The publishing dilemma for a new(ish) academic

In the way of things that makes coincidence sometimes seem an inadequate rationalisation, I finally submitted a paper to a journal on the same day that Steve Wheeler published the first of two blog-posts about publishing journal articles. I have a real issue with having to publish in a peer reviewed, behind a paywall, journal. This not because I dislike peer-review, on the contrary, my experience to date has been positive, but I dislike the secrecy and the lack of conversation that goes with the process and I struggle with the concept that publically funded work (I am paid by a UK University) is not freely available to everyone.

I suppose I could have insisted that my article be submitted to an open-reviewing-not-behind-a-pay-wall journal. But, as Steve points out, particularly for those of us at the beginning of our academic career, this is problematic due to the pressure on us to publish in high impact journals. I have not submitted to a high impact journal, I have submitted to a journal that I thought might be interested in my work but still has blind reviewing and a paywall.

So, you may ask, why send the article there and not to a journal that I know has open reviewing and no paywall, the type of journal I believe in and want to support? Because I was advised to submit it where I did by someone with more experience and a huge publication record. And because submitting to a recognised journal was an objective for my annual performance review and therefore, ultimately, because I want to keep my job. This, I guess, is one of the oldest dilemmas in the book: employment and conformity to a (broken?) system or potential employment issues but sticking to one’s guns.

And even acknowledging that I acquiesced to employment+conformity, I am left in a quandary. I think that some of the work that has gone into the paper is worth talking about; I feel quite excited about it. I’m surprised by this because I was rather cynical about writing it up; it felt like ticking a box or jumping through a hoop rather than something meaningful. But I think there is something meaningful in what I wrote. I want to talk about the work with people. I want to ask them what they think. I want their feedback and their input to make the work better; more robust. But I don’t know if I am allowed. I don’t know how much of the work I can talk about on this blog for example? Can I publish my model here and ask people what they think, or do I need to wait until it’s published behind a pay-wall and then hope that maybe someone will bother to read it and engage with me about it? Once it is published can I make the PDF available here , or will I get into trouble? If so, how do I make it available?

Which brings me back to the beginning. I don’t like articles behind paywalls. I want everyone to be able to read my work if they think it is worth their time. I want people to give me feedback and feed-forward. I’d rather they were constructive so that I can improve the work, but I’d take negative, at least it might be the opener for a conversation. As it is, behind a paywall probably means little if any readership and so not much comment at all. And I find that frustrating!


#BYOD4L Day three: Curating

This is the topic I’ve been looking forward to the most: curating.

As I said in a previous post, I struggle with the myriad ways to curate information and with filtering information too. And if I do, then I figure undergraduates must too.

In response to my concerns about ‘ways’, a colleague of mine told me that the best thing to do is find a tool I like and stick with it – make everything I curate open to the people I want to share it with and stop worrying about what else is out there. I think this is GREAT advice, and the joy of BYOD4L is that I’m getting the opportunity to look at the curating tools that are out there.

And, in the spirit of trying tools that are new to me I joined the #BYOD4L Google hangout today. And then I had to leave, suddenly, with no explanation because I needed to go home. Which started me thinking about scenario two (bear with me, there is a link…). The lecturer describes providing all sorts of extra resources, but that her students don’t use them, they only do the things they have to do for assessment. I guess this is a good example that the old (oft misquoted) adage, ‘build it and they will come’ [it’s actually ‘build it and he will come’ from the movie Field of Dreams] is not really true.

For me this is an issue about design. Students are crazy busy people so often have to be strategic; they need to concentrate on the things that will make a difference to them. And every now and again they are likely to have to suddenly leave too, just like I did today (see I told you there was a link) and so the design of learning activities and resources needs to be such that  there is a reason for students to use them, or revisit them if life gets in the way (the video of the Hangout is a great resource). Either that or we need to think about how we introduce students to the culture of Higher Ed and show them the value of reading around a subject so that they can see the value of taking the time to immerse themselves in the resources we provide, rather than in something else.

If engaging with additional resources will help students many of them will engage, so I’d suggest that the design of teaching and assessment probably needs a different emphasis. Instead of teaching stuff, reward process. So, for example, begin a repository of relevant articles, then require the students to add to this repository and then discuss the articles in a seminar or interactive lecture, then the links have worth. This could be done in Pinterest or or on a wiki in the University supported learning platform.

Another idea I particularly like is to award some of the assessment grade to students when they show how they researched their essay/project/assignment. You can do this by getting them to draw a ‘map’ of their research journey (have a look at this paper for an example) and it helps to avoid plagiarism too.

Ultimately I believe that the skills of filtering and curating useful information are the skills we need to be learning, for ourselves and with our students, because to be able to do this successfully is becoming more and more important in an age where ‘stuff’ (content/information) is easily and freely available.


Too much information, and too many ways to store it

Some days I feel like I’m drowning in electronic ‘stuff’; information and articles and papers that I don’t have time to read but that I’d really like to keep, just in case I happen upon some time when I’m cleaning behind the filing cabinet.

And so I try all sorts of new/interesting ways to creatively managing this ‘stuff’, and then I end up drowning in (mostly) electronic solutions instead, forgetting i have accounts and not using them to their potential at all!

I use Evernote, only I’d forgotten that I use Evernote and I’d been not using it and storing things in Word documents in DropBox instead. So, I use DropBox too, clearly, and iCloud (although I don’t know what this is really). And then there’s Facebook and Twitter and Google+ (I have an account but I don’t really know what this does either) and Pocket and Penultimate and Skitch (although I think this only does pictures and I only have it because it links to Evernote) and real physical beautiful Moleskin notebooks (in five different colours), some of which talk to Evernote. Then there’s my three (or is it four) email accounts. I have a 3-Minute Journal, an Outlook calendar, a Google calendar and an iCloud-mail-something calendar too. Then there’s Pinterest which seems like a good idea for ‘storing’ things, but it is public, so I’m not sure if that would be appropriate and what about Tumblr?

And if I keep thinking about it I can keep naming ‘solutions’!

Which makes me wonder how it is to be a student? As an undergraduate, how would I navigate all of this ‘stuff’ when I have NO idea which bits of it are important, and which aren’t? And who would teach me, or would I just have to figure it out on my own?

And so then I wonder about our responsibilities as academics? What should we teach our students about all of this? The assumption that they already know is unhelpful. We need to show them how to manage all that information, to think critically about it and decide what is useful to them and how to store it in a meaningful and retrievable way for future use.

Which makes me wonder, what would be a good tool for that, and can anyone explain Reddit to me?