Sunday, February 5, 2012

This Week's Reading List

A publishing giant reacts to a rebellion by its authors, the dangers of groupthink, and new ways of gauging faculty productivity and impact, all on this week's reading list.

"As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends its Practices"
The battle over open access to the fruits of federally-sponsored research is, at its core, about publishing giants seeking to preserve their legacy business models by locking customers into the inefficiencies of a one-to-many world. Pre-Internet, scholars depended on giants like Elsevier to vet and publish their work, and institutions depended on them to fill their libraries with relevant and authoritative content. Today, the many-to-many collaborations made possible by the Internet are resulting in peer review and distribution models that are more rigorous and efficient than those of the past. Pay attention to these debates, they are ground zero for the movement away from our one-to-many past.

"Peer-Driven Learning: Collaboration or Groupthink"
Not everything made possible by the many-to-many world is positive. In fact, the intense collaborations inherent in social networks can result in information overload that distorts decision-making. Research has shown that when faced with too much information or too many choices, individuals tend to "follow the masses." In the classroom, such overload can result in groupthink. In larger society, this can distort decision-making at multiple levels - both marketers and politicians count on it. The opportunity for those of us in the academy is to think about ways that our collaborations can filter out the herd behaviors that often erupt in a many-to-many world.

"Scholars Seek Better Ways to Track Impact Online"
Tracking faculty productivity and impact used to be simple. Faculty submit manuscripts to journals who then convene peers to review them. If peers like the manuscript, the journal then publishes it - an indicator of faculty productivity. Publishing in more selective journals indicates that one's work has more far-reaching impact. These traditions are a hallmark of a one-to-many world. Today, faculty can publish any idea at anytime. Traditional notions of productivity and rigor are thrown out the window. This raises questions like: just because an individual self-publishes their research, does that mean that they are less productive, or that their ideas are less significant, than those of a peer who publishes in a traditional journal? We've yet to fully shake out the many-to-many impacts on traditional notions of rigor and authenticity, but we're starting to make progress.


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