Open Access

The open access movement is a shift in the ideology of how scientific research should be published and shared with the scientific community and society as a whole. Open access journals do not charge a fee to readers or require a subscription to access them. Instead they cover the costs of publishing by imposing a one-time fee on the author(s) at the time of publishing.

I looked at an open access journal called “Modern Mechanical Engineering” which is published by Scientific Research. The aims of the journal are:

Modern Mechanical Engineering (MME) is an international journal dedicated to the latest advancements in mechanical engineering. The goal of this journal is to provide a platform for scientists and academicians all over the world to promote, share, and discuss various new issues and developments in different areas of mechanical engineering.

The journal explains its open access and article processing charges as:

Modern Mechanical Engineering is an Open Access journal accessible for free on the Internet. At Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), we guarantee that no university library or individual reader will ever have to buy a subscription or pay any pay-per-view fees to access articles in the electronic version of the journal. There is hence no revenue at SCIRP neither from the sale of subscriptions to the electronic version of the journal nor from pay-per-view fees. Yet, the online publication process does involve costs including those pertaining to setup and maintenance of the publication infrastructure, routine operation of the journal, processing of manuscripts through peer-reviews, editing, publishing, maintaining the scholarly record, and archiving. To cover these costs, the journal depends on Article Process Charges (henceforth: APC), also called Publication Fees. APC are due when a manuscript has been accepted for publication.

The APC for the journal is $599 and it offers assistance for publications that are being submitted from low-income countries. Although this cost can seem high at first glance, it is much lower than the profits that many of the closed journals make on their subscription fees.

The journal reports that “The 2-year Google-based Journal Impact Factor (2-GJIF) is 0.71.” This is a fairly low impact for a scientific journal, however with the open access movement gaining support the impact of these journals will likely grow. A continuing issue with the academic culture is that most universities and researchers have access to closed journals and therefore do not have a great incentive to include open access publications in their regular reading. Impact factors are directly related to the number of citations that journals receive. The more that academics decide to include open access journals in their research and cite them, the greater the impact factor will be for these journals.

Higher Ed and Ethics in Society

Every person must make ethical decisions throughout their lives. Small decisions like choosing to recycle, living more efficiently or choosing products produced ethically are all fairly easy and do not typically keep people up at night. The ethical decisions that are much harder are those ones that have huge impacts on our lives or require one to take a stand, often with some risk or consequence involved.

One of the major responsibilities of higher education is to provide students with the means to examine their own ethics and challenge the accepted ethics held by our society. As a society, we need to have open and respectful discussions about the ethical code that we hold. We need to consider not only the people in our society but also people around the world. Furthermore, we need to examine how our (un)ethical practices affect the ecosystems and the global environment.

Maybe I am just being too optimistic, but I believe that most people are decent at the core. The differences between people are insignificant when compared with the similarities. We all want to feel respected and have a hope for a better future. There is a growing opinion that people from different cultures and opposing political views are fundamentally different from each other. I think that society needs to disrupt those viewpoints and create a forum in which all people can actually have their voices heard and feel that they have some control over the future of the ethical code that our society holds.

As students in higher education, we need to demand a change in the way students are taught and dismantle the elitist views that can separate us from less educated people. Our educated viewpoints are no more or less important than those from uneducated people. We also need to find innovative ways to show all members of society the lessons and results of the work that is done in higher education. I do not think that college is the right life decision for all people, but I do believe that all people should benefit from the work that is done at universities and I think that academic institutions need to do a better job of spreading the knowledge that they discover and promoting the impacts that they have on society as a whole.

MFA or PhD: what is the future of the terminal degree for artists?

In the past, the standard in America has been that the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is the terminal degree for an artist. There are an increasing number of programs, however, offering a PhD in art. This introduces the question of what is really needed to succeed as a professor in the arts. Inside Higher Ed explored this topic in the article, For Artists: MFA or PhD? 

In my opinion the MFA should still be considered a valid degree for teaching, especially for those teachers that focus on the studio arts. The option of a PhD should also be available to artists who would like to explore art in a more academic direction. A concern I have is that many artists are not pursuing a PhD because they truly would like to think and write about art, but because they feel that they need to in order to attain a teaching job at a top university. A quote form the article referenced above shows this motivation:

“Most colleges and universities don’t understand that the M.F.A. is a terminal degree,” said Tammy Parks, a painter currently teaching at New River Community College, in Blacksburg, Va., and also enrolled in the low-residency Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, which is based in Portland, Maine. She hopes to earn a Ph.D. in 2016, thereby “enhanc[ing] my employability” at the four-year college level.

“I didn’t feel I needed a doctorate, but the Ph.D. is the terminal degree in other areas, and it is what college and university administrators understand as the terminal degree. So, I decided to get a Ph.D. so we can close the discussion. Let’s move on.”

For Artists: MFA or PhD?

I believe that education is extremely important and certainly promote the access to PhD programs for artists. Administrators need to understand that different academic disciplines have their own measures of accomplishment. I believe that the MFA degree should be held in high regard and artists should not feel that they must obtain a PhD to become teachers at the university level. It can be difficult to determine how a doctoral degree changes an artist and their work. In some cases it may not significantly improve the art produced and in a worst-case it may have negative impacts on the work produced. I would encourage all people, not just artists, to really think about what they want to get from a graduate degree and make sure that their program aligns with and enhances their long-term goals.