John Dolan’s chilling account of his descent into Dickensian poverty in 2007 in the US in spite of graduate education and teaching experiences, reads like a Gothic do-it-yourself manual.

read more | digg story

Economic principles applied to publication systems for biomedical research reveal a publication bias, a winner’s curse. Elite high-impact scholarly journals continue to raise artificial publication barriers by underusing open access, neglecting negative data and publishing unrepresentative results of repeated samplings of real world. Access to our communal knowledge and memory through archives is essential to the democratic process.

read more Young, Ioannidis, Al-Ubaydli (2008), | digg story

Currently publicly-funded peer-reviewed academic research published in exclusive journals largely informs public policies on biomedicine, the economy, environment, education, justice, housing, etc. These journals now make articles available on-line at exorbitant prices. Contributors to these journals earn tremendous academic capital crucial to professional advancement. Password protection and high costs prevent the public from accessing the most recent relevant and accurate research. The number of publicly accessible sites are growing as search engines dig deeper in the Deep Web and the open access movement grows among some academics and scientists [2, 3].

In this concise, fact-filled, informative article published by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)[1] (2003-05-04) the authors described how even five years ago librarians were concerned by the mergers in scholarly publishing which reduced the number of players and by rising journal subscription rates that severely eroded the purchasing power[6] of libraries, universities, and scholars requiring crucial publications for teaching, learning and research.

In February 2009 Jennifer McLennan, SPARC’s[5] Director of Communications encouraged all supporters of public access to taxpayer-funded research – researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others to oppose H.R. 801: the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act which was re-introduced in February 11, 2009 by Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI). This bill would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.”The bill goes further than prohibiting open access requirements, however, as the bill also prohibits government agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet, and would repeal the longstanding ‘federal purpose’ doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the ‘royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work’ for any federal purpose. The National Institutes of Health require NIH-funded research to be published in open-access repositories (Doctorwo 2009).” HR801 would benefit for-profit science publishers and increase challenges for making the Deep Web more accessible. See also Doctorwo, Cory. 2009-02-16. “Scientific publishers get a law introduced to end free publication of govt-funded research.”

In 2000 The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) [4] focused on increased access to scientific research (Van de Sompel & Lagoze, 2000). Since then it has reached deeper into the Deep Web with is OAI-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). See Cole et al (2002).

Notes

1. In early 2002, Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Office of Scholarly Communication task force recommended that the Association promote “open access to quality information in support of learning and scholarship.” Society benefits from the open exchange of ideas. Access to information is essential in a democratic society. Public health, the economy, public policy all depend on access to and use of information, including copyrighted works.

2. UC-Berkeley Biologist Michael Eisen, Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus and Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown helped start the Public Library of Science, PLoS in 2000, a “nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource” by encouraging scientists to insist on open-access publishing models rather than being forced to sign over their (often publicly-funded research) to expensive scientific journals. Wright (2004) cited Eisen, Varmus and Brown as examples of scientists who are making making some areas of the Deep Web more accessible to the public.

3. Alex Steffen (2003 [2008-09-04]) open source (OS) movement

4. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) “develops and promotes interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content. The OAI Metadata Harvesting Protocol allows third-party services to gather standardized metadata from distributed repositories and conduct searches against the assembled metadata to identify and ultimately retrieve documents. While many proponents of OAI advocate open access, i.e., the free availability of works on the Internet, the fundamental technological framework and standards of the OAI are independent of the both the type of content offered and the economic models surrounding that content (ARL).”

5. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, (SPARC) launched in June 1998, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

5. SciDev.Net (Science and Development Network) “is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing reliable and authoritative information about science and technology for the developing world. Through our website www.scidev.net we give policymakers, researchers, the media and civil society information and a platform to explore how science and technology can reduce poverty, improve health and raise standards of living around the world. We also build developing countries’ capacity for communicating science and technology through our regional networks of committed individuals and organisations, practical guidance and specialist workshops.” SciDev.Net “originated from a project set up by news staff at the journal Nature (with financial assistance from the Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom) to report on the World Conference on Science, held in Budapest in 1999. This was warmly received, leading to discussions about creating a permanent website devoted to reporting on, and analysing the role of, science and technology in development. The initiative was endorsed at a meeting held at the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) in Trieste, Italy, in October 2000. Immediately following the Trieste meeting, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) agreed to finance a six-month planning stage, starting in November 2000. At the end of this planning stage, sufficient funding had been raised from international aid agencies and foundations for a full-time staff and an independent office in London. The SciDev.Net website was officially launched on 3 December 2001. The website has expanded continuously since its launch. We regularly add dossiers, spotlights, ‘quick guides’ and ‘news focuses’ on specific subjects, in addition to a growing amount of regular news coverage. An enhanced and redesigned version of the website was launched in January 2008. Regional networks were launched in Sub-Saharan Africa (2002), in Latin America (2003), in South Asia (2004) and in China (2005), each bringing together individuals and organisations that share our goals and objectives. There are plans for future networks in the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa and South-East Asia. SciDev.Net held its first workshop, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Panel, on science in the media in Tobago in February 2001. Since then we have collaborated with partners to deliver numerous specialist science communication workshops for journalists and other professional communicators across the world (SciDev.Net History).”

6. “Expenditures for serials by research libraries increased 210% between 1986-2001 while the CPI increased 62%. The typical library spent 3 times as much but purchased 5% fewer titles. Book purchases declined by 9% between 1986-2001 as libraries sought to sustain journals collections. Based on 1986 purchasing levels, the typical research library has foregone purchasing 90,000 monographs over the past 15 years. In the electronic environment, the model has changed from the purchase of physical copies to the licensing of access. In general, libraries do not own copies of electronic resources and must negotiate licenses (rather than depend on copyright law) to determine access and use. Large bundles of electronic journals offered by major commercial publishers will force smaller publishers out of business. Multiple-year licenses to large bundles of content that preclude cancellations will force libraries to cancel titles from smaller publishers to cover price increases of the bundles. This diminishes competition and increases the market control of the large publishers. Lack of corrective market forces has permitted large companies to reap high profits from publishing science journals. In 2001 Reed Elsevier’s STM division’s operating profit was 34% while its legal division’s operating profit was 20%, its business division’s 15%, and education 23%. Mergers and acquisitions increase prices and eliminate competition. Research has shown that mergers exacerbate the already significant price increases of journals owned by the merging companies. While there were 13 major STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publishers in 1998, only seven remained by the end of 2002 (ARL 2003-05-04:2).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Cole, Timothy W.; Kaczmarek, Joanne; Marty, Paul F.; Prom, Christopher J.; Sandore, Beth; Shreeves, Sarah. 2002-04-18. “Now That We’ve Found the ‘Hidden Web,’  What Can We Do With It?” The Illinois Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Experience. Museums and the Web (MW) Conference. Archives and Museums Informatics. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. April 18-20.

Smith, Richard. 2008-10-07. “More evidence on why we need radical reform of science publishing.”

Steffen, Alex. 2008-09-04 [2003]. “The Open Source Movement.” WorldChanging Team.

Young, N.S,; Ioannidis, J.P.A; Al-Ubaydli, O. 2008. “Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science.” PLoS Medicine. 5:10.

ARL. 2003-05-04. “Framing the Issue.” Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Indifference to faith has left Europe’s churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense than its been in many decades. Religion is re-emerging as an issue because of Europe’s growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics. That is adding up to momentum for a combative brand of atheism.

read more | digg story

Webliography

Colbert, Stephen. 2007. Unquisition. May 3.

Delacroix, Eugène. Jacob Fighting the Devil. Lutte de Jacob avec l’Ange. Eglise Saint Sulpice Detail. 2005.1

Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Warner Books.

“Jacob Fighting the Devil.” chapter 32 of Genesis

Kinsley, Michael. 2007. “In God, Distrust.” Sunday Book Review. New York Times. May 13.

Lacroix, Alexandre, Truong, Nicolas. 2007. “Nicolas Sarkozy et Michel Onfray: Confidences entre Ennemis.” Philosophie Mag. No. 8. >> Philomag.com

Onfray, Michel. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Higgins, Andrew. 2007. As religious strife grows, atheists seize pulpit.” Northwest Herald. >> nwherald.com. April 13.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007a.”The West Needs a Spiritual Surge” >> Amitai Etzioni Notes. March 6, 2007.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007b. L’Occident aussi a besoin d’un renouveau spirituel.” Le Monde. 7 avril.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Unquisition: Selling Nothingness.” >> Speechless. may 13.

Philip H. Winne, Nesbit, John C., Gress, Carmen L. Z. 2006. “Cautions about Rating BC’s Schools.” Faculty of Education. Simon Fraser University. 2006-10-31 15:44

The Issue: This is the second year The Vancouver Sun has published a special section on the academic effectiveness of BC’s elementary schools as rated by the Fraser Institute. We’re told the Institute’s ratings of elementary schools, as well as the report it released in April rating econdary schools, are widely discussed. Reportedly, families consult them when buying homes in hope of boosting educational opportunities for their children. Although it doesn’t happen in BC, in the U.S., some jurisdictions use ratings like these, along with other information, to decide how much funding schools receive.

It’s worth keeping in mind the Institute’s rating of a school is not the same thing as what students know or how competent teachers are or how effective schools are. Focusing on students, there’s more to what they know than any one rating can reveal. As well, there is evidence that ratings like these are related to socioeconomic status and wealth. For example, see Selcuk Sirin’s award winning article, “Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A Meta-analytic review of research 1990-2000″, published in the Review of Educational Research in 2005, and the 2006 Statistics Canada study, “Income and the Outcomes of Children,” by Shelley Phipps and Lynn Lethbridge, respectively. When important decisions are at stake, it’s important to understand what these kinds of ratings are and what limits they have.

The Institute poses a very worthwhile question: “In general, how is the school doing academically?” To answer it, they calculate a rating from 0 to 10 points for each elementary and secondary school that enrolls at least 15 students. Our answer to this question would take a book.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007.“Think Tanks: Corporate Director Board Interlocks: Fraser Institute.”

Poincare, Perelman, Hamilton, Yau

“It’s just the way it is,” isn’t anymore. As I read the Nasar and Grubermanifold New Yorker article (2006) I was deeply moved by the life story of Gregory Perelman who can live on a $100 a month and who managed to wipe out an entire branch of pure mathematics in a few years by working alone, even isolated in the slow world. He is described as an idealist, an ascetic, a Russian Jew who lives with his mother in a gray neighbourhood of gray apartment buildings. But in this article he shines brilliantly. He may be part of the answer to my own puzzle, the ethical dilemma of being an academic in the 21st century.

Henri Poincaré created a True Knowledge Gap in mathematics, giving rise to an entire branch in his discipline when he slipped in an offhand question that became the legendary problem of the 20th century (Nasar and Grubermanifold 2006).

By the nineteen-sixties, topology had become one of the most productive areas of mathematics, and young topologists were launching regular attacks on the Poincaré. To the astonishment of most mathematicians, it turned out that manifolds of the fourth, fifth, and higher dimensions were more tractable than those of the third dimension. By 1982, Poincaré’s conjecture had been proved in all dimensions except the third. In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute, a private foundation that promotes mathematical research, named the Poincaré one of the seven most important outstanding problems in mathematics and offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove it.

In 1992 when Gregory Perelman (b. 1968) posted his solution to the problem on the Internet on a site used by mathematicians working with advanced concepts, he supplied enough information for the handful of minds capable of understanding to know that he had cracked it.

It took me a few days to feel I had understood enough of their article to appreciate it. I used my new Firefox add-on Gnosis.[1]

Why then did this story continue to unfold on some very messy battle Fields? Politics, power and control. To understand more fully, I worked out some of the ideas at Tim’s and in an easy chair playing with pictures. I also had to map out a brief timeline and the biographies of the main characters: Perelman, Hamilton, Yau, Tian, Zhu, Cao, Ball and Thurston. I played with the concepts of Knowledge Collisions in the Battle Fields of Mathematics but this was not about knowledge collisions on a level playing field.

Poincaré’s bagel, coffee mug handle, soccer ball and noose knot were great for starters. The table itself was easily transformed into a topology of Battle Fields. Cigars and necks protruded on the topological landscape like stalagmites. I laid a silk cloth over it all so it could drape over the edge of the table. I left a space on the table edge for a dented fender. The True Gap gaped like a crevice in an otherwise relatively level playing field. The coffee mug with its insignia of Stephen Hawkings casts a long shadow and the handle represented the branch of mathematics called topology. Since we are looking at a cross section of topological field the branch that has disappeared over the edge represents a small sorrow [2]

I didn’t know where to put Gregory Perelman my new hero, so I put a spoon in the coffee mug which he of course had stirred up. Then I balanced a swing at the top of it giving him a higher vantage point from which he can quietly survey the field. He swings slowly back and forth without those below noticing. All they can see is the spoon and the bottom of his swing. I turned him into a pearl and remembered a quote, “Not every sea has pearls . . .”

My early experiences in academia were entirely positive. It was only when I was in my fifth year of graduate studies, my second in my PhD that I began to realize the hidden power and politics behind the scenes in the ivory towers as one professor after another sought to gain control over academic and/or grant capital at any cost. I caught myself transforming campus towers into Freudian phallic symbols as I watched with dismay my PhD slipping away from me. I was disgusted mainly with my own naïvity, my lack of campus street-smarts but by then it was too late. It seems my university students in their twenties had figured it out long before I did. No wonder we all make fun of Ph.D.s!

So here I am typing away in my living room office with my old PC perched on this great glass-topped Business Depot computer desk, reflecting Mount Tzuhalem with the fire crackling off to my left and our family sound asleep. I’m emptying my PC into a dozen or more free Web 2.0 sites.

I’m not a Perelman but he is my hero. If you can only learn to live on $100 a month, keep access to the Internet, connect one’s PC’s memory to the free Web 2.0 you can sit back in the slow world and quietly watch a lifetime of experience upload to this strange virtual space we call the Internet.

Perelman’s copyright took the risk of losing his intellectual capital. For some Yau and his students really did deserve the Fields Award he received from Ball.

But for me I would rather face the perils of a Perelman Risk, tie my intellectual capital to my Creative Commons stake and at least let people share some of the amazing experiences I was privileged to have before the Fawlty Towers crumbled around me.

Footnotes


[1] See the article on ClearForest. I had to select a chunk of the article at a time for Gnosis to do its magic but undeniable it makes digesting lengthy, complex articles less cumbersome. At the most elemental level it is similar to the Google generated highlighted key words in .pdf files found in response to a user’s Google search inquiry. Gnosis uses a number of colour codes to highlight a number of themes which I am just trying to work out now.

[2] Its a bit like the death of a meteorite in a fiery explosion would be to the person who had named and followed the passage of the meteorite for decades.
[I have even heard on academic hearsay which is as reliable as Frank I suppose, so I should not repeat this but . . . this is not a journal it is a blog . . . an archaeologist explained to his First Nations guide (who later whispered this to me) that he would not reveal their findings in the field since it would be so hotly contested by his colleagues in his branch it would consume his entire career to defend it. Academic hearsay. Fireworks, not a meteor. Take away 5 credibility, legitimacy points from this author immediately!]

For more reading on science on Web 2.0 see yanfeng.org

Selected webliography

Swaminathan, Nikhil. 2006. peer_review_is_sooooo_old_school
Scientific American Blog. December 22, 2006.

Nasar, Sylvia , Grubermanifold, David. 2006.”Manifest Destiny.” The New Yorker: Fact. Annals of Mathematics. A legendary problem and the battle over who solved it. Issue of 2006-08-28; Posted 2006-08-21; accessed December 22, 2006.

Students sue for more Teaching Assistants (TAs). Professor-as-stars-on-stage perform to ‘classes’ of 1200 students who pay c.$400 to 650 each a term per course! Not enough Teaching Assistants since PhD students (TA stable) are now forced into subsidizing universities as their sessional lecturers. No wonder PhD students have high rates of attrition.

read more | digg story

At any rate, universities have the best lawyers and their backs are covered. It is ill-advised for a solitary student to take on a huge administration. These undergrad students however are unsettling something else. They are using their status as clients which was conferred upon them by the business model that our cultural and educational institutions have adopted since the 1990s deficit-panic. These are not just irate PhDs. These are a broad-based clientele pool. Bad images carried in the media have an economic impact. Wait until Macleans add this variable in their analysis of universities. “How many times have students submitted law suits against your institution in the last academic year?” How many times was in carried in mass media? Whose lawyers won?” In the end, does it matter? Once the legal question is raised in cyberspace, bright student lawyers fresh out of a frustrating BA experience might enjoy the challenge and find an original legal angle to protect students from their own universities. These are the new generation of students brought up feeling entitled. They are students-as-clients. Maybe they can fare better than previous generations whose education suffered, student debts soared during the 1990s. Maybe this generation will find legal ways to assert their rights so they can sustainably survive their university studies and even manage to have a life after university where their debt load does not get in the way of relationships, marriage, decisions to have children, own their own homes, etc. Any one born in the 1940s or 1950s who went to university in the late 1960s and 1970s in Canada got their BAs if not MAs with the government of Canada’s generous student loan program. These are the people now administering, teaching in our cultural and educational institutions. They are also in policy research, public policy decision-makers.

My own PhD became unsustainable as there was never enough time to at the same time fulfill the overwhelming obligations that come with sessional lecturing, my own PhD research, writing, conference presentations, publications while learning to navigate through the unexpected twists and turns in the politics of academia. I had enrolled as part-time student who intended to remain part-time. For two years I benefited from an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. But after following the ill-pondered advice of my Department’s Graduate Student Advisor, I took on a huge challenge, an exciting opportunity in Iqaluit, Nunavut which ended up stretching out over 18 months. I lived there in Canada’s coldest climate for weeks on end, sometimes for up to four months at a time. It was a huge sacrifice in terms of my family in the south, but it was fulfilling as well. The advisor had convinced me that I should remain enrolled as a full-time student so I would not lose my scholarship.

Within weeks of returning from Nunavut my laptop with 18 months of images files, audio files, research, teaching materials and data was confiscated. I had to plead to be given a week to purchase a new PC and transfer files carefully to make sure nothing was lost. I tried to burn CDs of everything I had done but I know some really valuable email correspondence with students was gone.

The real shock came later when I was informed that I had lost my Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Apparently while I was in the North working on Carleton University’s pilot project, I had not kept up with my Comprehensive exams in the time frame they anticipated for a scholarship student. At my meeting with the new Graduate Studies Coordinator I was informed that I was no longer a desirable candidate for funding.

A month later I completed my second Comprehensive Exam with distinction. Nothing changed in terms of funding so I was obligated to take on yet another new course to design, teach, present, administer, evaluate and mark. I had 65 students and was promised a qualified TA. Three weeks into the course the TA I was assigned returned from her European trip to announce she would rather take on a TA contract with a 1st year course instead of working with my course which was student-centred, media-intense, technology-intense, theory-intense. By the end of September it was clear that there were no TAs available for my class. I had to work late into the night to keep up with the work as this was my first time teaching this course. I loved the material, the students, the class discussions, the creativity. But it takes work to succeed in engaging students especially when the content is complex.

Through all of the sessional teaching work I was still paying the university $6000 a year as full-time student! As a sessional lecturer I was being paid $1000-$1200 a month per course. From that they took back $500-$600 a month for tuition fees. The ddpartment administrator failed to sign our contracts on time that year so none of the PhD student/ sessional lecturers were paid at the end of September. I did not have enough money to buy the textbooks I had assigned for the students! I later found out that this particular university had a $50,000 a year fund devoted to providing teaching materials for PhD/sessional lecturers which the Department Adminstrator knew nothing about! Months later when I was struggling to save my flailing PhD, I met with the Human Resources lawyer who explained to me (with a digital recorder in operation visibly in the middle of the table) that they did not widely publicize the existence of the fund since there wouldn’t be enough money if everyone applied. This blue-eyed, handsome young lawyer listened with such sympathy to my story I thought he would be part of some solution. Instead when I contacted him six weeks later, he said (in not exactly in these words), “Sorry, this is not my problem. There is nothing I can do.”

Years later I am on leave from my PhD. I am using Web 2.0 to share more of the research which I know is useful. In the process of struggle to save my PhD I worked with a graduate student in conflict resolution, I consulted with Deans and Assistant Deans, with the ombudsman, with former professors, with Union representatives both in the university and in the public service, student unions. I wrote to the President of the University. Former students wrote to the President of the University. I was given several small considerations including hardship scholarships of several thousand dollars over a couple of years. But it was too late and never enough. The administrative work involved in each request was humiliating and time-consuming. I had been working to support myself while completing courses graduate studies in high standing since 1992. I completed an MA part-time in less time than some of my full-time classmates. Yet after ten years of this, my PhD was in jeopardy because I had accepted advice to remain registered as a full-time student while successfully completing a presigious challenging pilot project in a difficult post. Effectively the university has turned me into a ghost. My emails are not returned. I think they are afraid of a law suit. Perhaps not. It is quite possible that they have simply forgotten me. I no longer exist.

One of the students from that course ended up getting his MA from Harvard because that one course in Sociology with a focus on human rights, allowed him to finish the one missing course from his BA. He was able to stay in Nunavut thereby keeping his high profile Nunavut government position. The Inuit and Northern students, friends and aquaintances, the entire Nunavut experience, completely unsettled everything I had learned at Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada, reading decades of the Inuit Studies magazine, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, National Archives of Canada.

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