20 January 2022

Ghoulish university administrators

In the last few years, Tressie McMillan Cottom has been persistently reminding academics that institutions won’t love you back.

Somewhere in maybe the last year, though, university administrators have moved somewhere from at least pretending to care, or perhaps indifference, to outright hostility.

Here’s just a couple of examples.

Rachel Anderson posted:

State of the world: raging pandemic with my university experiencing the highest case rates yet, and I’m teaching 5 days/week in person. My university’s email this morning: Have you considered including a gift to us in your will? We’d love to talk to you about estate planning.

Katie Kennedy posted:

I'm required to put a statement in my syllabus saying that if I die during the semester, the college has a replacement for me. It was written in first person--by the administration. It says I've been consulted in who my replacement will be. None of this is true.

It feels like administrators are not only expecting their faculty to die, but are busy looking for how to that into an opportunity. Silver linings and all that.

And let’s not forget that one institution all but wheeled out a coffin to teach a class.

And don’t get me started on the foot dragging and jumbled reactions on return to campus when many areas are experiencing the biggest number of cases and hospitalizations yet.

The tone deafness and failure to navigate these problems is just astonishing. All of these things are just eating away at trust.

Even if the current wave of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the last major one in many places (which I doubt), things are not going back to normal in higher education soon. Too many cracks have been exposed. Too many cracks have already turned into breaks, and more are undoubtedly coming. The consequences of these sorts of bad leadership are going to continue for years.

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05 January 2022

The predictability of “accelerated publication”

Academic publisher Taylor & Francis are offering a new service: “accelerated publication.” expedited review.

Choose your publication route

An example:

Publish in 3 – 5 weeks from submission

  • Submission to acceptance: 2-3 weeks
    • 1-2 weeks for peer review
    • week for author revision
  • Acceptance to online publication: 1-2 weeks, with proofs within 5 working days and 48 hours for author review
  • Cost per article: $7000 / €6200 / £5500

Of that $7,000 (US dollars, presumably – hey everyone, currencies of many nations are called “dollars”), a small sliver of that goes to reviewers: “In recognition of the time constraints required of them, reviewers of Papers taking the 3-5 weeks option are paid an honorarium of $150.”

Of course, there are some people who will complain that 5 weeks to publication is still too long because there are a lot of academics with unreasonable expectations of how long peer review should take

So now we enter the cycle. 

Step 1: Academic publisher says something about journal operation that involves money.

Step 2: Academics complain. 

In this case, there’s good reason to complain. This scheme has issues. But I’m not  going to do a detailed analysis of problems with paying for “accelerated publication,” because other people are going to do it better.

Instead, I want to point out that this is a 💯 percent predictable outcome of the pressures on academics.

There are a lot of academics whose publishing strategy is, “Send it to someplace with high probability of acceptance and get it out anywhere as fast as possible.” Heck, I see questions on Quora almost daily: “What is a journal in [field] with high acceptance rates, fast publication, and no article processing charges?”

(I’m surprised they don’t ask for a pony, too.)

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Taylor & Francis “accelerated publication” scheme looks like MDPI’s publishing model. I think both are being driven by the same forces.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that many of these academics prioritizing high acceptance and fast turnaround are not in G20 countries. This might explain why discussions of things like “accelerated publication” and MDPI on the Twitter community I’m in (G20, English speaking) are so negative, but publishers keep acting like there is high demand for this kind of publication.

If publishers are responding to demands from academics, we should be asking why customers want the things they want. Who are the authors who are freaking out so much over a few extra weeks in review and why?

Hat tip to Alejandro Montenegro on Twitter.