbury once said, “You fail only if you stop writing.” So, here’s to success. Happy writing!

Beware the couch! Reflections on academic reading

Academic reading is highly active, requiring energy and disciplined creativity. Such activity is not usually associated with, and is often much more difficult to do, lying on the couch or reclining in the garden—the very places where I did a bit too much of my reading as a doctoral student.

Telling your story of research discovery

If you’re trying to reach and influence practitioners, decisionmakers, and the general public, you have to take the format you normally use to tell a research story to your academic peers and flip it on its head. Start with the big picture insights and compelling conclusions and then flesh out the details as needed. Don’t feel beholden to the typical storyline and plot points found in an academic article.

Don’t get off at cliche central

Using clichés is lazy writing. Avoiding clichés requires more effort, more thought and care. Whatever you’re writing – job application, journal article, funding bid, doctoral thesis – aim for the specific. The initial impact of a cliché is lost through overuse, so it can seem quite vague, while particular details often seem interesting and fresh.

Broadcasting your research

This is a guest post by Earl Harper. Earl is currently in the final year of his doctorate at Bristol University. He is studying ecological gentrification in response to apocalyptic imaginaries of climate change and has previously worked as a science communicator for the Science Museum Group, on their education team. Before entering academia, Earl volunteered as a radio host and producer for a community radio station. A recent experience with a national radio broadcast made Earl wonder about how researchers should engage with the media, particularly early in their careers.

Going freelance

There are, of course, many types of consultants and equally as many diverse routes to becoming a freelance consultant. I have charted only one possible pathway, one which I partly curated and partly fell into, one that sparks joy (!) for me.

The challenges of parenting and academia

“As a serious academic, you should spend all your waking hours working on your research and you should not have a life or family,” some seem to argue, or that seems to be the undercurrent of some of the “I’ve had 4 hours of sleep over the last 6 days to finish the proposal” kind of stories you may hear some academics tell each other at conferences. Such a work rhythm is not sustainable – not for single academics, and not for academics with families.

Cabell’s predatory journal blacklist: An updated review

My original review identified several strengths of the new Blacklist as well as a few areas in need of improvement. Two years on, I’m pleased to announce that the product has both deepened and strengthened, and that while a couple of quirks remain to be remedied, Cabell’s Blacklist is now a very solid product.

Reprieve at Stanford

Provost, who had said university was ending its support for university press this year, extends it for another year and suggests more support could be coming in the future. New approach comes amid widespread criticism.

A hidden diversity in scholarly publishing

The divergent backgrounds found in scholarly publishing make it a vibrant and diverse community, but the large population of former academics imbues our community with another, overlooked attribute: neurodiversity. Because people in STEM-related occupations score considerably higher on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) than members of the general population (see here), we are likely to have a lot of neurodiversity in scholarly publishing.

Planned merger of Cengage and McGraw-Hill could remake college-textbook market

The deal, which some in the publishing industry called not surprising given the financial pressures facing the sector, would create a company with the potential for growing influence over the textbook market. Combined, the two companies would have revenues of more than $3.1 billion and 44,000 titles in a range of fields.