Reading Digest (30 Dec – 5 Jan)

Starting off the new year with a fresh selection of articles, stories and posts which grabbed my attention in the past week:

Next time, let’s read the fine print…

Writing in the wake of Elsevier’s takedown operation, Barbara Fischer, a college librarian provides some insights into the fine print of academic publishing. Her blog post, evocatively titled “When you give your copyright away“,  she provides advice and links to resources about open access, the options available to researchers, and negotiating copyright. The comments section after the article is also worth reading.

While in a way I find this outrage [over Elsevier’s actions] a little funny, I can’t indulge in “I told you so.” This episode once again shows that librarians are not the change agents we want to see. We can’t get scholarly authors attention quite the way a publisher can when it actually uses the all-rights-reserved copyright that authors have willingly given them.

Live-Tweeting conferences: Dos and Don’ts

Live-tweeting (i.e., using Twitter to report on an event in real time) is increasingly encouraged in conference events (and common even when not officially encouraged!). Menachem Wecker, writing in Vitae, offers five useful pointers that help make live-tweeting more useful, both to those present at the conference and their online audiences:

Twitter has become a victim of its own success: “There’s nothing to be gained from everyone in the room tweeting her pithy statements, all at the same time.”

Leave the paper. Take the ramen noodles.

Comparing the academic job market to a gang may not be intuitive to most of us. However, Chris Parr at the Times Higher Education Supplement discusses this thought-provoking analogy:

“The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang[…] with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders.” Even if the probability that you might get shot in academia is “relatively small (unless you mark student papers very harshly)”, there are similar dynamics at play, he says. “Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of ‘outsiders’ ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail.” 

“Is peer-review systematically misogynist?”

Despite some celebrated exceptions, it is an awkward truth that women are under-represented in the Ivory Tower. PsyPost report on a study that has attempted to quantify this disparity by looking into the authorship information of 5.4 million academic papers:

Although female students outnumber males, we know that professors are overwhelmingly male and so is both the authorship and citation of research papers. For every article with a female first-author, there are nearly two articles first-authored by men.

The author expresses his gratitude…

The Acknowledgement section, where present, is without doubt the most overlooked part of a research article. However, some scholars have used it in very creative ways, according to this Slate article:

“I thank the National Science Foundation for regularly rejecting my (honest) grant applications for work on real organisms (cf. Szent-Gyorgyi, 1972), thus forcing me into theoretical work.” 

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