Technology and Innovation in Higher Education Blog Post

While researching for this week’s blog post, I came across how faculty and higher educational institutions in developing countries are exploiting social media platforms for enabling knowledge transfer in these unique times.  The articles that I found are based on Egypt [1] and Pakistan [2]. The premise is that the public institutions in developing countries do not have access to formal online learning management systems (LMS) for facilitating communication with students and/or among faculty members. Therefore, the students and faculty are coming up with innovative ways to use social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube to facilitate learning.  For instance, Sobaih, Hassen, and Abu Elnas noted that the universities have encouraged faculty to communicate with students using official Facebook pages and formal groups on WhatsApp [1]. In his short letter, Khan discussed that his department used Facebook live to conduct online classes and shared recorded videos on WhatsApp to promote the revision of these classes [2].

Sobaih, Hassen, and Abu Elnasr [1] investigated the use of social media for sustaining formal academic communication in universities in Egypt. In particular, they surveyed students and faculty from nine colleges providing a bachelor’s degree in tourism and hotel education. I encourage the readers to go read their conclusions section as they have made several interesting findings. Of all their findings, I thought the most interesting finding was the difference in the way students and faculty used social media – students used it to build an online community to support each other, and faculty were focused on teaching and learning.  Another interesting finding that they made, in my opinion,  is regarding how students preferred social media over ZOOM and Google Classroom. They also highlighted about 15 challenges that were identified by students and faculty with respect to using social media as a tool to foster online learning. Hopefully, Facebook can address these challenges and provide a free service to promote online learning in developing countries.

Both the authors expressed a strong belief that social media could promote a new era of social learning. As someone from a developing country, it is personally very fascinating for me to see how social media has evolved from something my parents didn’t want me to use when I was young to something that they use very regularly and that it is also revealing unique opportunities.

[1] Sobaih, A. E. E., Hasanein, A. M., & Abu Elnasr, A. E. (2020). Responses to COVID-19 in higher education: Social media usage for sustaining formal academic communication in developing countries. Sustainability12(16), 6520.

[2] Khan, T. M. (2020). Use of social media and WhatsApp to conduct teaching activities during the COVID‐19 lockdown in Pakistan. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

Open access blog post

The journal that I chose for this blog post is “Scientific Reports.” Launched in 2011 by Nature Research, Scientific Reports (SR) is an open-access megajournal that publishes original research across all areas of the natural and clinical sciences. Like other open-access journals, the researchers are required to pay a fee to publish. It offers the benefits of a typical open-access journal – reach as many people as possible. Most of the in-house editors are from the UK and Ireland, but the editorial board consists of researchers/academics worldwide.  Because this journal is by Nature Research, it also has the “brand-value,” which is attracting many researchers. I must admit that before I put in some work for this blog post, I read a few impressive articles from SR in the past and did not know that it was an open-access journal. I had the opinion that it was a decent journal. I still have the same opinion but have my reservations after coming across the following (few) interesting scope/traits/comments/reviews of SR that I found online:

  1. “To be published in Scientific Reports, a paper must be scientifically valid and technically sound in methodology and analysis. Manuscripts are not assessed based on their perceived importance, significance or impact; the research community makes such judgements after publication. We are happy to publish papers of niche scope, that lie between disciplines, report negative results, or scientifically-justified replications.” [1]
  2. Not sure if this is the case for other journals but SR offers a waiver for papers whose corresponding authors are based in the world’s lowest-income countries as defined by the World Bank. [2]
  3. “I have to say I have read high quality research published in this journal. However, as a reviewer I have had some “bad” experiences. No matter how pesimitic are the revisions, they never reject, they often give the an opportunity to the authors.” [3]
  4. “Has anyone ever had a paper rejected from this journal? ” [4]
  5. “My take: any journal that considers rigour and validity only, and not perceived impact, will be less well regarded than an equivalent journal that has a good reputation for rigour and validity and also considers impact.” [5]

The journal’s scope mentioned in point 1 suggests that Nature Research has seen the potential of making a LOT of money by catering to a broad range of audiences without needing ground-breaking results. On the flip side, since many researchers work on niche topics, SR seems to be an excellent option if they choose to submit to an open-access journal – a win-win situation. However, SR is not a stranger to harsh criticism from the community. It seems that SR is very notorious for accepting low-quality research (for profit?) without a thorough review process, and there is a long-standing opinion on the web that they rarely reject papers – based on points 3 and 4. Concerning quality, I thought the response by Significance mentioned in point 5 was an interesting take. I share the same ideology, and I feel that a researcher who is used to reading journal articles in Nature, and Science, will think that SR accepts low-quality research. However, the fact that there have been cases when SR redacted articles and the stained opinion that they rarely reject papers is concerning. But in my opinion, I do not think SR is a predatory journal as many prominent researchers that I follow who are at reputable universities and research labs publish in it.

For a long time, I believed that no researcher who works in a niche-field should be desperate enough, if I may say, to pay money to publish in open-access journals. I always thought that submitting to open-access journals only makes sense if we are working on ideas that are ground-breaking in that they have the potential to be applied to several fields. I also felt that I wouldn’t want to submit to open-access journals as most of the readership for the work that I am doing will be from academics and researchers in research labs who will have the subscriptions to publishing giants like Springer, Elsevier, Sage, etc. While researching for this blog post, I learned that open-access journals accept payment from established funding agencies (e.g., NSF and NIH). So it looks like PI’s will now have to define publishing expenses in budget while they are submitting the proposals – not sure if it is already a thing. More importantly, I learned that more and more publishers and researchers are welcoming the open-access movement. As such, I am more willing to submit to one because who doesn’t like their work to have larger and broader exposure. Also, if I do submit to an open-access journal, I won’t have to log-in to the university VPN if I want to read an article from home.


  3. [Comment by Miguel A. Munguia-Rosas] –
  5. The response of user named Significance at