The class struggle in academia. A manifesto

classwar1To scholars of all lands and fields of knowledge:

Journals are threatened by open access, free citation metrics and web 3.0.

Publishing houses, universities and governments are uniting in a holy alliance intended to exorcise this changes, trying to reinforce the current indexing journal system.

It is high time that scholars should openly, in the face of the whole world, share their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this challenges with a manifesto.

Researchers and Professors

The history of research quality assessment is the history of scholarly struggles.

In academia, the working class –researchers and professors– are fighting in the class struggle against the owners of the means of production in academia, the journals, and that the current class struggle could end either with revolution that restructure the system, or common ruin of the contending scholarly classes. 

Journals Vs. Professors

There is a hidden civil war between scholars: researchers/professors against editors of journals.

Editors have the power to publish, the power to make us professors progress in our careers.

The accumulation of power in journal hands, the formation of first class indexed publications, and the competition amongst the academics creates pressure on our daily lives.

Position of Academics in Relation to the Scholarly Civil War

We are just professors and researchers who want to publish in journals to improve as academics and find tenure.

We do not hate journal editors, we are not afraid of you. We don’t even know you.

We wish you no harm. On the contrary, we want to be your friends and make your editor life easier.

We love journals. We need to understand you.

To all professors/researchers who feel the same, share this message and help it reach journal editors.

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Research in Sciences: Pieces of advice from an outstanding researcher

m guillenMontserrat Guillén was born in Barcelona in 1964. She received a Master of Science in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics in 1987 and a PhD in Economics from University of Barcelona in 1992. She got an MSc in Data Analysis from the University of Essex (United Kingdom). She was Visiting Research faculty at the University of Texas at Austin (USA) in 1994. Montserrat also holds a Visiting Professor position at the University of Paris II, where she teaches Insurance Econometrics. Since April, 2001 she is chair professor of the Department of Econometrics at the University of Barcelona. Montserrat was awarded the ICREA Academia distinction.

Her research focuses on actuarial statistics and quantitative risk management. She has published many scientific articles, contributions to book chapters and books on insurance and actuarial science. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Risk and Insurance – the official journal of the American Risk and Insurance Association, a senior editor of Astin Bulletin – the official journal of the International Actuarial Association, and chief editor of SORT – Statistics and Operations Research Transactions.  Montserrat was awarded by the Casualty Actuarial Society and received the International Insurance Prize. She is a highly cited academic in the field of risk management and insurance. She was elected President of the European Group of Risk and Insurance Economists, the Geneva Association, in 2011. She serves in many scientific boards, international programs and steering committees and conducts R&D joint programs with many companies.

Gaudeamus. How do you select your research projects, or do they select you? 

Monserrat Guillen. I usually apply for research project funding to academic institutions. The topics are usually basic research with a very long term and ambitious perspective, which means that the application is not going to be immediate. When private funding comes into place, it is usually because a very specific research with direct transfer to the industry is expected

G. You usually collaborate with international scholars, it should not be easy to coordinate and organize research, is there any aspect worth mentioning that could help us researchers regarding international projects? 

MG. There must be a leader. The leader must be open-minded, active, motivating and has to set up short term and long-term goals for the team. Everyone involved must know his/her role in the project and why his/her contribution is important to the whole group.

G. If you had to prioritize, what do you put in the first place: teaching or researching? 

MG. Both. Even if a lecturer is very good, good teaching is even better with good research. I find that usually we forget that research advances have to be introduced in the syllabuses and this is essential for high quality education. Research also benefits from teaching, because communicating research results needs many of the skill that is developed when teaching.

G. What is the research activity you like most?

MG. I really enjoy the instants when a new result is obtained. There are some seconds of doubt, and then an explosion of joy when the result is confirmed. Sometime this happens when working on my own and sometimes this is shared with colleagues. If I obtain a results and no colleague is next to me, I would immediately tell it with my colleagues.

G. Once you have a draft research document, what key issues should be taken into account until it is published?

MG. Audience, structured, correctness in all sense

G. Internet and open access is changing the scholarly publishing industry, is it also changing research activity?

MG. It does because searching information is much easier than it used to be. Reading the essential papers is important when there are so many out there.

G. How do you choose the journals where to publish?  Or if you prefer, what are you looking for in a journal?

MG. The topic and the impact factor. I look for a sign of quality

G. Finally, what advice would you give to novel researchers (for example, about collaboration, time dedicated to research, make an impact, etc.).

MG. I would recommend spending a lot of time on how to explain the research result. Some very good contributions remain get no notoriety due to a poor presentation. Correctness, clarity and motivation are crucial for the success of a paper.

POLL: The future of research quality assessment

The main drivers of change regarding the assessment of research quality and its dissemination are the current Web 3.0. technology environment in education, open access journals/repositories and the consolidation of citation metrics tools.

Indexed journals have been adding high value to all academic stakeholders: professor, researchers, publishers, editors, professionals, universities, faculties and libraries; but has arrived the time for journals to change?

journal burning

Shape the future of publishing voting in the poll. Share with us your vision.

Tomorrow belongs to cites

openaccess Over the last decades, journal rankings moved from something only a few librarians cared about to something that is now critical to the future of professors and researchers. The same thing could happen to the individual citation metrics.

  • Internet and open access movement is urging academia to reconsider the current model of research assessment, journal rankings and each of the phases of the publishing process, such as the private citation system, the growing role of repositories, the subscription and payment model , and even the peer review and impact indicators.
  • Assessment of quality of research activity is needed, either of the journal, or research activity of department or individual, no one doubts it, the problem is what type; the ideal would be all of them. Some countries do this, they rate individual academics by levels, for example in UK (REF), Australia (EIA) or Spain (ANECA), having into account many more things, such as teaching assignments, research centers or stays in international universities.
  • We have now journal rankings, but it will probably have less relevance in the future with open access, though it could be more necessary in the short term due to the initial confusion with the evaluation of research quality. If the move is to individual cites, and its calculations are improved, for example with a bias corrector by field of knowledge and years of experience, why the need of journal rankings and impact factors?, one could go directly to estimate individual cites and see the quality and prestige of the researcher, are there anything more real and tangible than cites?

This brings me again to the old question ever, publish/cited or perished? That is, the pressure to profs. I wonder if the same assessments could be made to other professionals, such as judges, politicians or even bankers. Don’t you think so?

Worst practices for misconduct authors

arbitroThere are several ideas going around in my head regarding the reasons for the growing plagiarism in academic publications and that someone is willing to get into this game for money:

  • There is great pressure to publish.
  • Capitalism is pervading everything.
  • In general, professors are not well paid.
  • Some publishing activities are not remunerated, as academic editor or peer review.

And trying to clarify this issue in blogs and online discussions, I have been able to make a list of the types of plagiarism that currently exist, that could be seen as the worst practices for pirate-authors:

  • Plagiarism: kidnapping or appropriation of others thoughts and ideas without acknowledging its source.
  • Self-plagiarism or recycling fraud: reuse of your own texts without attributing previous publication.
  • Ghost writing: write books, articles or other texts that are credited to another person, generally for money.
  • Honorary authorship: include authors in a publication without adding value or contributing, inflating its credentials.
  • Duplicate publication: use your own publications more than once, changing the title and abstract.
  • Salami slicing: creating several short publications out of material that could have, perhaps more validly, been published as a single article in a journal or review.
  • Remix or mosaic plagiarism: mixing several publications to obtain more publishable units.
  • Image and data manipulation: modify data and results to obtain another document for publication.

It is amusing and dangerous at the same time the combination of some of the above activities, such as ghost writing and plagiarism, it would be that you pay for an article to be written but that in turn is plagiarized, so at the end, apart from wasting your money, you may run many risks, as the reputational one.

I am not sure before, but now with open access and the Internet is becoming easier to detect plagiarism of any of the existing types. Recently in Spain a professor has been condemned for plagiarizing a chapter of a student. In line with those worst practices above, the article could have been coauthored with the student – that is, the professor adds his name and the student the content, or that he did not even remember that it was not his? But I guess believing to be very smart is worse than plagiarism.

Plagiarism is not unnatural

copyright2

This idea that plagiarism is not unnatural is very powerful, and the phrase is not mine, I copied it to a professor in a discussion on this topic in the social networks. The university (by the reports of students) and publishing world (by the papers in their journals) are concerned about plagiarism, as it is estimated that the level of plagiarism of digital content will reach 63% by 2014.

Now it’s easy to copy because technology facilitates it and there are much information available on the Internet, although it is a double-edged sword, because it will be increasingly difficult to say something new that is not in the network and also because there are increasingly better tools to detect plagiarism.

According the same estimates, more than half of the students think that plagiarism is natural and do not give it importance. Therefore, the best anti-plagiarism tool is to follow the work of each student. I’m tutoring several undergraduate and graduate theses, and the best guarantee is the weekly or monthly monitoring with the student, seeing their ideas, problems, their evolution, etc.

But this cannot be done with journals, as editors cannot track authors the same (we only need that!), but they have many options:

  • Set journal rules about previously published works. Now with open access is easier to know if there is something similar published.
  • Choose quality authors: university professors, PhD, academic affiliation, among other checks.
  • Use anti plagiarism tools to review manuscripts.
  • And there is always the peer reviewer filter, which will give a good look at the manuscript.

Returning to the main topic, we humans learn by imitating others, that’s how we improve as a species, allowing for the transfer of information between individuals and generations. Therefore, if plagiarism is not unnatural, what needs to be done is cite the sources, preferably by going to the original source, and use old ideas to build something new and give value to what we are providing. Well, that’s why the review of literature is an important part of a paper.

As professors, we lead and train generations, do you put enough emphasis on this issue? Do you teach students how to cite and deal with plagiarism?

The research process and web 2.0 skills for academics

Throughout the research process, professors have to develop a variety of multidisciplinary activities quite different and complex. The purpose of this blog post is to display the high-level phases of the research process and suggest the web 2.0 skills we need to develop for the success in our research and its dissemination.

web 2.0

1.     Research project definition, funding and collaboration 

At this stage, apart from the ideas and projects that are coming or you want to do, you need ability to raise funds and engage others to research with you, though you can do it alone and without resources, of course.  Both are not easy to get, but it can help if your research curriculum and publications are available and if you are known as an expert in your field of knowledge. This is what you would do to find collaborators, but it takes time, you do not build relationships overnight, so keep participating in web forums and assisting regularly to academic events and conferences.

2.     Research activity

Apart from the specific software needed for your research, you should also have to use open access repositories and libraries containing dissertations and working papers, as sources for documenting your research or having access to the current literature and methodologies about your research project.  There are now other web tools that can help you at this stage, as bookmarking internet pages and programs that enable you to share files with your collaborators.

3.     Publish in journals

Once you finished your research, there are some key activities to make your work published, as to think of what you want to do with the research, write the draft articles, and choose the journal where to publish. At this moment of the process it will be of great value having web 2.0 tools to connect with journal editors and seek help about how to get your research published in journals. You know that we are building Gaudeamus – the network for publishing in academic journals, and I am producing this blog, where you can find methods and thoughts to improve the chances of being published in indexed journals.

4.     Share your publications

This is an increasingly important skill for researchers, some publishers find it disgusting (one of them called me “snake oil salesman” in a web discussion on this topic), but it should be the opposite, because they would have an army of authors promoting their journals. Among the activities to be undertaken to promote your publications would be to include your papers in your website, your profile in Linkedin, FB or other communities; or active selling, as promoting your manuscripts in web discussions, blogs, or conferences.

Too many things to do for a professor to make an impact, apart from doing activities such as teaching and consulting. I really think that academics are one of a kind, don’t you think so?

Benchmark with your peers: Q&A with a prolific PhD Fellow

Arsalan Mujahid Ghouri
Arsalan Mujahid Ghouri is currently enrolled in the PhD program at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Malaysia. Previously, He has been working as lecturer and independent researcher. At the present, Arsalan is working as research team member in a project granted by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris. His research interests are marketing practices and data analysis. Arsalan is a prolific fellow: has produced 39 publications (3 monographs+36 research papers) in 8 different countries in two and a half years
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Gaudeamus. How do you manage your time to do research?

Arsalan Mujahid Ghouri. Maybe its difficult to find time for research for others, but in this case, gym, jogging, sleeping, research… working could be included in my hobby list. I devote 6-8 hours daily to some kind of research.

G. What drives you to publishing in journals?

AMG. Initially, when I start thinking about writing a research paper, I felt it impossible. But in first attempt, my paper took 4 revisions and accepted in around 2 years in Saudia Arabia. That was my starting and turning point, and after I got 4-5 publications, people recognize me as researcher and writer, which drives me to do more research work and help others.

G. How do you choose the journals where to publish?

AMG. My first preference is quality of  published articles, indexing and the country of journal.

G. How many articles do you publish a year? Do you have any pressure to publish?

AMG. As being PhD candidate, the requirement is to publish 2 articles in PhD tenure. I’ve 39 publications (3 monographs + 36 research articles) in 8 different countries in 3 years.

G. You are editor of some open access journals, what is your motivation to do it as an academic?

AMG. Basically this is the aspect of my life which I never think about. This is a privilege for me as an associate editor of four different journals and reviewer for two journals. Maintaining a journal is an achievement for an academician, working as a driver for me to keep on this work.

G. What advice would you give to novel researchers regarding publishing in journals?

AMG. Produce a paper or thesis is a learning and slow process. According to me, a person need five different skills to write a paper/ thesis.

  • 1st, Try to be fine to prove your point for conducting research,
  • 2nd Develop techniques in searching and extracting the related material from the Internet/ libraries and research articles,
  • 3rd Become an expert in statistics and applications,
  • 4th Make an effort to interprete the scenario you face after getting results,
  • 5th Try to become an advisor which can dig out key advices/ findings from the interpretations.

I am still a learner, and I’ll suggest that don’t be in hurry to get expertise in five above discussed skills, be patient, take your time, practice will gonna make you perfect…

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