The Reading Room at the British Museum

Recently read (21-27 April): Predatory publishing, languages, quitting and persevering

This week’s collection of noteworthy stories, articles and posts looks into academic publishing practices (predatory and mainstream), celebrates language preservation, contemplates quitting the Ivory Tower, and reminds readers to persevere in adversity.

Junk papers, redux

After the Bohannon sting of open access journals, and the Springer retractions, here’s (yet another) story demonstrating just how low the standards of predatory publishers are. What distinguishes this story from similar accounts is a particularly interesting account of the process of preparing the paper and negotiating its publication. Here’s one of many highlights:

I wrote back to one of these publishers explaining that my work was “bilge” and the conclusions don’t stand up. The journal wrote right back offering to tweak a few passages and publish anyway. And by the way, it asked, where’s the $500?

More to read: I’ve written about the culture that fosters predatory publishing again, here and here. You can find some advice on spotting bogus journals in this post. Note that academic dishonesty is not just confined to journals: here’s a story about a book mill who will also attempt to squeeze money out of naive or desperate academics.

Everything you wanted to know about Elsevier, but were too embarrassed to ask

While on the topic of academic publishers, Sean Williams at Gower’s Weblog has written an interesting account of the financial operations of academic publishers. This (long-ish) post provides a number of very surprising answers to the following questions:

  1. How willing would researchers be to do without the services provided by Elsevier?
  2. How easy is it on average to find on the web copies of Elsevier articles that can be read legally and free of charge?
  3. To what extent are libraries actually suffering as a result of high journal prices?
  4. What effect are Elsevier’s Gold Open Access articles having on their subscription prices?
  5. How much are our universities paying for Elsevier journals?

Cornish to be granted minority status

I haven’t written about language policy in a while, it seems, and I am actually quite happy that the following comment reports on some good news. The Cornish minority is to be granted minority status under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which will raise it to similar status with the Scots, Welsh and Irish minorities in the UK. According to the 2011 Census, there are approximately 84,000 people who identify as Cornish, of whom 557 speak the language. Here’s how the BBC described the implications of this policy:

  • The Cornish will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish.
  • This means that government departments and public bodies will be required to take Cornwall’s views into account when making decisions.
  • It ensures that the rights of national minorities are respected by combating discrimination, promoting equality and preserving and developing the culture and identity of national minorities.
  • The status does not attract extra money.

More to read: This announcement follows the news that a newly founded charity will be endowed with £120,000, to be used for the preservation of the Cornish language.

Throwing in the towel

I recently came across this somewhat disturbing infographic, which showed that less than 8% of biology PhDs end up in tenured academic jobs. With the academic job market looking so gloomy, it is perhaps encouraging to read about successful transitions to alt-ac careers, such as this story from the Lab and Field. Some readers may find that the following extract resonates with their experience:

I keep a folder of bookmarks for a large number of job sites (yes, I still haven’t deleted them), and every Saturday, I would right-click, “Open All”, go grab some tea, and spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours filtering through, checking out, and generally lamenting the state of my job search.  Throughout my Ph.D., my supervisor and I never really had what I would call a realistic talk about jobs.  “Apply for everything” was his advice, but to someone in the narrow-minded mentality of “academia or bust”, that meant applying for jobs at universities that, shall we say, stretched my abilities.  It wasn’t until I was a postdoc spending hours each week being scared, depressed, and anxious that it hit me – Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Ph.D.’s aren’t just for academia.

More to read: The job market is not much better on this side of the Pond: According to Curt Rice, almost one in five trainee scientists no longer want a career in the Ivory Tower. Here’s a column, from the New York Times, about putting one’s research skills to  good use outside the academe,  and some advice for getting the process started.

“Keep going”

To close off with a touch of optimism, here’s a post titled “My first acceptance letter” by Michelle Mueller. The string of rejections may seem all too familiar to some readers, but here’s what Michelle has got to say:

Let this be a lesson to all aspiring writers. Keep going. Keep throwing yourself out there. The rejections will continue to come, but you never know when there may be a letter of acceptance thrown in the mix. It may be the one thing you never expected to see in print. It may be a step in a direction you never thought to go. It may even be a poem. But write on, friends. Write on. And never give up.


Image credit: © ceridwen | CC BY-SA

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