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Publishing online and outside of a discipline by Tony E. Adams
publications_image

publications_imageTony Adams is Associate Professor and Chair of Communication, Media, and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University. For more information about his work, visit www.TonyEAdams.com

I write this blog from the perspective of someone who has the privilege to publish in a variety of outlets—my institution does not rank or evaluate the best journals; citation counts do not matter; and we do not use external reviewers for retention, tenure, or promotion. As such, this blog may not be of much interest to academics working at research institutions or at institutions where specific journals matter. Here, I offer my experiences with the limited aspect of disciplinary publishing, the benefits of open-access publishing, and writing about research practices and methods.
*

On a job interview for a mid-size, public university, I asked the interviewers about tenure requirements.

“If you publish three articles in the nationally sanctioned journals, you should be okay for tenure,” one interviewer says.

“I don’t publish in our nationally sanctioned journals,” I reply. “Most of the time, they do not welcome qualitative research, especially research that uses ethnography and autoethnography.”

“You’d probably get tenure if you published six articles in the regionally sanctioned communication journals,” the interviewer continues.

“I don’t publish in those journals either,” I say. “These journals also do not welcome ethnographic and autoethnographic research.”

Our interview ended.

Of the 11 nationally sanctioned, disciplinary journals—those journals sponsored by the National Communication Association—only two are open to ethnography and autoethnography, my primary methods for research. If I want (or need) to get published, and if I want (or need) to be published in nationally sanctioned publications, then I immerse myself in a highly competitive publishing process. While I suppose not being accepted for publication in these journals may have some indication about the value of my work to/for the communication discipline, I also believe that many of the discipline’s journal editors are against particular methods before they would even review my submissions. By trying to publish ethnographic and autoethnographic scholarship in more traditional, social scientific outlets, I may exhaust myself in a pointless task.

*
In April 2014, I had a conversation with a colleague about the citation count of “Autoethnography: An Overview,” a 2011 article I co-authored with Carolyn Ellis and Arthur Bochner published in the open-access journal, Forum: Qualitative Social Research. My colleague could not believe that this article alreadyhad more than 200 citations (as of this writing [September 2014], it has more than 300 citations). Further, while I believe that any of my disciplinary journals would have rejected the article especially since these journals focus on content—the findings of research projects, and not necessarily on how to do (communication) research, the article already has more citations than many of the articles published in these journals in the last two decades.

I am most pleased with this citation count because I believe it is an easy indicator that people at least know of the article. And the reason I publish is not to expand my vita or because I am required, but rather because I want to offer  work that is (hopefully) of use to others. I also believe that the open-access journal helps with the citation count—unlike more traditional, disciplinary articles, the article is not locked behind a library database; anyone can access it free of charge.

Further, the article may be of interest to many because it talks about a research method rather than a disciplinary-specific topic; it could be helpful for anyone doing ethnographic and autoethnographic research, not only communication researchers.

*
I want my writing to be read. I feel as though I am wasting my time publishing work without any reason. I like to engage research and to provide other researchers with new conceptual material and support. At some institutions, the journals in which I publish might not be the most credible according to often-ambiguous and elitist standards, but I find it more important that my research is engaged by others.

I recognize that some people do not have the privilege or luxury to publish outside of disciplinary journals, and I recognize the privilege I have in working in and being tenured at an institution that does not require me to publish in so-called “prestigious” publication outlets. If you are privileged to be on a tenure-track position, and if you are at an institution where journals matter, maybe wait until tenure and promotion to publish or meet institutional, tenure requirements for publication and then, post-tenure, publish in other outlets. At the very least, I think we should all do our best to have different conversations about publishing—about recognizing possible limits of disciplinary journals, the benefits of open-access publishing, and the importance of research methodology and practice.

Publish and Publicise, or Perish: The Importance of Publication Impact by Mark Rubin

This guest post is from Mark Rubin, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. You can visit his ImpactStory profile at: http://impactstory.org/MarkRubin or follow him on Twitter @MarkRubinPsych.

I’ve recently conducted an “Introduction to Academic Publishing” seminar for PhD students at the University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. During the seminar, I spend some time explaining to students the new emphasis on publication impact. Publication impact is the influence that scholarly publications have on other scholars and the general public, and it is becoming more and more important in academia. Below, I consider some of the ways in which publication impact is making an impact in the research world.

Measuring Researchers
The quality and quantity of a researcher’s publications provide a key measure of their research productivity. Consequently, publication track records are often used to determine whether or not researchers get hired, promoted, or funded for their future research. In addition, at the institutional level, the quality and quantity of a university’s publication output help to determine its international reputation and the amount of funding that it receives based on national research performance reviews. So, there are several reasons why researchers find themselves and their research outputs to be objects of measurements.

Tape Measure

© Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, Tape Measure, Creative Commons

The ethos of “publish or perish” has been around for a long time. However, in recent years, this message has become more articulated, and it now takes into account the impact of researchers’ publications. In particular, researchers are now told that they must not only publish their research but also get their publications acknowledged by other researchers and society at large. In practice, this means that researchers need to get their publications (a) cited in the work of other researchers and (b) discussed in traditional and online media. To help achieve a greater scholarly and public impact, researchers must promote and advertise their work as much as possible. In this respect, the message has now become “publish and publicise, or perish!”

Publications Need to Make a Big Splash!

A Little Trick

© Nathan Rupert, A Little Trick, Creative Commons

Measuring Publication Impact in the Scholarly Literature: The H Index
The concern about impact in the scholarly literature explains the growing popularity of the h index, a metric that is used to quantify not only the number of articles that a researcher has published but also the number of citations that these articles have accrued in other scholarly work. My own h value is currently 12, meaning that 12 of my 33 research publications have each been cited at least 12 times in other research articles.High impact researchers are expected to have h indices that are at least as large as the number of years since their first publication. The h index is not without its critics, and some have argued that a more comprehensive assessment of publication impact should take into account a broader array of alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics, that include more than just citations in scholarly work.

The H Index

Wooden Brick Letter h

© LEOL30, Wooden Brick Letter h, Creative Commons

Altmetrics
Altmetrics platforms such as altmetric and impact story count the number of times that scholarly articles are mentioned in both the scholarly literature and online social media and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia.They can also measure the number of times that online articles are viewed, bookmarked, liked, and downloaded on document managers such as Mendeley and Citeulike. Like the h index, altmetrics has its critics. However, if used wisely, altmetrics can provide a useful tool for assessing publication impact.

Altmetrics

© A J Cann, Altmetrics, Creative Commons

“Facebook for Researchers”
In an effort to increase their scholarly impact, researchers are now advertising their work on professional social networking websites such as Academia and ResearchGate, which have over 12 million researchers signed up between them. Researchers can follow other researchers in their area and be notified about their activities, including when they publish new articles. These sites also allow researchers to publish self-archived versions of their research papers that other users can then access, further increasing their citation potential.

Research Gate Logo

By ResearchGate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Funnelling News of Research Outputs: Research Blog Aggregators
Modern researchers are also blogging about their work. I do this myself and, although it takes a bit of time to prepare each post, I really enjoy turning a dry research abstract into a more accessible and appealing piece for my blog. Like many other researchers, I feed my posts through to research blog aggregators like ScienceSeeker and ResearchBlogging. These platforms funnel posts from many different research blogs into a single stream of the latest research.

I think therefore I blog

© Marsmettnn Tallahassee, I think therefore I blog,Creative Commons

Open-Access = Greater Impact
The drive to publish lots of highly cited and publically-acknowledged articles also helps to explain the rise of open-access journals. Unlike traditional journals, open-access journals publish articles 100% online rather than in print and, without the associated printing costs, they are able to accommodate a greater number of journal articles. For example, PLOS ONE published 23,464 articles in 2012, making it the largest journal in the world!

Importantly, the appeal of open-access journals is not only their ability to publish more publications, but also their ability to make those publications more accessible to readers. Unlike traditional journals, which tend to hide their content behind subscriber-only paywalls, open-access journals make their content freely available to everyone with internet access. This has the effect of increasing publication impact by increasing citation rates among scholars as well as online discussion among the general public.

Open Access (1)

© Research and Graduate College Graduate Studies Office, Open_Access_PLoS, Creative Commons

Hello? Can Anyone Hear Me!?
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, then does it make a noise? I can’t answer that one I’m afraid. But I do know that, nowadays, if a researcher publishes an article in a journal and no-one views it, downloads it, cites it, or Tweets it, then it certainly doesn’t make an impact!

Trees

© Sue Langford,Trees, Creative Commons

When is a Hashtag a Journal Article? by Charlotte Frost
picture by my Dadpicture by my Dad

hashtag in a squareRight that’s it, I’ve done it, I’ve gone and put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, I’ve put my open access politics where my REFables should be.

I’ve written a journal article on the nature of art historical knowledge and its philosophical relationship to its physical archives. But rather than present that article all nicely peer-reviewed and in a high impact journal, I’m publishing it free online and inviting anyone and everyone to peer review it – publicly. I wanted my first full-length academic journal article to be in line with the online areas of art history that I research, where art and art history are freely shared. Because I am interested in the on- and offline networks that create and support our ideas about art, I wanted other people’s opinions to be integral to the piece. And as I run an academic book series that experiments with the relations between the form and content of art history books, I wanted to dig my own publishing sandpit (or rather, extend the one I already built when created PhD2Published).

As it’s not enough that I’ve gone all open access on art history’s ass, I also wanted to consider – along with the media-aware ideas in my article – what post-digital art history might be. Partly this is reflected in the fact the article is not print-published but it is also reflected in my decision to work with media artist Rob Myers to manifest what might be best described as a physical version of the article. Embedded within the text itself are links to a project where you can order your own version of a 3D printed hashtag of the phrase ‘art history’. This draws attention the fact all art historical writing takes some sort of physical form – whether it’s printed words on pages or tweeted hashtags on Twitter – and re-enforces my argument that art historians need to better understand our own media. It also allows the article to generate a number of new research objects. That is, as #arthistory is interacted with beyond the space of the article itself, it can become new things – crowdsourced things – which also (if not quite directly) support the article’s theories about the value placed on participative modes in online art contextual activity.

So here’s what happens. To read the article itself you can go here: http://www.gylphi.co.uk/artsfuturebook/

Or if that’s too long winded, you can also get the gist of the #arthistory component here: http://hasharthistory.net/

Ideally you’ll then either offer your peer review comments on the article and or you’ll purchase your own hashtag and start sharing photographs of it in use.

And then let’s all meet back here or on Twitter (I’m @charlottefrost) and discuss what we think of this as a project. Does it represent a step in the right direction for open access scholarship, the digital humanities and new forms of publication and research, or does it try to do too much at once? Does the theory at the heart of the article suffer due to the playfulness of the #arthistory project? Should such projects be evaluated and if so, how?

On Independent Arts Scholarship – by Hasan Niyazi
Florens Reserved Teampic

DURERSPThis blog post by Hasan Niyazi (independent art history blogger/originator of the ‘3 Pipe Problem’ blog) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

In the year 1500, the German artist Albrecht Dürer inscribed the following on a self-portrait:

“I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in everlasting colours aged twenty-eight years.”

Writers of art history view this work as a significant turning point, or “moment” in Western civilisation.[1] The wildly gifted artist portrayed himself in not only a manner resembling traditional depictions of Christ, but added the force of his own presence to the work with the inscription, including his own “AD” monogram, which to many reading (to this day) recalled “Anno Domini” – the Year of Our Lord. From a perspective perhaps best granted by hindsight, Dürer’s inscribed portrait heralded the age of the individual. Dürer may have been the possessor of a large ego, yet he was also a capable disseminator of his work. His engravings and etchings, mechanically reproduced as prints on paper traveled across Europe, spreading the fame of his skill, and often encouraging copyists.[2]

Dürer not only embraced technology to aid in the distribution of his work, he was also an able networker. Eager to reach out to others, Dürer traveled to meet and learn from other artists. He sought Martin Schongauer and Andrea Mantegna, missing both shortly after their death, but did meet an aged Giovanni Bellini in Venice. By 1515, Dürer sought to exchange gifts with the most celebrated Italian artist of the age, Raphael of Urbino, then at the height of his powers in Rome, his career overshadowing both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.[3]

In whatever context one seeks to frame Dürer’s life and career, it is evident that he was successful at spreading an awareness of himself and his work across Europe. I wished to introduce Dürer’s use of technology to spread his work, and seeking personal connections to improve his knowledge as a precursor to a discussion about blogging. At the very least, Dürer’s example provides some interesting and relevant historical parallels.

I have been asked by Charlotte Frost to provide an account of my experiences in the blogosphere, exploring Renaissance art history in a level of detail than was not occurring in an open forum on the web. I presently spend my days working as a clinician and most nights reading and writing about art history. In late 2009, after having spent over a decade online, on message boards and advice forums dedicated to technology, I found my mind always wandering back to art history, a topic I had studied at a younger age. Hence, with little more than a vague notion of wanting to write about “cool art stuff” I began “art history blogging.” I created a free blog using Google’s “Blogger” platform, which I found favourable compared to WordPress as it allowed users full access to the blog’s underlying html code, allowing me to learn about this along the way.  Three years on, I find myself pleasantly occupied. My clinical work continues, yet my reading and writing in art history has wrought great changes to me and my writing. I maintain regular contact with important Renaissance scholars, and am working on an ambitious project dedicated to the artist Raphael.

My blog, 3 Pipe Problem (3PP), became a platform to disseminate the idea that a more detailed appreciation of Renaissance art history is not restricted to those who can access universities, expensive books and journals, or belong to a particular community. Many bloggers have a personal motivation. For some, this motivation comes foremost as an intellectual pursuit that captivates the mind. Applying it to art history, I sought to understand its narrative of the past, and the evidence that had formed the common perception of this period in history.

Raphael Uffizi in Frame

Raphael’s famous self-portrait at the Uffizi has a complex attribution history, with a number of scholars disagreeing on it author, and likely date of creation.

This search for understanding – to my mind at least – arrived in its purest form when examining the attribution of a Renaissance artwork. It is a magical experience to walk into a gallery and stand before a work on panel or canvas labelled to be by the great Raphael, Leonardo, Titian or Giorgione (etc). Purchasing the catalogues offered by museums and galleries for these works often brushes past attribution issues entirely. It is only when one is brave enough to wade into the scholarly literature that we find an almost endless procession of heated debate about the authorship of a work. In Raphael studies in particular, this discussion is protracted across many works attributed to an artist whose style dramatically changed across the short span of his professional life.

Because Raphael had acquired great fame during his own lifetime, we are blessed with a greater number of surviving sources on his movements and actions than can be found for other artists of the period. It is the evaluation of these sources, and the physical characteristics of the works themselves that enable us to describe a painting “by Raphael” in full. Indeed in the scope of Renaissance workshop, Raphael’s involvement in a particular work needs to measured against visual evidence gleaned from observation of the work itself, and related technical images and preparatory works  – a mode of analysis traditionally known as connoisseurship.

It is the distillation of these complex quantities of information that I attempt to bring to my posts at 3PP, and inform my work on the Open Raphael Online project. In doing this work online, I found I gained the most when openly sharing my learning experiences as they happened. The most efficient way to do this was via the social media platform twitter, where I encountered a range of individuals with similar interests, including professionals and students engaged in the study of art and history. This resulted in an ongoing exchange of information and resources, and a pleasing type of social interaction that occurs when one encounters kindred spirits.

In November 2012, I was pleased to be awarded the honour of representing “art history bloggers” at the Florens cultural heritage event in Florence. Traveling back to the heart of the Renaissance is a perennially emotional experience, and in my mind the city of innovation and endeavor that Florence once was seeks to regain its place again, with an increasing number of progressive online voices discussing the art and culture of the city.

Florens Reserved Teampic

Being part of the team of bloggers covering the Florens2012 event was a rewarding experience, providing insights into the great potential for new media to inform and promote a deeper experience of Italian culture than is presently being achieved.

What is blogging and where is it headed?

It is at times daunting finding oneself working in a space populated by very few others, and without a real sense of the activity being viable as anything other than an intellectual exercise. The blogs I admire the most are mostly written by academics as an independent exercise that fed off their experiences in teaching and research. Although I had started blogging “for fun” I quickly found myself wanting to occupy a similar space as far as the quality of detail and critical analysis being offered at blogs such as Thony Christie’s The Renaissance Mathematicus and Monica Bowen’s Alberti’s Window. Hence, each post became a research project in its own right. I would often start at scratch, or from an idea sparked by another blog post or discussion on twitter and develop a post from there. This process allowed me to further develop my own style, and improved my research skills – which of course are still evolving.

There is an increasing amount of discussion about the roles bloggers have in the space traditionally occupied by specialists and journalists. A recent post at the London School of Economics (LSE) Impact Blog specified “academic blogging” as defining a new space between academic writing and journalism.[4]

With specific reference to art history, the 2012 Kress Foundation report into digital art history and its research centers also identified the role of an “instigator”:

“A more radical suggestion is to bring in “instigators” or individuals from outside the research center who possess a unique set of technology, humanities, and people skills. Their role would be to push against institutional barriers without being intimidating to others nor easily thwarted themselves.”[5]

These descriptions seemed to describe blogging being recognised as a new space, and sought to address why blogging exists and whether it is important. It also became apparent that communicating ideas within the context of a blog also demanded a new mode of language, where the individual acting as “instigator” must be able to address both specialists and the interested public alike. This form of writing has no real precedent in art history, the closest analogues being reviews of exhibitions or publications penned by art critics/historians in newspapers and magazines.

Anthropological excursus

Of the various academic disciplines that are bravely experimenting with or observing blogging, that which tended to more completely grasp the “what and why” or meta of blogging was the field of media anthropology, and the related area of cyber-anthropology.[6] This relatively new branch of study, which seems to have forged its presence somewhere between media studies and the social sciences has burgeoned into a thriving discipline, with a proliferation of case studies demonstrating use of blogging and social media being used in social activism. The events around the Arab Spring and Occupy movements seem to be of most enduring interest to the media anthropologists I have encountered, with those tracing the impact of blogging in a broader, cultural sense quite rare.[7]

While many studies/books (of varying quality) can be found on the impact of blogging in a political sense, primarily in the American context, there is at present no study that seeks to track the impact of blogging on elements of cultural discourse, which is arguably the most globally inclusive human activity.[8] From art and archaeology, to regional variances in customs and language, the definition of “culture” is now so broad and complex, that such a study would be daunting to any investigator considering tackling its interaction with the forms of new media represented by blogging and social media. Until such studies are completed, this small excursus, embedded within this account of my role as an art history blogger, will hopefully be a marker for the consideration of new media’s impact on cultural discourse in an anthropological sense.

Conclusion – evolving beyond the primordial ooze

We are still in the primordial ooze of blogging and social media acting to serve a mired field of study, which art history can unfortunately be described in certain contexts. In some cases, quality blogs are helping to demystify aspects of cultural discourse to a global audience.

It is always pleasant to hear from readers who have been to museums and have questioned the assigned label of a work, and have been unsatisfied with the explanations offered in their catalogues. This desire to seek more detail in an independent sense is the true blessing of the information age. This gift of access to knowledge the web can provide recalls the famous, if not grandiose point made by Timothy Leary in Pataphysics in 1990,

“Today the role of the philosopher [and the artist, we might add] is to personalize, popularize, and humanize computer ideas so that people can feel comfortable with them…In every generation I’ve been part of a group of people who, like Prometheus, have wrestled with the power in order to hand it back to the individual.”[9]

Comparisons to mythological titans aside, what can be taken from Leary’s statement is that those with experience navigating the seemingly disparate fields of technology and cultural historiography are ideally suited to analyse and interpret the seemingly rapid changes being experienced by all disciplines defined by large slabs of text and images, traditionally locked within the confines of books. Blogging is just one of many available means of re-purposing and amplifying these images and texts to a more global, and potentially dynamic audience.

I would like to emphasise that my example represents a combination of circumstances that has occurred naturally, and is only a snapshot taken at this point in time. At present, art history blogging exists because it does, and discussing it from the perspective of becoming a viable business model seems a point no one is yet prepared to deliberate on. For academics and students trying to figure out how a blog may fit into their workflow, there is no easy answer other than trying it and finding what works for you, and ruling out what does not.

Ultimately, blogging does not need to supplement anything else. It is its own form of expression,  requiring a mixture of skills. Blogging is a mode of communication where any individual with a passion to work hard and have their voice heard can participate in a global dialogue that attracts scholars and laypersons alike. Art, culture and knowledge transcends boundaries, and so does the web. As such, they are a perfect match.

References

1. Koerner, JL. The Moment of Self-Potraiture in German Renaissance Art. University of Chicago Press. 1997. pp.40-46 preview available at Google Books link ; the author is aware of the antecedent self portrait by van Eyck and its comparatively boastful frame inscription. Less is known about Jan van Eyck’s travels and how widely his work was disseminated.

2. Pon, L. Raphael, Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi – Copying in the Italian Renaissance. Yale University Press. 2004. pp.62-68.

3. Nesselrath, A. Raphael’s Gift to Dürer. Master Drawings. Vol. 31. No. 4. Essays in Memory of Jacob Bean (1923-1992). Winter, 1993. pp. 376-389 JSTOR link

4. Carrigan, M. By opening up a distinctive space between academic research and journalism, a thriving academic blogosphere mediates between them. London School of Economics Impact Blog. February 4 2013. Accessed March 6 2013. link

5. Zorich, D. Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Kress Foundation website June 1. 2012. Accessed March 6 2013. link

6. Rothenbuhler, E. Media Anthropology as a Field of Interdisciplinary Contact. E-Seminar October 22 – November 05 2008, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), Media Anthropology Network. http://www.media-anthropology.net nb. An excellent overview of media anthropology and its history as a field of study. (pdf link) ; another recommended overview paper is presented by Mihai Coman (pdf link) ; A foundational article introducing the concept of “cyber-anthropology” was published in 2005 by Libin and Libin: Cyber anthropology: a new study on human and technological co-evolution. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. 2005. 118. pp. 146-55. (link)

7. There are a number of well known blogs dedicated to anthropology – Savage Minds, and its blogroll is a great starting point (link). Less prevalent are blogs dedicated to media anthropology, with the site maintained by Dr. John Postill a notable source of information and resources (link). Blogs exploring specific examples of culture and their impact in a new media and anthropological context are more rare at this stage. Some quality examples include:

  • University College London has an project index(link) and blog(link) exploring the anthropology of social media.
  • Cyber Anthropology – a blog maintained by Diana Harrelson, exploring the anthropology of social media, gaming and online communities (link) ;
  • The Cultural Magazine (link), primarily in Italian, with articles in French and English, maintained by Melissa Pignatelli. Explores cultural anthropology and social media’s impact on contemporary society.

8. Baldwin, J. (ed.) Redefining Culture: Perspectives Across The Disciplines. Routledge. 2006. This landmark publication identified over 300 prevailing definitions of “culture”, highlighting the challenges in demarcating the parameters of culture as a field of study.  For more on this in a new media and reporting context see Niyazi, H. The convergence of culture and new media – Florens 2012. Posted at 3 Pipe Problem. November 22 2012. (link)

9. Leary, T. Pataphysics quote is included in premable of Chaos and Cyberculture. 1994 edition online at archive.org  (link)

 

A Scholarship of Generosity: New-form Publishing and Hybrid Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel
Image from Mochimochiland.comImage from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Jesse Stommel (Co-founder and Director of Hybrid Pedagogy) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

The idea for the name of Hybrid Pedagogy came from a job talk I gave in October 2011. The thesis of that talk now sits on the journal’s homepage: “All learning is necessarily hybrid.” The line is inspired by a blog post from February 2010, in which I write: “The teacher 2.0 must shift the focus from individual learners to the community of learners, drawing new boundaries that reflect a much larger hybrid classroom.” This sentence also describes the work of new-form academic publishing, which draws new boundaries by upsetting the distinction between scholarship and teaching — between the work we do in journals and the work we do in classrooms.

When Pete Rorabaugh and I began discussing what would become Hybrid Pedagogy in early 2011, we wondered if what we were describing was a “journal” or something else entirely. At various points, we flirted with calling the project a “symposium,” “colloquium,” “collective,” or “school.” It was clear to us, from the start, that what we were creating was not a traditional academic publication. What we wanted to build was a network, a community for engaging a discussion of digital pedagogy, critical pedagogy, open education, and online learning. At the same time, we wanted to build a collection of resources to help facilitate conversations within that community.

We worked from the start to develop the journal openly, gathering together an advisory board that had virtual “meetings” on the web via the discussion forum on the site. The goal was to interrogate academic publishing practices by making them transparent — to lay bare our process while it was in formation. We published articles about peer-review before we had established our own peer-review process, inviting feedback and commentary. We crowd-sourced the majority of our initial decisions, down to the layout and design of the site.

Hybrid Pedagogy has become a publication that combines the best aspects of an open-access journal with the best aspects of a group blog (timeliness, a nimble publishing schedule, and direct engagement with readers). Through the articles we’ve published and events we’ve hosted (like MOOC MOOC and regular #digped chats), we’ve brought together higher education teachers, K-12 teachers, the open education community, students, and lifelong learners. We’ve worked to disrupt the conventions of academic publishing, while still maintaining a careful attention to detail, context, and critical engagement.

Based on input from our initial advisory board, we’ve developed what we call “collaborative peer review,” in which editors engage directly with authors to revise and develop articles, followed by post-publication peer review. Once an article is accepted for review, we partner a new author with an editorial board member (myself, Pete, Sean Michael Morris, and Robin Wharton) and a guest editor (usually someone that has already published an article in the journal). Editorial work is done both asynchronously and synchronously in a Google Doc that evolves through an open dialogue between author and editors.

We fully expect our process will continue to evolve. Kathleen Fitzpatrick argues, “Peer review is extremely important — I want to acknowledge that right up front — but it threatens to become the axle around which all conversations about the future of publishing get wrapped.” Going forward, I think it’s vital that every academic publication continuously (and even publicly) interrogates its own practices. Given how rapidly education is changing, we need to keep pushing ourselves to innovate — to learn from our mistakes — and to stay nimble in our approaches. We need to actively overturn the existing hierarchies and power dynamics that fuel unethical practices like blind peer-review, the proliferation of overpriced and barely read monographs, closed-access publishing, and business models that rely insidiously on the free labor of contingent faculty.

I’m glad Pete and I ultimately decided to describe Hybrid Pedagogy as a “journal,” exactly because this designation allows us to push on the boundaries of what, when, and how academic work gets published. The notion of an “academic journal” needs dismantling and reimagining. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t continue to have traditional academic journals, but that we need to considerably broaden the landscape to make way for dynamic collaboration, new media, and participatory culture.

Since launching Hybrid Pedagogy in January 2012, we’ve published 94 articles by 17 authors. The majority of these have been peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers (all but the earliest articles and #digped announcements). We’ve worked especially hard to encourage collaboration; 21 of the 94 articles we’ve published was written by two or more authors, including one article by five authors, one article by twelve authors, and one article by hundreds of authors. Articles have covered a wide range of topics, from MOOCs to digital writing — from intellectual property to personal learning networks.

Shortly after we launched Hybrid Pedagogy, Pete and I wrote an article about the changing nature of citation in the digital age — an article in which we made nods to the various sources for our work on the journal. In that article, we write, “In digital space, everything we do is networked. Real thinking doesn’t (and can’t) happen in a vacuum. Our teaching practices and scholarship don’t just burst forth miraculously from our skulls. The digital academic community is driven by citation, generosity, connection, and collaboration.” I believe generosity is what will drive the future of digital publishing.

Check out the most recent articles on Hybrid Pedagogy: Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1 and pt. 2 and follow @hybridped on Twitter.

A Primer on Open Access Publishing: The Grass is always Greener (When Your Publications are Freer) by Jason Colditz
Jason

This post is the third in our series by Jason Colditz that explores the new and complicated world of Open Access Publishing. Post One provides a general primer on Open Access for the un-initiated and Post Two explores copyright issues and the “Gold Rule”.

This post discusses alternate routes to making your research publications available to the public (“OA Green” model). This model allows you to publish in a variety of journals (even journals that aren’t Open Access) and then to publicly archive the manuscript so that others are able to read and cite your work. This builds on my previous post that describes copyright transfer agreements and OA Gold, and assumes that you have some familiarity with Open Access in general.

A Fairly Common Scenario:

You want to make your results freely available for others to read, cite, and build upon. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to spend a couple thousand dollars to unlock the published version to the public, or maybe you’ve made up your mind to submit your manuscript to one of those ‘really prestigious’ journals that don’t offer such options. After two grueling rounds of revisions and some tweaks from the copy editor, you have an article in press. Congrats – your department chair (or tenure review committee, if you’re so lucky) will surely appreciate your accomplishment! Unfortunately, many of the researchers/practitioners in your field don’t have a subscription to the journal that you’ve published in and they probably won’t wager US$30 to purchase the full-text, even for an article as potentially groundbreaking as yours (note: write a good abstract so that others are interested to read the full-text).  You want others to cite your article, but the journal doesn’t allow you to post the published version on your website for the world to see. You need a work-around, preferably one that doesn’t cause the publisher to take you to court for violating your copyright agreement. Some journals are more permissive than others when you want to share your work with the world, and you might still have a trick or two up your sleeve: time to review your copyright transfer agreement!

Your copyright transfer agreement specifies what versions of your article you may share, with whom you may share them, and when. If you haven’t yet signed a copyright transfer agreement (better yet – if you haven’t yet decided on a journal), you can look into the permissiveness of various journals/publishers at SHERPA/RoMEO. “Self-archiving” your publication means that you’re uploading an electronic version of it to a publicly available Internet archive. Journals/publishers may allow you to post your final print version to an archive for various reasons.  Best case scenario: you are mandated to publicly archive your works if your research was funded through the National Institutes of Health (in the US) or Wellcome Trust (in the UK), and publishers are required to honor these mandates. Some universities also mandate that your work is added to publicly available university archives (e.g., Harvard in the US). A growing number of universities have such institutional mandates, and you may be able to find your institution in the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP). In this case, you should consult with your university librarians to determine how they can help you to archive your publication. If you don‘t have a government or institutional mandate for public access to your article, you may still be able to share your research on an institutional, topical, or other Internet archive.

Many institutions have non-mandated archives listed on the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) (search for your institution from the search bar in the top right corner), which provide an opportunity to archive your work. At this point, every institution has different methods of collecting and distributing publications, and so you will need to conform to the regulations of your institution as well as those of the journal that you publish in.  ROAR also lists topical repositories that you can search for by keyword (e.g., “education”), but be advised that topical archives are sparse for many fields.

At this stage of the game, you may want to post a pre-print in an institutional archive or on your personal website.  A “pre-print” is a version of your article that isn’t the final published version.  Many journals will allow you to archive the semi-final version of your article before editorial changes (i.e., the version that was accepted, but not the version that was published). More stringent journals will only allow you to archive the version that you submitted before the first round of peer-review. Based on the version that you are allowed to publicly archive (if you are comfortable sharing that version), it will still be helpful for other scholars to access and cite it.  If you archive a pre-print, be sure to list the full citation for the publication up-front, so that others are able to cite the published version of your work.

“OA Green” gives you the opportunity to share your scholarly publications with anyone (and everyone) who is interested in reading them, not just the scholars at institutions that subscribe to the journal. This is important because journal holdings are shrinking at university libraries and your publications are important to a broader audience than the handful of research universities that can afford it.

Stay open!

Jason

Resources:

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

A Primer on Open Access Publishing: Copyrights and the “Gold Rule”. Part Two by Jason Colditz
Jason

This post is the second of a blog series focusing on Open Access publishing, written by Jason Colditz. For an introduction to Open Access publishing and what it is, you can read Part One of the series here. 

This post will briefly discuss author copyright agreements and provide resources to help you to make your published research publicly available (“Open Access Gold” model). This is the most straightforward way to bring your research to the public who benefit from it – sharing your final publication with the largest possible audience. This model allows for public access and allows researchers/authors/media to freely cite and report on the final version of your work. If you want to build your public presence in your field and broader scientific/professional networks, the public availability of your research should not be taken for granted.

Every time you create a manuscript for publication, you have to shop around for the “best” journal in which to publish your work. Maybe you’ve done this before or maybe you’re planning to publish for the first time. Either way, it is exciting – another notch on your CV and an opportunity to share your work with your peers in the research community and beyond. It can also be anxiety provoking as you consider the venues that are the best fit for the content of your manuscript, and those that demonstrate enough impact for your work to be appreciated. When you think about impact, it is important to consider the “prestige” of the journal as well as the availability of the final publication. The publisher may ask you to sign-away certain rights of your intellectual property that will limit the availability/usability of your work, and you need to consider what you are giving up in order to get your paper to press (i.e., is it still legally “your” paper after it is published? – often times not).

Copyright Transfer Agreements

Publishers require you to sign a legal agreement that determines how your article can be used and shared. Some publishers (e.g., Elsevier) have complex restrictions on how your article is licensed and shared, while others (e.g., Public Library of Science) pride themselves on broad accessibility of research articles, with authors retaining copyright. To understand the complexities of copyright transfer agreements, you don’t need to be a lawyer – the basic principle is that you (authors) may do whatever you wish with a manuscript until you agree to trade certain freedoms for the privilege of publication. Simply put, some publishers require you to give-up more freedom than others…

“Not all publication agreements lead to problems, but many do. Some publishers, including scholarly journal publishers, ask for only a limited right of publication and generously leave other rights with you. Other publishers, however, insist on an assignment of the copyright and leave you with little or nothing. If that is your agreement, you may have lost all rights to use even your own work.”

Columbia University

“When you assign copyright to publishers, you lose control over your scholarly output. Assignment of copyright ownership may limit your ability to incorporate elements into future articles and books or to use your own work in teaching at the University.”

Cornell University

If you want a broad reach for your research, there are several things to pay attention to when choosing a journal/publisher:

  • Who owns the copyright to your published work (you or the publisher)?
  • How soon (if ever) will the article be made freely available to the public?
  • Are you permitted to post the publication on personal- or institutional websites?
  • Can the publication be freely reproduced for educational purposes?

For some publishers, the answers to these questions are: “Not you – never – absolutely not – no.” If you should get your research well-read and cited, those aren’t the answers that you want to hear. Open Access (OA) Gold publishers, on the other hand, will tell you: “You own it – your publication is publicly available – share it freely!” If you want to know more about the copyright agreements for particular journals or publishers, the University of Nottingham hosts the “SHERPA/RoMEO” website to help you decode and compare copyright agreements for most popular publishers. When looking at OA publishers, you will want to keep in mind what I call the “Gold Rule” of OA publishing (buyer beware)…

The OA Gold Rule: You might pay for what you get, but you don’t always get what you pay for.

Several mainstream journals provide an option to publish the electronic version of your article, free to the public, at a price to the author(s). Some Elsevier journals, for example, charge a one-time US$3,000 (or more) fee to release the article publicly. While there is a definite advantage to opening up access to your research article published in a highly-ranked journal, is it worth the fee? Maybe not – Elsevier and similar publishers may still retain the copyright to authors’ works. This isn’t exactly OA Gold in a practical sense (if the publisher owns the copyright, they may still restrict how the article is used). If your research was funded through certain agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health in the US, Wellcome Trust in the UK), it has a mandated public release date within 6 months or a year anyway. Is an earlier public release worth $3,000 from your research budget? If you’re not funded by one of the big players in research, can you afford to pay out of pocket or from institutional funds? (Wouldn’t it be nice?)

While there is movement towards reimbursing some of these fees at an institutional level (e.g., U.C. Berkeley), that is more the exception than the rule, and it contributes to further racketeering by some publishers who will retain the copyright to your article and charge your institution for unlocking your article (which the publisher may still own). This presents another set of ethical as well as financial difficulties.

On the other side of the spectrum of “predatory publishers” are those who don’t offer much in the way of prestige (or not even peer-review) but will still charge you for publication. They may tout prestige and OA but function more as publication mills. These are often called “vanity journals”, and they will publish just about anything if you are willing to pay the price. Watch out for these, or else you might pay out of pocket for a publication that you wouldn’t want to list on your CV (or that you wish your tenure review board hadn’t discovered).

Then there is the Public Library of Science (PLoS), an exemplar of OA Gold practices. Its interdisciplinary publication, PLoS ONE, boasts a respectable impact factor, peer review, and fully open publication terms. It charges less than half of the bottom-dollar Elsevier rate and will waive publication fees for authors who can not afford to pay for publication. This is one example of many journals (some with no fees at all) that adhere to best practices of the OA Gold model. If you want to shop around for reputable OA journals, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is the place to start.

If OA Gold sounds a bit convoluted to you, you’re not alone! The publishing process is heavily politicized by powerful special interest groups that are more concerned with profit margins than continuity of scientific rigor and dissemination of knowledge (in practice if not in political activism). The process of OA publishing oftentimes runs counter to the traditional publication profit model and requires some ingenuity to navigate. OA Gold can be co-opted by publishers who don’t have the best interests of the research community in mind, and so you need to be an informed consumer when deciding to pursue the “Gold standard” in publishing your works.

Gold OA versus Green OA

Open Access is color coded to distinguish the two ways that you can get your research directly to the public. If you equate gold to money, you’re on the right track (though that needn’t be the case for many free electronic journals). Whereas OA Gold puts the finished (published) product in the public domain, OA Green can give you a work-around to get your research out there in other ways. Think of OA Green as the grassroots alternative to OA Gold. In the next post, we will cover the OA Green model that allows you (depending on the copyright transfer agreement) to archive a version of your article in the public domain.

Stay tuned, and stay open!

Jason

Resources:

Author’s Note: Mike Taylor, who provides an online oracle of Open Access activism (and sauropod vertebra pictures for paleontologists), was kind enough to comment on my original post’s use of “public domain”, which is a specific term denoting public ownership of works (i.e., a Creative Commons license instead of a copyright).  This is an important distinction to make when considering publisher copyright agreements.  The post has been edited accordingly and I hope to address this topic more fully in a future post.

Find out more about the OA Green model in the next in the series….Part Three of A Primer on Open Access Publishing.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

Part 1: A Primer on Open Access Publishing by Jason Colditz
Jason

This post is the first in a series by Jason Colditz, who spends his days at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a full-time Research Coordinator (Department of Psychiatry), Teaching Assistant for the Dissertation Research Seminar (Department of Administrative and Policy Studies), and has consulted on several university-sponsored and individual research projects. In the Social and Comparative Analysis in Education graduate program, his comprehensive project focuses on policies and economics of Open Access publishing. In this set of blog posts, Jason extends a conversation started earlier on PhD2Published, introducing us to the world of Open Access publishing and exploring its implications for future academic publishing and careers.

Open Access (OA) publishing is a game-changer for researchers and academics who produce scholarly works.  While mathematics and physics have a rich history of making articles publicly available and medicine is moving in that direction thanks to funding mandates, OA is a relatively new development in social sciences and humanities fields. Over a series of posts, we will help you to understand the basics of OA, provide resources to help you make informed decisions about OA options, and consider the long term impact of OA publishing for emerging researchers and professionals in academia.

Background: Open Access as a Geopolitical Grassroots Movement

Recently, Open Access (OA) has received increased public attention on a global scale. The UK, Argentina, and others are moving towards federal mandates to make publicly funded research results available to the public, the US is under increased pressure to enact similar OA legislation, and advocacy groups are springing up around the globe. A driving force of this movement stems from universities and academic library associations that are unable to keep up with the hyperinflation of journal prices (i.e., “serials crisis”). The recent public mobilization arises from a growing awareness and discontent towards the unsustainability of journal publishers’ current business paradigms. In brief, for-profit journal publishers continually increase profit margins by charging the public to access the research that they have funded and by charging academic institutions to access the research results that they have produced. Researchers, librarians, and the public are uniting at a grassroots level, demanding a new model for sharing research results. Globally, researchers are boycotting publishing in Elsevier journals because of questionable business practices, and the public is petitioning the US government to mandate openness in publicly funded research results. As our global culture increasingly demands research findings to fuel innovation and social progress, and with technology making web-based electronic publications the norm, we are on the brink of shifting paradigms for sharing scientific knowledge…

Welcome to Open Access!

Simply put, OA is the free release of knowledge to the public who sponsor and benefit from it. This paradigm allows patients and providers to access medical research that informs treatment, allows educators to draw from relevant findings in teaching and learning theory, allows public policy makers and advocates to make scientifically grounded arguments, and allows scientists and the general public to stay abreast of current knowledge across all research disciplines. From an epistemological perspective, OA allows researchers to more readily access and build upon previous knowledge. From an academic career perspective, OA creates broader dissemination and citability of published articles. The only downside (if you can call it that) in moving towards a more open model of knowledge sharing is that publishers will need to adapt their profit models and academia will need to adapt to new technologies and develop new standards for evaluating the prestige of published works. This is similar to the process of adaptation that the record labels and musicians undertook when technology caught up to the recording industry. If we can learn a lesson from this recent history: don’t spend time and energy clinging to dated market conventions and do spend some time gaining an understanding of the emerging system. If you should adapt to emerging norms and remain competitive in open knowledge markets, the upcoming posts will help you to become confident in choosing appropriate venues for publishing your articles and will show you how to share your results beyond conventional publication channels.

Moving Along…

Now that you have some background, it is time to move into applications and provide you with some tools to make the publishing process easier. The next post will talk a little bit about author copyright agreements and provide resources to help you publish your research directly into the public domain (the “OA Gold” model). That will bridge us into discussing the “OA Green” model where authors publicly archive their published works. Finally, we will wrap-up with some practical considerations of OA, assessing article prestige (i.e., impact metrics), and how OA is contributing to new ways of measuring article impact and how that might affect your future academic career.

In the meantime, if you want to do your homework on OA, I recommend starting at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). If you do the Twitter thing, there are always interesting live updates on the #OpenAccess tag, or you can tweet @ColditzJB with questions.

Stay Open,

Jason

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 6: On the outside of Academic Publishing by Kathryn Allan
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The final post in this series about posting a thesis online is by Kathryn Allan. Kathryn completed her PhD (English) at McMaster University in 2010. Her doctoral thesis, Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk Science Fiction, is awesome and available online for free here. She operates an (academic) copy editing and dissertation coaching business, Academic Editing Canada, as she pursues independent scholarly research into (feminist/cyberpunk) science fiction. Dr. Allan is currently putting together a collection of essays that deal with the representation of disability in science fiction. She tweets under @BleedingChrome.

When I finished my PhD in English Literature in 2010, I also said good-bye to the ivory tower. Frustrated with the current funding and work environment of academia (in North America), I set out on my own – and I took my dissertation with me. While my committee members encouraged me to consider publishing my thesis the old-fashioned way, I felt like it wasn’t the right option for me. Instead, I decided to publish my dissertation in pdf format and make it freely available on my professional blog to anyone interested in reading it.

At first, I was slightly worried that someone might plagiarize my work, but after a minute of thought, I remembered that nothing stops students who want to plagiarize from doing so, regardless of the medium of the text. With confidence, I made my thesis available on my blog. It shows up in relevant Google searches and I have repeatedly shared the link over email and Twitter with people who share my research and reading interests.

I share my thesis online because: (1) I believe that publicly funded work (like my Canadian graduate education) should be publicly accessible; and, (2) as an independent scholar who studies feminist and cyberpunk science fiction, I want to easily share my work with the science fiction fan community.

Accessibility

When I state that I believe academic work should be accessible, I mean it in all aspects of the word. I put in a good deal of effort into writing my thesis in language that can be followed by non-academic readers, so putting my thesis online is a natural extension of my dedication to open research and communication.

My PhD thesis is available on ProQuest through the university where I studied, but access to that database is still limited to people with university library access or who are willing and able to pay. Since I don’t believe that anyone should have to pay to read my thesis, simply having it available on academic marketed sites like ProQuest is not a good enough solution to accessibility.

Independent Scholarship

My thesis was a labour of love and passion for the subject matter. I want to share the knowledge I gained with as many interested individuals as I can. Admittedly, I also enjoy operating outside of the formal academic system. Science fiction, particularly the feminist science fiction of my interest, has generally been a marginalized field of study, so it felt right to pursue a more marginal and independent approach to publishing my dissertation.

One of my goals as an independent scholar is to connect with fans in the vibrant and diverse science fiction community. If my thesis was only available through one university and a pay-to-read internet platform, then most fans are not going to read it (or even know that it exists). While I could have arguably sought out a publisher to reach this fan audience, I am also aware that “free” and “online” appeal to far more readers. And it has.

It’s All Good

It has almost been a year since I made my thesis available online and the response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people – some are academics, some are science fiction fans – have emailed or tweeted me about my thesis. Most of the comments I get are “thanks for sharing” or specific nerdy questions about something I’ve written. To date, I can’t think of one drawback from having my thesis online. Not a single one. I don’t intend on applying for an academic position, nor am I pursuing independent scholarship for financial gain. For me, there is simply is no downside to having my thesis online.

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 5: Where Can I Make My PhD Thesis Available Online?
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If, having considered all of the issues, you still feel that you want to make your thesis available online, the question you may now face is where to post it? This blog post explores where you can publish your thesis online and what options there are.

Library and university archives for E-Theses

According to Emily Kothe on Twitter (@emilyandthelime) some universities already require students to post their thesis online upon submission, along with paper copies. When I submitted in July 2011 I was not required to do this, but having contacted the librarian at the university where I conducted my PhD, I learned that it has now become a requirement for students submitting their thesis from 2011/2012 onwards to submit a further digital copy. I missed out on this but have been informed that if I want to, I can make it available through this outlet. At present I am uncertain who is aware of this service, other than students who submit their thesis to it from now on, or who can access the service beyond the university, if at all. According to the online deposit for Lancaster University (which you can view here) there are benefits to both the student and the university itself:

For the student

  • Increased visibility for your work
  • Easier access to your thesis
  • Raise your personal profile
  • Can use digital services such as links to datasets, videos etc.

For Lancaster University

  • Raise institutional profile
  • Showcase successful graduate research

There are several of these services now available and visible through a simple Google Search that PhD students in particular may find useful if they are looking for ways to structure their thesis and want to look at some examples of theses that have passed. Durham University depository and Nottingham University depository are good examples. It may be important too inform academic book publishers if your thesis is available in this way; these issues are discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Ethos – British Library

Rob Myers on Twitter (@robmyers) initially drew attention to Ethos, an electronic online thesis service run by the British Library (see Part 4 of this series about EThOS by Sara Gould). This is a site I had actually used myself when writing my PhD. I downloaded some theses in order to explore how they were structured and to access additional research in my topic area. My university does subscribe to the service and I was informed that “if a thesis is only available in print form, we send it to the British Library to be digitised, and the person making the request has to pay the British Library £40 towards the cost of digitisation”, not entirely free but eventually Open Access. There are now 44,000 online theses available, and to download a copy you first need to register so that records can be kept and to ensure the intellectual property of the author is protected.

Personal Blog Site

I have also considered posting a copy of the thesis to my own personal blog. Before I posted it online however I wanted to check copyright right and intellectual property issues, something that RuthFT (@RuthFT) warned me of and that I discuss in Part 2 of this series. Some universities hold intellectual property rights to the thesis even if you have written it and conducted the research for it so it is essential that this is considered before rushing ahead to do it. A librarian at my university informed me that because my thesis is an unpublished piece of work it can be uploaded online on my personal blog, as long as I respect and observe the rights of those who participated in the study, which of course is part of ethical research practices anyway. It is highly recommended that you check with your own institution first though because rules may differ.

There are therefore several places where the unpublished PhD thesis can be deposited online, if you deem the issues detailed in previous posts to be outweighed by the benefits of disseminating your research more widely. These are just a very few of those I have explored (in repsonse to Part 3 for example user moorbi, introduces us to GRIN, a free German publisher). Having researched this in greater detail, I am still concerned that by posting my thesis online I may face additional challenges in publishing a monograph. This ultimately has become an issue of Open Access and I have to admit I find it encouraging that universities (in the UK at least) and EThOS and the like, are making it easier for PhD researchers to make their PhD research available online.

I’d love to hear more about this issue, particularly if anyone is against doing this or has critiques of it (most people I have spoken to support onlinethesis). Please do get in contact if you want to add, or contribute any ideas and do let us know if you plan to submit your thesis online (#onlinethesis).

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 4: Introducing EthOS by Sara Gould
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Today’s post, which contributes to our series about publishing dissertations and theses online is written by Sara Gould. Sara is the EThOS Service Manager at the British Library, UK. She is managing the transition of this e-theses website to a sustainable Higher Education shared service.

Anna has been wondering whether to publish her thesis. Or if not ‘publish’ then put it online somewhere to share the results of her work more widely, and gain the benefits she mentions, like raising the level of interest in her research and making connections with like-minded researchers.

EThOS is the UK’s e-theses website that gives instant access to 55,000+ doctoral theses. Pretty much all UK universities have their theses listed in EThOS so there’s around 300,000 records in all, with a variety of routes to get hold of the full text if it’s not already available.

That’s a fantastic resource for students and all researchers, not just to be able to dig deep into research that’s already happened, but to see who’s researching what and who the key players are – individuals, departments, institutions, even funders.

It almost goes without saying that open access to research theses is a ‘good thing’ for new researchers, for those looking for source material. But what about for thesis authors themselves? Should Anna try to make sure her PhD thesis appears in her university’s repository and/or EThOS, or not?

Here are a few frequently expressed concerns:

1.    It’ll spoil my publication chances later

Well, it might, but in a recent survey only 7% of institutions cited this as a frequent concern amongst their students, and no concrete examples were found of publication being refused because the PhD thesis had been added to an open access repository. If reassurance is needed, then an embargo period can be applied, with may be the record plus abstract still being available to all.

2.    My work will be plagiarised

It’s possible, but then again people can plagiarise from printed theses too, and in those cases there’s no automated way to detect the crime.

Allowing open access to your thesis does open it up to all sorts of people who may come along and use the content in whatever way they like. But plagiarism detection services can help to mitigate the risks, and in EThOS at least, users have to register their details, so we could if necessary track all users of a particular thesis. So far that’s never been needed. And as people get more and more used to open access and theses become increasingly available in institutional repositories, it may be that the login process is becoming a tiresome deterrent to use and has had its day.

Brown J. (2010) Influencing the deposit of electronic theses in UK HE: report on a sector-wide survey into thesis deposit and open access. UCL. http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/116819/

3.    All that hassle with third party copyright

We do need to take copyright ownership seriously and it can be really time-consuming to seek permissions from any third party for permission to publish. Some university libraries are able to support their students to make sure any third party copyright is managed properly, but most don’t have the resources to undertake such a massive task. Take-down policies and embargoes come into play here, and digitisation services, whether through EThOS or another route, will carefully redact any sections, diagrams etc that aren’t copyright cleared on instruction from the institution.

List of redactions from a 2002 thesis held in EThOS.

The world of repositories and open access is moving fast. EThOS celebrated its third birthday last month. When it launched – on the same day as another auspicious event – theses were held in paper format in the university library and a microfilm copy held by the British Library. Now those microfilms have been packed away, and an average of 450 people a day download a copy of a full-text thesis from EThOS. With possibly the same number again accessing copies held directly in university open access repositories, it appears that full-text open access is here to stay.

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 3: Thinking about Publishing
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You have made your thesis available online, but does that affect whether or not it will get accepted for publication as a monograph? Academic publishers have varying opinions about this…

This is a very important issue for postdocs who are planning how to disseminate and publish the findings from their PhD research and an increasingly common question that academic publishers are now being asked. It was this question that originally kick-started my desire to run this blog series and start this conversation (#onlinethesis). I know that I am not the only one who has been dealing with this question either. One of the comments made in relation to Part 1 of this series was that a thesis that is available online is something that may be seen as problematic to publishers if a monograph based on a PhD is proposed. Others on Twitter are also interested in how publishers responded to this question. I contacted several publishers to find out more about this and these were the responses.

Jay Dew of University of Oklahoma Press informs me that this is a question he is frequently asked and his response is in favour of making theses online:

“On the whole, I don’t believe that having a dissertation or thesis available online works to the detriment of publishing a monograph. Indeed, more and more dissertations and theses are available online through library databases such as Dissertation Abstracts, etc. A dissertation and a book are two different things, with two different and distinct audiences. The revisions that are almost always necessary to bring a dissertation into book manuscript form are usually substantial enough that one need not cannibalize the other. There may be exceptions, of course, especially in the hard sciences, but at least for my press and the kinds of books we publish, this is not a problem.”

John Yates of University of Toronto Press extends this debate further arguing:

“I believe the situation in North America is different from yours [in the UK]. I understand that here all PhD thesis are licensed to ProQuest. I also understand that in Canada, theses are posted on-line by University libraries. Consequently scholars have quite a bit of work to do to convert their thesis into a scholarly monograph since libraries are not interested in purchasing titles that are effectively a thesis with minor revisions.

In your situation, if there is no requirement to post the thesis on-line and you’d like to have it published it as a monograph, I would think by not posting it on-line you’d be able to have the monograph published sooner, since fewer changes would be required than if the full thesis was publicly available on the web.”

The responses I have received in relation to this issue support the idea that making a thesis available online is generally acceptable to academic publishers, as long as the proposed monograph is substantially different to the submitted PhD thesis. Nonetheless, concerns are still evident amongst authors and researchers and it is recommended that potential publishers are contacted in advance of proposing a monograph to find out how they view this because opinions may vary depending on discipline and research topic. A more specialised research topic for example with a smaller market and audience may be seen as more problematic for some publishers if the material is already accessible online. It is possible to embargo the publication of your thesis in university depositories if this is considered an issue and you plan to propose a monograph but it is increasingly important to make this decision before the thesis is submitted, and made available electronically.

The key message then, is that the monograph based on a PhD thesis should be in substantially different format to the submitted PhD. Publishing houses from different countries are in agreement about this as presented here but it is important to be aware that making it available in an online depository may slow down the process of writing a book. It is also important to check the position of publishers who you wish to write book proposals for, to ensure that your decision is well informed. In a period of increased debate over open access to research, making the thesis online should not be, and doesn’t appear to be, a barrier to publishing a monograph but is certainly a consideration.

Should You Make Your Thesis More Widely Available Online? Part 2: Fear of Idea Theft
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Following my first post that introduced my musings on the debate about making a PhD thesis or dissertation available online, this blog explores the issue of fear in relation to the theft of your ideas. This is an issue that is fairly central in Alex Galarza’s article for @GradHacker. The student in question feared that their ideas may be more susceptible to being stolen if they were to be made available online; a reasonable assumption given that, if the intention to put your thesis online is to make it more widely accessible, then the more likely it is that the ideas can be accessed and potentially lifted.

For me, this fear is not altogether unfounded and essentially boils down to a lack of knowledge about how online material is managed and regulated. In university teaching in the UK at least, students are taught about plagiarism, or the use of someone else’s work without acknowledgement, and are warned of the need to avoid doing it. Not only is it considered bad academic practice, but a plagiarised essay or piece of coursework is more likely to be of poor standard. As academics this becomes deeply ingrained in everyday working and writing practices, and is currently regulated through the processes of peer review and assessment. How this may be regulated online however, is less clear and the boundaries of citing and discussing the work of others is increasingly blurred.  Similarly if the aim of publishing online is to reach broader audiences, there is potential that those audiences are unfamiliar with referencing practices or maybe unwilling to use them.

A research paper about electronic theses by Copeland et al (2005, pg 195) suggests however that ‘it is easier to detect instances where this activity [plagiarism] has taken place when the material is published on the web. Electronic detection software is available’. My university in the UK uses Turn-It in for student essays for this purpose.

While this is comforting to know to some extent, an important thing to do before making your thesis available online is to check the copyright regulations of the archive you post to and to ensure that you own those rights as primary researcher. This should discourage any potential theft, protect your property rights and discourage the potential for idea theft by others. Where you make the thesis available online is also a consideration. The chances of having your ideas stolen and reproduced online or elsewhere are much less likely if you post to a university online archive than a personal blog for example because these are better regulated. It is also recommended that you seek advice from your PhD supervisor before posting online to check if there are any issues with copyright that you hadn’t thought of (especially important if the work is funded). You could also protect your work using a Creative Commons license. These allow ‘everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work’ (Creative Commons website).

Fear of theft of your work when making it more readily available online is reasonable, and was something that led me to research and produce this series of blog posts. However there are frameworks and laws in place that are designed to protect your ideas and your intellectual property, as well as new technologies that are detecting plagiarism online. Make sure you are aware of these before you make your research outputs available online however. If you want to disseminate your work more widely to broaden its impacts, you should be able to, and it is important that academic work is accountable but also used in appropriate ways.

A recent hashtag on Twitter that has been used in relation to these ideas (and also Will’s post) is #notopenenough (thanks @ThomsonPat). Publishing online is becoming more popular, and hopefully fear of theft won’t stand in your way in your quest to make your research more widely known.

Join the conversation at #onlinethesis.

Reference

Copeland, Susan,  Penman, Andrew and  Mime Richard (2005) “Electronic Theses: The Turning Point.” Program: Electronic Library & Information Systems 39, no. 3 : 185-197.

The Now Frontier: Posting Dissertations Online
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A note from Anna: As part of a series of blogs on PhD2Published about Online Theses, Will Deyamport, III explains why he will definitely post his dissertation online. To engage in this conversation on Twitter please use the Online Thesis hashtag #thesisonline

Will Deyamport, III is an Ed.D student in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University. He is the founder of peoplegogy.com, a blog that focuses on life and career developments. He is a monthly contributor to MyPathfinder Career Blog, where he writes about higher education. Currently, Will is writing his dissertation on how Twitter can support the professional learning needs of teachers.  You can follow him on twitter @peoplegogy.

This digital world we live in isn’t going anywhere. We pay bills online, we shop online, we make phone calls online, we date online, and now we’re streaming movies and going to school online. So why wouldn’t I post my dissertation online?

Has the academy become so insular that it has failed to understand and embrace the realities of this digital age? Has it become so arrogant that it believes that it can remain the sole guardian of academic knowledge? Or has the academy so blindly held on to its beliefs of what scholarly work is that it refuses to see this work being published on a daily basis on blogs around the globe?

Whatever its reasons, I plan to publish my dissertation online and here’s why:

  • I happen to have a passion for digital media and most of what I read is read online.
  • What I do and want to do for a career is done online. I’ve been a social media strategist, I blog, and I am earning my doctorate online. So for me the online space is a place of isn’t some separate entity. It’s a part of who I am and how I express my ideas.
  • I am a digital citizen. As such, I see the online world as the way for mobilizing the world towards a common humanity.
  • I routinely seek out information online. Whether it is via Youtube, LinkedIn, or my personal learning network on Twitter, I am able to gain access to experts from a variety of fields and disciplines.
  • I believe that academic knowledge belongs to the masses and should be made available and given freely to those who seek it.
  • My dissertation is on teachers using Twitter to support their own professional development.  The topic doesn’t belong is some bound book. It was meant to be posted online and shared with scholars and practitioners alike.

The ivory tower and those who worship at its feet need to understand that education is no longer insular. Holding information hostage does nothing for the academy or the betterment of society. In order to truly build a thriving academic knowledge-base and further the continued and expansive research expected in academia, technology has to be a part of how that research is shared and disseminated. Using emerging technologies, schools have the capacity to expose its students’ research to every corner of the globe. It is with this type of free exchange that the academy can reinvent itself and lead the way in today’s growing global economy and workforce.

Moving forward, I would like to see every doctoral student publish their dissertation on ProQuest or some other online platform. Just like TED has revolutionized the conference model, as current and future scholars, we have an opportunity to revolutionize the way people think, learn, and are taught about academic research.

Should You Make Your Thesis More Widely Available Online? Part 1
dusty-bible

A brief note from Anna: Being Managing Editor of PhD2Published has been a fantastic opportunity for me so far. It has introduced me to lots of interesting people and has helped me to think about key issues I am facing post-PhD. My current thinking is about whether or not to make my PhD thesis more readily available online. This post, which is the first in a series, explores this idea in more detail.

Impact has increasingly become an academic buzzword and requirement, which has led me to think much more about my PhD thesis, its accessibility and the impact it could (and should) have on a variety of audiences, both academic and public. I have heard from several colleagues that the only people who are ever likely to read the actual thesis are yourself and your supervisor (my family and friends certainly haven’t read it!). Frankly this seems wasteful and a bit sad (just look at the picture!), especially considering all of the hard work that went into it, including by myself, my participants and my supervisors. Even with the potential of developing publications and monographs from it in different formats, later on, in its unpublished form, my thesis is meaningful to me and took time and effort to construct.

This thinking prompted me to consider how I could make my thesis more accessible and more widely read, particularly in an age of social media and open access. Before launching into making it available online however, I wanted to do some research into the potential barriers to publishing online and the current debates that will inform this decision.

Following these musings, I posted this question on Twitter: “What are people’s opinions on making theses available online?” Several interesting and important issues and questions were raised. While limited,  there is already an emerging debate about the digital dissertation, which you can read about in this interesting and informative post by Alex Galarza for @GradHacker. There are several positives for doing this, and indeed many universities are now making it a requirement, if it isn’t already. @Gradhacker outlines that online material such as the unpublished thesis for example is still protected by copyright, useful to know if there is concern about the acknowledgement of your work. At the same time, in being overly cautious about protecting your thesis/dissertation you may risk restricting the development of your academic identity, online and otherwise. Furthermore (and some publishers may vary on this) putting your thesis/dissertation online may actually aid in the communication and appeal of your research to a variety of audiences and may even encourage sales of subsequent published work should you wish to publish it elsewhere in a different form. Twitter follower Christina Haralanova (@ludost11) has also received positive replies from people who have read hers.

Despite the many positives, I still think it is important to consider the range of different issues relating to putting a PhD thesis out there; issues that I will explore in a short series of blogs that will be posted here on PhD2Published in the coming weeks. These include posts I have constructed myself, and also opinion posts, and feedback from academic publishers. If any of this resonates and you have anything to add that has occurred to you, please do get in touch, either by Email or Twitter (@PhD2Published). Should you wish to join an online discussion on Twitter about the debate please use hashtag thesisonline (#thesisonline).