Phantom plagiarists, academic boogeymen, and open access fears that go bump in the night

Some of you may have read about the recent call from the American Historical Association to Ph.D.-granting universities to permit their recently credentialed historians to leave their dissertations off-line for six years in order to give the junior scholar time to revise the dissertation for publication.  The AHA’s reasoning?

History has been and remains a book-based discipline, and the requirement that dissertations be published online poses a tangible threat to the interests and careers of junior scholars in particular.  Many universities award tenure only to those junior faculty who have published a monograph within six years of receiving the PhD.  With the online publication of dissertations, historians will find it increasingly difficult to persuade publishers to make the considerable capital investments necessary to the production of scholarly monographs.

I read through the AHA statement, the New York Times article on the subject, and a blog post by Berkeley biologist and open access advocate Michael Eisen (courtesy of Comradde PhysioProffe).  I agree entirely with Eisen.  The AHA position is wrongheaded, although I’ve got some different reasons to disagree with the call to embargo disseratations than Eisen has.  Let me explain: Continue reading

Word limits, book contracts, and the demand to cut cut cut: any advice?

I’ve got a friend who is struggling this summer with her university press publisher’s demand that she cut 20,000 words from her 142,000 word book.  She’s doing interesting work pulling together the relevant strands of scholarship from many different fields, and as most of you humanists can probably guess, this means that her footnotes are pretty crunchy and dense.  She added a great deal more to her first draft of the manuscript to respond to the suggestions and concerns of the press reviewers, and now the press itself is demanding that she cut-cut-cut, and she’s understandably frustrated.

As a first-time author, she feels obligated to demonstrate quite clearly her scholarly debt to others, so her footnotes and bibliography comprise 36,000 of the total.  At this point, she has already cut 12,000 words from the manuscript and doesn’t think she can go further without undermining her contribution to the existing literature. Continue reading

Identity politics + aggressive ignorance = teh stupid

Reza Aslan defends himself against charges of “bias” in his new book on Fox News by pointing out that he is a prominent scholar who writes about many religions.  Slate says that “this may just be the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News:”

Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”*

But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan. Continue reading

Historiann stumbles out of the wilderness to find the Lords of MOOC creation have successfully placed an advertorial in the Washington Post

Does this read like a Coursera or Udacity press realease to you, too?

Whether for good or ill, MOOCs augur a disruption of the relationships among students, colleges and trade schools, and the credentials those schools offer — a relationship that has stabilized higher education for at least a century. Yet if done right — a big if, as recent events at San Jose State and Colorado State universities have shown — they may help address the quality and cost of higher education.

What’s the nature of the disruption?

For the moment, providers of MOOCs make their courses available to anyone. There is no admissions process. As in a video game, anyone can start, but you have to master levels that can include very difficult work. For the 10 percent who get to the end, the learning is real.

What about that experiment to offer dramatically reduced tuition for MOOCwork courses at Baa Ram U.?  It’s even more hilarious than you can guess: Continue reading

Off to Glacier

Friends, it’s time for me to retreat into one of my nation’s fantastic national parks.  In 2011 and 2012, we did Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone–some of them more than once.  In March, we went to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and this summer seemed like a good time to visit Glacier National Park, tagging Grand Teton and Yellowstone again along the way. Continue reading

A bunch of stuff you know already if you don’t have your head up your a$$

Call this the sky is blue/grass is green/water is wet edition of the news:

On the Mitch Daniels/Howard Zinn issue:  a commenter on the linked Inside Higher Ed story wrote that “Zinn basically saw American democracy and capitalistic economy as a sham while . . . he made a good living tucked in the loving bosom [of] its higher education institutions.”  I  happen to know exactly how much money Zinn made back in the late 1980s, and it was far from “a good living.”  Here’s the comment I wrote in response to this classic right-wing diversionary tactic.  (It’s a shorter version of the story I shared about Zinn when he died three and a half years ago.): Continue reading

Why Joe Nocera isn’t on Twitter

It’s the all of the convenience and annoyance of the world-wide non peer-reviewed interwebs, x1000:

But to me, at least — and, yes, I acknowledge I’m at the age where I’m losing the battle to keep up with technology — the negatives outweigh the positives. So much on Twitter is frivolous or self-promotional. It can bury you in information. Because people often use Twitter to react to events instantly, they can say some awfully stupid things, as Roddy White, the Atlanta Falcons receiver, did after the George Zimmerman verdict, suggesting in a tweet that the jurors “should go home and kill themselves.”

With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder: Nothing can be allowed to take more than a few seconds to write or read. [Paul] Kedrosky may prefer Twitter, but I really miss his thoughtful blog. I recently heard Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, bragging that the pope now has a Twitter account. Once, popes wrote encyclicals; now they tweet.

What I object to most of all is that, like other forms of social media, Twitter can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life. Continue reading