… or bust! A cool protest sign that you can only really read in print

The woman in the bottom left of this photo has a pretty funny sign protesting Bill C-38, the Conservative government’s omnibus budget bill.

CP photo of Bill C38 protest, modified to highlight protest sign.

Full text of sign in lower left: "The only C38 I trust is the one I'm wearing"

Although all online versions I can find are cropped like this one, so that you can only really see the top of her sign, in print in today’s Globe and Mail, it is cropped differently and you can read the whole thing: “The only C38 I trust… is the one I’m wearing!”


Does Project Muse help or harm scholarship by refusing to list freely available journals? On the role of the aggregator

Yesterday, I posted an essay reflecting on the stratification of content development and delivery processes in the music, commercial publishing, and scholarly and scientific publishing industries (Won’t Get Fooled Again).

At the end of the piece, I discussed the developing role of aggregators at the distribution and marketing end of the process, so if you’re interested in doing marketing online, learning How to run paid traffic for clients is important for this. While there is no equivalent to iTunes in the scholarly publishing world, the aggregators fill a similar function to a certain extent with the institutional customers (particularly libraries) that are responsible for most of the purchases in this area.

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Won’t get fooled again? Why is there no iTunes for scholarly and scientific publishing?

In the inaugural BBC John Peel Lecture, The Who‘s Pete Townshend described the music publishing business as being historically like “a form of banking in many ways”:

In cooperation with record labels – active artists have always received from the music industry banking system more than banking. They’ve gotten…

1. editorial guidance

2. financial support

3. creative nurture

4. manufacturing

5. publishing

6. marketing

7. distribution

8. payment of royalties (the banking)

(A full transcript can be found here; video here (full) and here (excerpt))

Mutatis mutandis, much the same can be said for other forms of publishing as well: scientific/scholarly and commercial book publication, even film development and distribution. In each case, historically, the distributors of the content also generally have been responsible to a greater or lesser extent for nurturing and supporting its development. Individual segments of the market have dropped or added to Townshend’s list of functions (adding peer review, for example, in addition to editorial functions, or focus-group testing final product before distribution). But on the whole, Townshend’s list is pretty complete. In the pre-Internet era, publishing was generally the province of highly vertically integrated organisations: the same group tended to oversee the production process from the submission of the original manuscript, idea, or prospectus to the final distribution of sales income.

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Publish or perish: Should graduate students publish before graduation?

The Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) discussed in Educating scholars: Doctoral education in the humanities was focussed on improving graduate education.

Two important premises of the project were that improvement would involve reducing time-to-degree (TTD) and both reducing and shifting attrition among entering cohorts (so that less people dropped out and those that did dropped out earlier). Driving these premises lay the startling statistics about TTD and attrition in Humanities PhD programmes: about 50% of entering students left their programmes before completion, and about 1/2 of those who stayed failed to complete their degree by the end of their seventh year (the mean TTD across departments was 7 years, 3.5 months).

Speeding up time to degree, however, brings with it potential costs as well: perhaps humanities graduate students are taking so long to write their dissertations because the work is intrinsically time-consuming, or because they are concentrating on quality over speed, or because they are writing articles and otherwise polishing their resumes in preparation for the job market. Does speeding up TTD at the cost of these activities improve graduate education?

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Canada’s cell phone gap

The Globe and Mail begins what looks like it will be an interesting series this weekend:

Canada Competes is a six-month project examining the people, politics and economic issues that are helping or hurting the countries ability to compete in a post-recession world.

First up: Loans, mobile, and travel, all of which, in Canada, are controlled by small cartels of protected Canadian companies. Read the rest of this entry »


Weaponised viruses: Flame and Stuxnet

The Globe and Mail has an article today about  evidence that the makers of Flame, which it describes as “the most complex pieces of malware ever designed,” are issuing instructions for it to self destruct. The article follows on an astounding New York Times piece on June 1st, linking the Stuxnet virus directly to the United States and Bush and Obama administrations.

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Those who can’t teach do? The importance of “failure” to the survival of the humanities

Educating scholars: doctoral education in the humanities has an interesting set of chapters addressing the question of what happens to PhD students after they leave their programmes, with or without a degree.

The study of focussed on graduates of prominent departments in ten elite universities who were in programme in the period between 1991 and 2001 and so is looking at both a fairly strongly marked class of student and a strongly marked time period: the students they are following had what they describe as high “departmental prestige” when they entered the job market; and, while predictions of the faculty shortage in humanities that in part prompted this study (4) never actually appeared, their subjects do appear to have graduated into an academic job market that was more open than that immediately before or afterwards.

So with all these provisos in mind, what happened to the students? A number of sets of figures stand out.

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Love and marriage and progress-to-degree: Surprising effect of marital status and gender on PhD completion

From Educating scholars: doctoral education in the humanities:

We ask “Do the gender differences in attrition and completion patterns that we have observed reflect differences in family status by gender?”

To preview our findings, we find that there are no gender differences in the attrition and completion among students who are single. The overall gender differences in completion rates and attrition rates that we observed… are driven by the fact that married men are less likely to leave graduate school and more likely to earn degrees, whereas married women and single women do not differ in these respects. Having children at the time of entry to doctoral study is associated with increased chances of completing the degree within 10 years among men (but not significantly so), but this is not the case with women. Furthermore married men with children at the time of entry to doctoral study have shorter TTD [Time to Degree] than single men. In short marriage and fatherhood are beneficial for men when it comes to completing degrees. At the same time, contrary to popular expectation, marriage and motherhood are not detrimental for women (157, emphasis added).

I’ve long felt that the greatest pressure on attrition in graduate school, particularly PhD programmes, but also lower levels, is life. I.e. one is in graduate school at exactly the same time in one’s life when people with similar abilities and training are establishing themselves in careers, business, and, especially, families. As with the “popular expectation,” I assumed this would result in greater attrition pressures on women.

So it was a surprise to see that marital status has its real effect on the attrition of male students and that it doesn’t affect women.

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Incubator talk, Canadian Association of Learned Journals, Waterloo May 27, 2012

Here’s a (slightly modified for coherence’s sake) deck from the talk prepared by Gillian Ayers and me for the Canadian Association of Learned Journals meeting in Waterloo ON on May 27, 2012.

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