Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: May 15, 2020

“Life changes very quickly, in a very positive way, if you let it.” ~Lindsey Vonn“Life changes very quickly, in a very positive way, if you let it.” This advice from former World Cup alpine ski racer and four-time champion, Lindsey Vonn, frames this week’s collection and is, perhaps, exactly what we all need to hear in our efforts to move forward from the chaos that has dominated our lives and academic communities over the past couple of months.

A little more than two months since the first round of US-based closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a new “normal” emerge in the wake as transition to virtual instruction, cancellation of in-person events, and an acceptance of unexpected change has led people to a new way of living, learning, and working. And it can’t be in a perpetual state of pause.

There is something to be said for a state of consistency in what we can maintain – such as the approach to drafting a research paper. There is also a need to eventually, and perhaps now, summon the courage to reassess and rebuild our lives. There are also a number of new opportunities that have been uncovered as a result of the unexpected disruption to life as we knew it only a few short months ago.

All of these things are addressed in this week’s collection of articles from around the web. While there’s no doubt that life has changed quickly, it is up to you to determine if you will let that change be a positive way for you moving forward. Happy writing!

A comprehensive guide to maintaining consistency while drafting a research paper

With the right choice of words and carefully structuring the sentences, authors can prepare a polished and professional manuscript. To improve academic writing, authors should start preparing an outline and note down the main points. Creating a rough structure will help them present, summarize, and evaluate their ideas properly.

Gulp

Most academic staff are still working to meet funding and publishing deadlines, as well as to support students to meet their course timelines, not all of which have been modified. While some of our work can be put off, some can’t. For this first time since lockdown, this week I summoned up the courage to look at my own deadlines. And made a list.

Talking about – and maybe even selling – books in a pandemic

Every sector of scholarly communications — higher education, libraries, publishing, conferences, and more — is pivoting to virtual gathering and digital services. And in our daily working life most of us, even those of us already familiar with working remotely, are experiencing an intensification of videoconferencing. How will this rapid acceleration of virtual experience and online programming affect promoting and simply getting together to talk about books? We are seeing a variety of approaches from publishers, organizations, and authors themselves. Some of these build on previous programs and some are all new.

Where I call bullshit on the way we do the PhD

I want to try and inject some hope, but first I have to drop a few truth bombs. The way we do the PhD has to change or it won’t be a degree worth having anymore. We don’t have to wait for universities to make the PhD relevant to a post-pandemic world: we can do it for ourselves.

What lies ahead

Predicting the future is futile – yet fundamental.  In times of uncertainty, the best we can do is to speculate, spin scenarios, and prepare accordingly. As a historian, I am wary of attempts to forecast the future.  Unpredictability – like irony and contingency – is, after all, among history’s watchwords. Nevertheless, commentators are quite right to expect the pandemic to reshape higher education for years to come.

Not Spock! The myth of “objectivity” damages public trust in science

Many scientists believe that science is objective – that they are engaged in a pursuit of universal truth and are unaffected by bias. Most scientists would consider this objectivity to be a hugely important, positive characteristic of science. In particular, they think that their objectivity and ability to impartially weigh the evidence should lend authority to their opinions on key issues of public debate like climate change or vaccine hesitancy. Unfortunately, in today’s “post-truth” world, the expert opinion of scientists is increasingly marginalised.

Pandemic reveals broader audiences for science and carves out new all-digital publishing opportunities

There is an important lesson in this for the scholarly community, one that requires a radical shift in perspective, as we realize that the audience for complex scientific and medical information is not as limited as we have, until now, assumed – and that this provides an opportunity to combat misinformation. Amid the fear, the pain, and the uncertainty, there is one positive outcome that the scholarly community can work toward as an immediate and long-term goal: reaching broader audiences with evidence-based content and, in turn, improving health and scientific literacy.