Open Sesame

Greetings all –

Holly recently wrote about how scholarly journals get articles from academics (whose time is paid for by their universities and in many cases by our tax money if it is a state university) and then turn around publish them and charge the higher education institutions exorbitant subscription fees to get access to journals.  I also learned from a friend who is a professor at VCOM that he and his colleagues have to pay the journals from $500 to $800 per article to get their research published! In most cases, the universities pay for their research professors the fees to get their work published.  I was not aware of this at all! So last week’s Economist magazine there is an editorial precisely about this topic (they must have been reading our minds and/or present in the New Media for Faculty Seminar when we were having this discussion).  Here is the editorial below and I look forward to your comments:

Academic publishing

Open sesame

When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge

Apr 14th 2012 | from the print edition


PUBLISHING obscure academic journals is that rare thing in the media industry: a licence to print money. An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100. In 2011 Elsevier, the biggest academic-journal publisher, made a profit of £768m ($1.2 billion) on revenues of £2.1 billion. Such margins (37%, up from 36% in 2010) are possible because the journals’ content is largely provided free by researchers, and the academics who peer-review their papers are usually unpaid volunteers. The journals are then sold to the very universities that provide the free content and labour. For publicly funded research, the result is that the academics and taxpayers who were responsible for its creation have to pay to read it. This is not merely absurd and unjust; it also hampers education and research.

Publishers insist that high prices are necessary to ensure quality and cover the costs of managing the peer-review process, editing and distribution. High margins, they say, are evidence of their efficiency. Clearly the cost of producing a journal is not zero. But the internet means it should be going down, not up. Over the past decade many online journals and article repositories have emerged that are run on a shoestring. Some have been set up by academics who are unhappy with the way academic publishing works. (Since January some 9,500 researchers have joined a boycott of Elsevier.) In several cases the entire editorial boards of existing journals have resigned to start new ones with lower prices and less restricted access.

But the incumbent journals are hard to dislodge. Researchers want their work to appear in the most renowned journals to advance their careers. Those journals therefore have the pick of the best papers, remain required reading in their fields and have strong pricing power as a result. What is to be done?

There is a simple way both to increase access to publicly funded research and to level the playing field for new journals. Government bodies that fund academic research should require that the results be made available free to the public. So should charities that fund research. This would both broaden access to research and strengthen the hand of “open access” journals, since many researchers would then be unable to publish results in closed ones.

Publish or perish

There are some hopeful signs. The British government plans to mandate open access to state-funded research. The Wellcome Trust, a medical charity that pumps more than £600m ($950m) a year into research, already requires open access within six months of publication, but the compliance rate is only 55%. The charity says it will “get tough” on scientists who publish in journals that restrict access, for example by withholding future grants, and is also launching its own open-access journal. In America, a recent attempt (backed by journal publishers) to strike down the existing requirement that research funded by the National Institutes of Health should be made available to all online has failed. That is good news, but the same requirement should now be extended to all federally funded research.

Open access to research funded by taxpayers or charities need not mean Armageddon for journal publishers. Some have started to embrace open access in limited ways, such as letting academics post their papers on their own websites or putting time limits on their pay barriers. But a strongly enforced open-access mandate for state- and charity-funded research would spur them to do more. The aim of academic journals is to make the best research widely available. Many have ended up doing the opposite. It is time that changed.

from the print edition | Leaders

Meet the new so-called “Leisure Class” in America = professors??

Greetings all.  We were discussing hours worked, salaries, and workload of professors in the PFP course and this issue came up of professors being considered the “new leisure class”?? Here is one of several articles about the so-called “new leisure class” professors??  It is hard to believe that these articles were written/published.  So it seems that there are some grievances out there.

Meet America’s “New leisure class”: High-paid professors who don’t teach

By Tom Nugent on August 31, 2001 12:00 am in Voices

After 14 years as a “migrant worker” in higher ed, I recently resigned
from my full-time, $12,500-a-year job as an “adjunct” journalism professor
to begin a new career as a full-time, free-lance writer.

Why quit college teaching? For starters, I can no longer survive on $12,500
a year — not with three children to raise.

Nor can I continue to teach without health insurance, life insurance, disability
coverage and the promise of at least a small pension when I reach retirement

Like most of the other 350,000 “adjuncts” in American higher education
today, I was slowly starving to death as a college writing teacher — while
the tenured professors, who teach far fewer students than the adjuncts, continued
to enjoy salaries of $50,000, $60,000 and even $80,000 per year for the senior
members of this very exclusive club.

Protected by the “tenure” system, and “safe” from firing,
most of these pampered profs teach only one or two courses a semester.

How outrageous is the continuing ripoff of the U.S. university system by what
the Wall Street Journal recently described as “The New Leisure Class?”
According to several authoritative surveys, the fat-cat profs are stealing shamelessly,
as follows:

The average university professor today spends fewer than nine hours a week
teaching, according to data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI).
The typical prof these days puts in fewer than eight hours a week in one-on-one
“office” sessions with his or her students.
Although the average U.S. college professor today spends fewer than 20 hours
a week working with students, the average annual paycheck is more than $40,000
a year in 1998 — with “full” professors averaging more than
$65,000 per year.

Shocking, isn’t it?

But you can be sure that there’s a price to be paid for this “professorial
gravy-train” — and that it’s being paid in college classrooms all
across America. How? According to many critics of American higher ed, these
inflated pay scales and midget-sized workloads frequently combine to cheat students
out of services to which they’re fully entitled, after paying for most of these
steep salaries (through tuition and taxes) in the first place.

Of course, the professors invariably attempt to blunt any attacks on their Royal
Perks by insisting that they’re required to “spend endless hours in research,”
in addition to teaching.

Yet several recent higher ed surveys show that for almost half of the professoriate,
such research consumes no more than five hours per week — while a full
45 percent of the nation’s professors publish no scholarly writings, whatsoever,
during any given two-year period.

In addition, a 1996 HERI survey found that more than 60 percent of all college
faculty members have never written or edited a book — and one-third have
never published a single journal article.

So much for the “research” argument.

So how does the professoriate attempt to refute these embarrassing numbers,
which now loom as the dirtiest little secret in higher ed?

Ask the blowhards on campus that question, and they’ll immediately begin to
huff and puff about “The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was
Rome” — while scrambling to hide their yawning indolence behind “the
glorious tradition of the Humanities, which require endless reflection and meditation,
along with yearly, all-expenses-paid trips to Honolulu for academic conferences.”

The Great Student Ripoff seems especially outrageous when you realize that these
“royal privileges” work to undermine good teaching … since the Leisure
Class profs enjoy their idle hours only because a huge percentage of the college
teaching load is carried on the backs of the “part-timers.”

The adjuncts are the university equivalent of “Kelly Girl Temporaries.”
And these days, nearly half of the nation’s 800,000 college teachers are
wearing Kelly green.

Because the “temporaries” uniformly make about one-fourth of the wages
paid to the Leisure Class, and because they receive almost no “benefits”
(health insurance, for example), many wind up racing from one campus to the
next … with some teaching eight, nine and even 10 courses per semester to

And because the “temps” only work from semester to semester, their
contracts can be “cancelled” the moment a particular course falls
short of maximum enrollment, leaving them without expected income virtually

The impact on students is easy to observe. Just ask any harried freshman
to describe what it’s like to study under a platoon of exhausted part-timers
who never seem to have a moment to spare.

Meanwhile, the Privileged Profs go right on taking their opulent lifestyles
for granted — while frequently treating their students with snooty contempt.

Example: One evening a few semesters ago, a graduating senior at my former
school, the University of Maryland, made the terrible mistake of calling a veteran
English Department professor at home.

Because he faced a dilemma that might prevent him from graduating that semester,
the worried student dared the unthinkable: He telephoned the prof about 9:30

And the result?

“Who the hell do you think you are?” roared the supposed teacher,
“to call me at home like this? Do you know what time it is?”

Stunned, the student quickly apologized and hung up.

Too late, the shell-shocked senior realized that he should have replied with
a question of his own:

“Say, prof, who the hell do you think is paying that salary you don’t
earn, anyway?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Nugent is the author of “Death At Buffalo Creek,”
published by W.W. Norton. He is now a free-lance writer living in Hastings,

A resource to share: Listening to Students About Learning

Hello! here is a “new” idea 🙂 listening to students about learning! I thought this related to what we were talking about in class on Wednesday.  I hope you find it of interest.  Thanks.

Listening to Students About Learning

Publisher: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Publication Author: Andrea Conklin Bueschel
Abstract: In “Listening to Students About Learning,” Bueschel explores how students can become partners in innovation and inquiry, more engaged in the classroom, and better positioned to succeed when educators listen to their students talk about learning.

SPECC Publications
Citation: Listening to Students About Learning

Blogging by a Technology Peasant 101

Greetings all -this is definitely a new medium (tool) for me to use.  I am a semi-regular “reader” of blogs particularly those dealing with the MENA region, human rights, labor and worker rights, etc… Yet, as an actual contributor to a blog – this I must say is a first (well, after the posts that I have been writing on the GEDI general e-bulletin and a blog for another course).  My hesitation has been worrying about all the things we talked about in class: spelling mistakes, feeling vulnerable to “critical” comments by peers and others reading the blog, etc… But thanks to you all – I am getting the needed therapy to get over my worries and “attack” the blogging world gently, of course.  I found the guest speaker last week, Dr. Gardner Campbell, to be awesome! engaging and very informative.  I am going to think about how I can incorporate blogging into future courses that I teach.  I am very interested in encouraging students to think, comment and analyze issues that we are learning together in the class that I teach now: Politics of the MENA region.  So using a blog could encourage that learning process – thinking, commenting and analysis. Being back in graduate school after 28 years is definitely a huge learning curve for me — I have been in and out of colleges/university campuses for various reasons – mostly speaking engagements so I have not been totally out of touch but as a student now, there are so many technologies, software, advancements in organizing materials, information, references, etc… that just did not exist when I was getting my master’s degree including of course, blogging.  So here I go — Technology Peasant 101 — embarking on a new learning adventure on the road of a learning revolution! in the spirit of Sir Ken Robinson.

With best wishes and happy blogging to all.